Birmingham Forest Golf Club is a family owned 9 hole course that is in the rolling hills and piney woods of East Texas in the sleepy town of Rusk. Built in 1967, the course was ranked 35th in the "Best Nine Hole Courses" by the Dallas Morning News and is deserving of it's nickname as "the toughest little course in Texas." The rolling fairways meander around a spring fed lake and through dogwoods, redbuds, and azaleas. All nine holes have four sets of tee boxes, making each hole a little different when you play it twice.
This is a true country course, sometimes known as a pasture course, that starts off slow and gets better as it leads back to the clubhouse. On the first four holes you'll ask yourself "why is this named the toughest little course in Texas," but when you see #5 and the next 4 holes, you'll understand why. For example, #5 (a 479 yard par 5) is a beaut that requires a carry downhill over some rough from an elevated tee box and a precise drive to avoid the creek and pond and ideally land at the bottom of the severely sloping downhill fairway. Survive that and you have to head back uphill and stuff it on a small oval green – and the handicap on this hole is only 8!
Course management and accuracy are required for the last few holes and # 7 is another example of a tough one – a short 338 yard par 4 dog leg right from an elevated tee box. Drive it left, right, or too long and you're in the trees and too short means you can't make the turn. Or you can try the risk reward opportunity and fly the trees, cut off the dog, and shorten the hole, but you need to nail it or you're lost in the woods or in the pond protecting the approach to the green. And #9 is another fun one – a 180 yard par three from an elevated tee box across the natural area and a pond to land on an elevated small turtle top green protected by a huge oak in front – see the top left picture.
Like a lot of country courses that are family owned and operated with very tight budgets, the conditions aren't the best. Plus when we played, Birmingham Forest has suffered significant damage from the record October rains. The fairways were very rough and patchy. The greens are small, slow, and hard to hold, so a bump and roll is a good technique to get close to the pin.
Overall, we loved this course and can't wait to play it again – conditions aren't the best but it's cheap, challenging, and unique. Mark, (the owner, pro shop attendant, greens keeper, maintenance man, etc.) is a great guy and he and his family live on the course. They have a great story to tell about how he was able to buy the course as it was about to be closed down because the members prepaid their dues to give him the cash for the down payment over 15 years ago.