If you are aiming to level up your golf game, then you might as well work out for your championship groove at golf courses where several of the championship tournaments have been taking place. One of them is Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail.
History of Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail.
Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail refers to a collection series of championship-caliber golf courses in Alabama. It was the brainchild of businessman David G. Bronner. Hailing from Minnesota, Bronner took over the position as CEO of the Retirement Systems of Alabama, to manage the funds of retired public employees.
At first, Bronner was focusing on conventional investments. However, by the 1980s, he was figuring out how to diversify an enormous pension fund – which amounted to $8 billion – and how to build up Alabama’s local business industry. Finally, he came up with an exceptional idea.
He got the inspiration by the hit 1989 Hollywood film Field of Dreams, in which an Iowa farmer builds a baseball field to attract business. It was the same trail that Bronner took – except that it was not a baseball field. Instead, he decided to inject funds into the construction of a series of golf courses in Alabama. He believed that the golf courses would attract retirees and boost the state’s tourism and its overall economy.
The golf course trail took its name after Robert Trent Jones, Sr., who was (and still is) regarded as one of the most renowned golf architects in the world. He was responsible for designing over 500 golf courses in the US and many parts of the world. Jones, Sr., himself took part in the design and layout of the proposed golf course, even though he was in semi-retirement at that time.
Robert Trent Jones Trail, then and now.
In 1992, Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail inaugurated in 1992 with four courses in different cities and towns in Alabama: Grand National (54 holes) in Opelika, Hampton Cove (54 holes) in Huntsville, Magnolia Cove (54 holes) in Mobile, and Oxmoor Valley (54 holes) in Birmingham. As anticipated, the golf trail expanded with more courses.
Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail course soon won waves of accolades and awards from several golf and tourism publications. Alabama, once a sleepy and underdeveloped state, quickly became one of the top golf destinations not just in the US but also the entire world. And it still maintains its lofty position.
In 2015, the Grand National course hosted the Barbasol Championship, which was the first PGA Tour event ever held in Alabama.
It is no question that Alabama is quite hospitable for golfers, thanks not just to this vast network of golf courses, but also on many other factors.
Alabama enjoys sunshine and blue skies for most of the year, particularly in the state’s southern region. Most of the golf courses lie near a federal highway or an interstate. You won’t have to get lost in finding the courses as you can easily see directions marked in green.
Each of the eleven courses, except for one (Lakewood Golf Club), follows the design pattern of Jones, Sr., or that of his associate architect Roger Rulewich. So it is tough to tell the difference from one track to the other, from an architectural point of view. Other than that, many of the best stops in the trail boast gorgeous land settings.
To date, Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail boasts 469 holes spread throughout eleven sites:
- Cambrian Ridge (Greenville)
- Capitol Hill (Prattville and Montgomery)
- Grand National (Opelika)
- Hampton Cove (Huntsville)
- Highland Oaks (Dothan)
- Lakewood Golf Club (Point Clear)
- Magnolia Grove (Mobile)
- Oxmoor Valley (Birmingham)
- Ross Bridge (Hoover and Birmingham)
- Silver Lakes (Gadsden and Anniston)
- The Shoals (Muscle Shoals/Florence)
Among the top five stops are:
1. Ross Bridge
First opened in 2005, the 18-hole Ross Bridge is one of the trail’s newest golf courses. Initially starting as a penal, Ross Bridge has become one of the most picturesque courses of the trail. It is also one of the world’s longest courses, with a distance of 8,191 yards and a par of 72.
2. The Shoals
The Shoals lies located between the dams of Wheeler and Wilson on the Tennessee River. It is home to two 18-hole courses, the Fighting Joe Course and the Schoolmaster Course. The Fighting Joe Course is one of the world’s longest courses, with a distance of 8,092 yards, and it became the first to break the 8,000-yard mark. The Schoolmaster Course has a length of 7,971 yards.
3. Capitol Hill
Capitol Hill is one of the trail’s most popular courses and continues to garner praises from golfers, golf writers, and golf fans. It is a regular fixture of the top golf courses in America and is the only stop with three 18-hole championship courses. It is located approximately 13 miles north of Montgomery, Alabama’s capital. It boasts a charming and dynamic combination of golf and nature that stretches 1,500 miles, allowing one course to be radically different to the next.
4. Grand National
The 54-hole Grand National is one of the trail’s three inaugural courses and is also the most significant golf course complex that this trail has ever built. It lies on the shores of Lake Saugahatchee, which borders the neighboring state, Georgia. It features three courses: the Lake Course, the Links Course, and the Short Course. The 7,149-yard Lake Course is probably the most scenic as it practically skirts the shores of Lake Saugahatchee. The Links Course’s par-four 18th hole probably makes it the most challenging of the bunch, while the 18-hole Short Course plays like a combination of the two other courses.
5. Magnolia Grove
The 54-hole Magnolia Grove may be a mere 14 miles away from downtown Mobile, but it feels like a world away. Magnolia Grove has been subject to multimillion-dollar renovations to make it more “player-friendly.”
It has three courses. The Crossings Course, known for its charming park-like atmosphere, regularly hosts the LPGA tournaments. The Falls Course reopened in 2010 after several remodeling jobs and still holds the singular distinction of being the trail’s only 71-par course. The Short Course, features new verdant turf. Renowned golf publication Golf Digest has recently named it as the best 3-par course in the country.
Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail also provides luxurious opportunities for rest, relaxation, and fun after an exhausting game. It boasts eight excellent resorts spread across the trail, bringing the best mix of business and pleasure for the guests. Robert Trent Jones Trail is one of the best places in the country to stay and relax after playing golf.