During a recent visit to Cider Ridge, I was told by several golfers that over the past few years, the previous management company had let the conditioning of the golf course decline dramatically. The club was recently sold to Zotan, LLC, a company led by PGA member Cory Etter that also owns Pine Hill Golf Course in nearby Anniston, AL.
Etter and his staff have stepped up to the plate and are in the process of making Cider Ridge better than it has ever been. Many golfers I spoke with commented on the improved conditioning of the course and how it has become much more playable than in recent years. The greens have been recently renovated with new TifEagle Bermuda grass and several tee boxes have been redone.
The Club gets its name from an apple orchard. Over 100 years ago, the property was part of the Melon Apple Orchard which produced 11,000 bushels of apples each year. At its peak, the Melon Apple Orchard produced more than 20,000 gallons of apple cider and you can still find remnants of the working mills and rock reservoirs on the property today.
Cider Ridge Golf Club was designed by Alabama-based Bill Bergin. The course borders the Talladega National Forest and the Talladega Mountains and is situated at the base of Alabama’s tallest mountain – Mt. Cheaha (elevation 2,410’). In building the golf course, Bergin was able to incorporate much of the central Alabama terrain into the design.
When you visit Cider Ridge you’ll discover that it’s not your typical Alabama golf course. Over the past 10 years, it has become widely known as one of Alabama’s best daily fee golf courses and has received numerous accolades from GolfAdvisor.com including Top 10 Courses in Alabama 2015 – 2019, the #1 Course in Calhoun County, and the #2 public course in Alabama.
Cider Ridge is best described as a “tale of two courses.” The front nine is similar to a traditional parkland-style course, with fairways lined with century-old oak trees and streams running through several holes. You don’t see much in the way of changing elevation until you hit the 6th hole and from then on, it becomes more mountain golf. Once you hit the back nine, the terrain changes quickly! You’ll find thick hardwood forests, rolling hills, and dramatic elevation changes on just about every hole. You’ll be treated to enchanting mountain views and several water features that include Little Hillabee Creek and a natural waterfall on Number 12 – Cider Ridge’s signature hole.
Remember, this is mountain golf so there’s a lot of roll and undulation in the fairways, leaving many uneven lies. Mature trees guard many fairways, and it can be hard to hit under, over, or around them. Many of the greens are well-elevated so if you don’t take enough club you’ll come short of the putting surface. In some cases, if you fail to hit your putt hard enough, it will roll back down to your feet.
The golf course offers five sets of tees and can be enjoyed from 6,976 yards for low handicappers to 4,507 yards, which is great for juniors, women, and seniors. The scorecard also shows a “combo” yardage which combines two sets of tees to create a yardage of 6,164 yards, which was perfect for me!
Cider Ridge is not without its fair share of memorable holes. The short 306-yard 7th hole is also one you won’t soon forget. Your tee shot plays considerably downhill; all you can see from the Blue Tees are the two fairway bunkers at the bottom of the hill on the left side as well as a little piece of fairway. Woods on either side keep you honest off the tee and the large slope on the right can help funnel balls back into play. Find the fairway successfully and you’ll be facing an uphill pitch shot into a large green that is angled and slopes front right to back left.
The first and last holes on the back nine are quite memorable: after 3 months I can still picture each shot I hit. If you look up target golf in the dictionary, you may just find a picture of Cider Ridge’s 10th hole. It plays 397 yards and requires a tee shot that finds the landing area at the top of the hill. That will leave you about 150 yards slightly downhill to a green protected in front by a bunker and in back by trees. Miss the green and you may just lose your golf ball!
Number 18 is a great finishing hole and a good test of golf. It’s a par 5 that plays 518 yards with water running down the entire left side and then wrapping behind the green to catch anything hit long. The right side is no bargain either; it’s lined with trees and out of bounds beyond that and a bunker in the landing area off the tee. Favoring the left side off the tee will leave a clear shot into the green and if you hit your drive well you may have a chance to get home in two. A large bunker guards the front right of the green. No matter how you do it, par is a great score here!
Before your round, be sure to check out the practice area. It’s quite impressive and includes a full-length driving range, putting green, and chipping green area. It’s not unusual to see players there just to practice various aspects of their game. Cider Ridge also believes that growing the game of golf starts at the junior level and offers summer golf camps every June and July. Contact the pro shop for more information.
Inside the clubhouse, you’ll find a fully stocked golf shop with all of your golfing necessities as well as logoed apparel, hats, and golf clubs. You’ll find the Cider Ridge Grill which is open to the public. and serves freshly made sandwiches, burgers, salads, soft drinks, cold beer, and other beverages.
If you live in the area or nearby and thoroughly enjoy playing the golf course, maybe it’s time to consider becoming a member. Cider Ridge’s Annual Pass includes unlimited greens fees, 50% off range balls, ability to participate in Club Tournaments including the Club Championship, Oxford City Championship, and Match Play. You’ll also receive a 15% discount on pro shop merchandise (shirts, hats, golf balls, accessories, gloves & more). Individual, senior, and family memberships are available.
If you’re planning a trip to the area, you’ll find Cider Ridge midway between Birmingham and Atlanta, just off Interstate 20 and minutes from Anniston and the renowned Talladega Race Track. For more information on the golf club or to book your next round or event, give them a call at (256) 831-7222 or visit them online, www.ciderridgegolf.com.