Moore's Mill gives good grist for grateful golfers in Alabama

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

AUBURN, Ala. - As you drive the mild hills of east Alabama, history whizzes by outside the windshield. Historical markers dot the landscape, old courthouses loom, stately neighborhoods shaded by hundred-year-old oak trees sit like living relics of simpler times.

The land tells a story here in the heart of Dixie, and even modern golf courses can't escape its burden. Moore's Mill Golf Club is located on the site of one of Auburn's oldest grist mills, which is how they ground grain and sawed lumber in those days, among other things.

The course is named after the old mill, built by a man named Spencer Moore and his family, some of Alabama's earliest settlers, in the 1830s. His mother Phyllis was sister to Zachary Taylor, the 12^th President.

The exact date of the mill's construction isn't known except that it was probably some time before 1849. The foundation and the remains of two millraces can still be seen on the course, if you look hard.

The mill itself was destroyed in a fire in the 1920s and Moore and his wife are buried in an un-maintained cemetery outside Auburn. The unmarked graves are presumed to be the final resting places of slaves who helped build the mill.

The Cleveland brothers own the course, which they decided to build after accumulating enough land over a 10-year period to build a residential community. The course itself is nearly five years old and the hardwood trees and grasses are only now starting to mature.

Located on the eastern outskirts of Auburn, the course has some nice elevation changes, with views of the surrounding countryside. It isn't a particularly long course at 6,871 yards and its slope rating of 132 from the back tees is because of Moore's Mill Creek that slides through the property - coming into play on no less than 13 holes - and the out-of-bounds and other hazards that must be negotiated.

"It's not a long course," said Head Professional Kyle Lindsey. "You're going to use driver four or five times, because you can get in trouble out there. You've just got to place the ball, manage your game around the course."

That's never more apparent than No. 3, a 437-yard par-4, a downhill, slight dogleg right which requires - no, demands - an accurate tee shot. The fairway twists and slopes sharply back toward the tee box and to the left, and your second shot will be back uphill, to a deep green, sloped and undulating.

The verdict

Moore's Mill is a semi-private facility now, but plans call for it to go private when its membership reaches 450. That would be a shame, because the public would miss out on a great bargain: green fees are $45-$50 to the public and $35-$40 for member guests.

"It's the first time I ever played it, and I'll be coming back when I pass through here again," said mid-handicapper James Roberson after playing with a group of friends. "They have some nice courses for so small an area, and I really liked that one."

Designed by Alan Blalock, a brother-in-law to the Clevelands, and Glen Day, Moore's Mill is a scenic layout, with wood bridges over the meandering creek and TifEagle greens that are holding their own despite a wet summer.

There is also a 20,000-square-foot, attractive stone clubhouse, restaurant and lounge, pool and cabana and a fitness center.

Stay and play

The Marriott at Grand National is within easy driving distances to most of the courses in the Auburn-Opelika area and only a few minutes to the three Grand National courses. You know it's a "golf hotel" the minute you drive up, with its long, winding putting green out front. Still, it's away from what passes for hustle and bustle of the area, set back in the woods as it is.

It's a moderate-sized hotel, with 114 rooms and 15 suites, and caters to the business types with high-speed Internet access, for $10 a day, business centers and 15,000 square feet of meeting space. That includes 13 meeting rooms.

It also has concierge services, hot tubs and jacuzzis, a fitness center, swimming pool and sauna, hiking and jogging trails, miniature golf and tennis.

Dining out

The Marriott has the Fairways Lounge, which is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and serves casual food like sandwiches, hamburgers and salads. For ritzier stuff, the Lakeview Room is also open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and has steaks, seafood and game dishes.

If you want to venture further afield, try the Cottage Café, Cock of the Walk for seafood made from scratch, or Chuck's B Que Incorporated or Byron's for barbecue.

Fast fact

Spencer Moore was involved in the purchase of more than 4,000 acres in what is now Lee County - according to a family history, three presidents signed his Creek Indian land patents.

Tim McDonaldTim McDonald, Contributor

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

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