Banking on golf fun: Rock Creek G.C. an Alabama Gulf Shores blast
Looking for a fun play in the Alabama Gulf Shores region with plenty of potential for fun shots and amazing stories? Check out Rock Creek Golf Club.
FAIRHOPE, Ala. - Ever wish golf could be more like pool or basketball? That you could use a little bank to benefit your shots?
Well, come on down to the Alabama Gulf Shores, play Rock Creek Golf Club, and for one hole at least, you can feel like Memphis guard Derrick Rose banking in that crazy three in the national championship game.
A tall wood wall wraps around the back of Rock Creek's second green. This bulkhead deflects balls as well as Bill Russell did back in the day.
"I've seen golfers hit off the wall, over the wall, pull one right around the wall into the street," said Faulkner State Golf Coach Leo Kling, whose highly successful junior college program practices at Rock Creek. "Now that's hard to do. It's a fun hole no matter what level of golfer you are."
Everyone tends to remember the wall. It's not everyday you come across a golf course with a bulkhead in play. Obsess too much over eccentric Earl Stone's headline design feature, though, and you might miss what a good hole Rock Creek No. 2 really is.
This isn't just a hole with a wall. It's a hole with a 75-foot drop from the high tee down to a curving dogleg right fairway. It's a hole with 70 yards of tall grassy marsh to clear right before the tucked back green, a hole where the last level lie comes 40 yards before that marsh forest begins.
Sometimes just getting to that wall is an accomplishment.
And even if your ball bounces off wood, that's not going to be the last time you're surprised at Rock Creek. This might be the best $69 course - that is Rock Creek's prime-time spring season weekday green fee - you'll find anywhere. It's certainly, one of the most dramatic.
Even if you know the Alabama Gulf Shores - a getaway region with 32 miles of white sugar sand beaches and nine courses that vary from seaside links golf to forest golf within easy driving range of each other - you might be surprised by Rock Creek.
It's hard to imagine there are this many hills within an easy car ride to the beach. Rock Creek will take you higher, though - and let you have fun finding your way to the green.
Several tees tower above the fairways. Other holes have you shooting straight uphill. Rock Creek's about as flat as Pamela Anderson.
"First timers are surprised by all the elevation," Rock Creek Marshal Steve Slate said. "It's very unusual for this area."
It's also pretty much a blast from start to finish. Good old Earl Stone (he's 81) didn't set out to beat up average golfers at Rock Creek. Wayward shots on the edges get funneled back into the fairway on some holes by Stone's mounding, sort of like at Las Vegas' Revere Golf Club's Concord Course. There are plenty of trees (though not nearly as many as before Hurricane Ivan according to those who remember), but you shouldn't spend an exorbitant amount of time in them.
Rock Creek is the kind of course you'll enjoy whether you're crushing beers or bottled waters.
"There are a lot of fun holes out here," Kling said. "My personal favorite is probably No. 11."
That's a driveable 518-yard par 5 where the first shot must clear a water hazard. The fun really starts on No. 1, though, your first shot from a high ridge tee, down to a fairway that curves left. Don't think the wood wall on two is the be-all, end-all in thrills either.
Sixteen is theatrical from any angle. You're shooting across a big marsh (it makes the one on No. 2 look puny) from a raised tee with only an old-looking long, windy wood bridge to bring you across the marsh to the par-3 green.
It's the rare hole anywhere that boasts a forward tee that might be the most dramatic of all the hole's possibilities, too. Women and shorter hitters in general play a red set of tees that literally hang out in the middle of the marsh, supported by a wood platform connected to that bridge.
Hey, Rock Creek doesn't do conventional. Of course, you'll probably have figured that out after bouncing one off the wall.
The Verdict on Rock Creek Golf Club
If you play golf to enjoy yourself, you'll want to work Rock Creek into an Alabama Gulf Shores trip. You make golf trips to have the kind of days you have at Rock Creek. This is the type of course that leaves a golf group with plenty of stories to tell - probably for years to come.
Despite all the trees and hills, you're not heading into the middle of nowhere when you're playing Rock Creek. You'll drive some pretty busy streets with fast food chains galore to reach the course, and once there, you'll find houses on holes. They're not close enough to be a nuisance, though, and in at least one case, they add a little to the drama.
Two big houses up on a hill above the hill tee on 16 make the par 3 look even more like a hole out of a golf painting.
The staff at Rock Creek's laid back and welcoming, too. On this visit, Slate had his little dog with him in the golf cart, happily panting away. It almost made you think of how golf's supposed to be in Ireland, where it's more of a everyman's game without a lot of pretentiousness.
Alabama Gulf Shores hotels
The Island House Hotel, right on a beach on the Gulf of Mexico, is a good choice. Even if you're not a beach person, you can still sit out on your balcony and breathe in some sea air. General manager Barbara Walters - more commonly known as Alabama's Barbara Walters in these parts - might be the most welcoming hotel host you've ever had, too.
Rock Creek offers $5 off its greens fees to senior citizens and any military personnel (active duty or veterans).
June 25, 2008