Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail
Golf course architect Robert Trent Jones saw the group of public
courses he designed in Alabama as his version of Michelangelo’s
masterful artwork in the Sistine Chapel. The 21 courses are now
called the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, a total of 378 holes at
eight locations across the state. The Trail’s long list of
accolades includes recognition as the best value in the world as
a golf destination, according to a recent Golf Digest survey, and
golfers in the same survey put the Trail among the top eight in
the world for quality of golf.
Funded by the Retirement Systems of Alabama, the Robert Trent Jones
Golf Trail was built to help expand tourism, recruit industry and
attract retirees, thus strengthening the state’s economy while
adding to the quality of life for all Alabamians. The concept for
the Trail came from Dr. David Bronner, who, as chief executive officer,
shaped the Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA) into one of the nation’s
best-performing pension funds. RSA has investments in US Airways,
Raycom Media, PCH Hotels, 55 Water Street in New York City, Community
Newspapers and other interests.
Part of Bronner’s investment philosophy hits home in its
rationale for funding the Trail: “The stronger the Retirement
Systems can make Alabama, the stronger the Retirement Systems of
Alabama will be.” The Trail has been a strong contributor
to Alabama’s economy: In the past six years, Alabama’s
tourism dollars have increased from $2.5 billion to roughly $6.1
The Trail’s artfully designed and beautifully landscaped
courses, according to The New York Times, are “exquisite and
exquisitely challenging.” The Boston Globe reported, “In
Alabama, a genius in course design created 18 (now 21) jewels for
everyone to enjoy at one-third the rate of comparable facilities.”
The Atlanta Constitution called the Trail “the finest public
courses in the country.” Two more Trail sites are under construction
and slated to open in 2004: two 18-hole courses in the Muscle Shoals/Florence
area in northern Alabama and an 18-hole course in the Birmingham
suburb of Hoover. Both of those sites will include hotel accommodations.
- The Trail stretches from the rolling hills of northern and central
Alabama to the wetlands and woods near the Gulf Coast. Each of
the eight stops on the Trail is within a two-hour drive of the
Trail course closest to it, and each is within 15 minutes of a
major interstate. Courses are located in or near Anniston, Auburn,
Birmingham, Dothan, Greenville, Huntsville, Mobile, and Prattville
- The $145 million Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail is the largest
golf course construction project in history. Initial construction,
which began in the late 1980s, was for 324 holes. More than 100
miles of courses have been built, with each course ranging from
4,500 to 7,770 yards.
- Green fees along the Trail average $50; during peak season,
the highest fee at some courses is $67.
Ridge, Greenville: three 9-hole courses. The Loblolly
exudes a stately, Augusta-like quality. The Canyon is carved from
former hunting grounds where deer blinds remain nailed to the
hardwoods. A thrilling stretch of “target-style” golf,
The Canyon’s first hole is a 501-yard par 4 that drops 200
feet from tee to fairway. The Sherling’s 9th hole rises
straight uphill past a deep ravine strewn with ochre boulders
to a lolling tongue of a double green. Green fees range from $35
- Capitol Hill,
Prattville/Montgomery: three 18-hole courses. The
Senator is a traditional, Scottish-style layout, with more than
150 pot-hole bunkers and mounds 20 to 40 feet in height located
so that the cart path or any other hole cannot be seen from a
given fairway; its bent-grass greens provide exceptional conditions
12 months a year. The Legislator features huge pine trees and
has been compared to some of the more famous courses in North
Carolina. The Judge plays alongside the Alabama River, with 12
water-bordering holes that provide some of the most spectacular
scenery and golfing exhilaration in the world, along with elevation
drops of more than 200 feet. Green fees range from $35 to $55.
The site includes The Legends at Capitol Hill, a 90-room hotel
with 1- and 2-room suites as well as two 8-bedroom luxury villas.
Visit: http://www.rtjgolf.com/trail/resorts.htm for hotel information
- Grand National,
Auburn/Opelika: three 18-hole courses. The Links
is the cornerstone of the Grand National complex, and its 18th
hole is billed as the strongest finishing hole on the Trail. The
drive must carry a corner of the lake while the approach is played
to a shallow pedestal green shored up by boulders. The Lake course
includes 12 holes that hug the lake’s shore, and its 230-yard
island green on the 15th hole might be the prettiest hole on the
entire Trail. More than half of the Short Course’s 18 holes
touch the lake. Green fees range from $35 to $55. Hotel accommodations
include The Lodge and Convention Center, which has 129
rooms and 15 suites, all of which face the course.
Visit http://www.rtjgolf.com/trail/resorts.htm for hotel information
- Hampton Cove,
Huntsville: three 18-hole courses.
The Highlands emulates a Scottish course and is planted with thousands
of Japanese black pines, oaks, dogwoods and crepe myrtles. The
River is the only Trail course without a bunker. Laid out on former
soybean fields in the flood plain of the Flint River basin, The
River is a throwback to the way courses were built long ago —
dirt has been simply pushed up to create the greens and tees.
The course features massive oak trees, including an enormous,
250-year-old black oak behind the 18th green, reputed to be the
third oldest in the state. Eleven of the Short Course’s
18 holes have water in play. Green fees range from $35 to $50.
Oaks, Dothan: four 9-hole courses. The Highlands
is relatively open, with several lakes in play. The Marshwood
is known for its notorious par-5 6th hole, a 701-yarder, and the
422-yard, par-4 9th includes a left-to-right dogleg and a tilted
green elevated above a ribbon of wetlands. The Magnolia is graced
by magnolia trees on high ground that is reached via a 1,000-foot
wooden bridge spanning a marsh filled with lichen-dappled trees.
The Short Course has perhaps the best-putting Bermuda greens in
the South. Green fees range from $35 to $45.
Grove, Mobile: three 18-hole courses. The Falls is
laced with large, liberally contoured greens and massive cloverleaf
bunkers. Its 570-yard, par-5 10th hole has a waterfall that cascades
across steps immediately below a green that falls eight feet from
front to back. The Crossings is a shot-maker’s heaven, with
several pulpit greens elevated well above fairway levels. Most
of the holes on the Short Course call for forced carries over
marsh to liberally sloped, bulk-headed greens. Green fees range
from $35 to $55. Golfers can stay nearby at the historic Grand
Hotel, built in 1847 and one of the South’s premier overnight
stays. The Grand Hotel sits on 550 acres along Mobile Bay and
has 405 rooms and 23 meeting rooms.
Visit http://www.rtjgolf.com/trail/resorts.htm for hotel information
Valley, Birmingham : three 18-hole courses. The Ridge
boasts rolling fairways, heavy tree cover and sharp 150-foot elevation
changes. Extremely photogenic, this course’s par-5 12th
hole is buttressed by a shelf of exposed shale rock — a
reminder of the area’s strong mining and manufacturing past.
The Valley’s 18th hole – nicknamed “The Assassin”
– is a 441-yard par 4 that rises to a dramatic finish. Golf
Digest’s Places to Play listed the Short Course one of the
nation’s Great Value courses. Green fees range from $35
- Silver Lakes,
Anniston/Gadsden: four 9-hole courses. The Heartbreaker
is considered by many to be the most challenging nine holes on
the Trail if played from the championship tees. The 450-yard,
par- 4 9th includes water rippling down the entire left side of
the hole. The Backbreaker is a photographer’s dream, with
stunning views of the Appalachian foothills from the elevated
tees. The par-5 7th, a 623-yard behemoth, brings water into play
not once, but twice. Other courses include The Mindbreaker and
The Short Course, both with their own challenges. Green fees range
from $35 to $45.
RTJ Trail Event Highlights
- NIKE Tour Championship, 1997-1999
- Grand National, 1997
- Magnolia Grove, 1998
- Highland Oaks, 1999
- BUY.COM Tour Championship, 2000-2002
- Highland Oaks, 2000
- Capitol Hill, 2001
- Capitol Hill, 2002
- Nationwide Tour Championship, Capitol Hill, 2003
- LPGA AFLAC Championship, 1998-2001
- Grand National, 1998
- Magnolia Grove, 1999 – 2001
- LPGA Tournament of Champions, Magnolia Grove, 2002-2003
- 1999 Jr. College National Championships, Highland Oaks
- 2000 NCAA Men’s Division I National Championship, Grand
- 2003 Golf Digest/Golf For Women, RTJ Golf Trail Couples’
Classic, Grand National, Oct. 24-26, 2003
- 2003 NCAA Fall Women’s Preview, Grand National, Sept.
- “Alabama has the American golfer’s equivalent of
- Golf Magazine
- “Alabama’s 100 miles of golf stands on par with
the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge or the Interstate Highway
- The Cincinnati Inquirer
- “A trip to the Trail is worth every mile and minute spent
of the road…the finest public courses in the country…”
- The Atlanta Constitution
- “In Alabama, a genius in course design created 18 jewels
for everyone to enjoy at 1/3 the rate of comparable facilities.”
- The Boston Globe
- “Alabama’s galaxy of great courses will change your
image of public golf forever.” - Senior Golf
- “…some of the best public golf on earth.”
– The New York Times
- “…one of the 50 coolest places in golf.” –
- The Trail was named by Frequent Flyer magazine as one of the
world’s top 10 trips.
- Travel & Leisure Golf called the Trail “America’s
premier golfing road trip.”
- Golf Digest listed five of the Trail's seven facilities among
the top 50 in the nation for service.
- Six of the Trail’s eight sites were ranked 4½
stars by Golf Digest’s Places to Play, 2002-2003.
- Golf Digest placed the Trail among the top 50 golf destinations
in the world.
- Upon its recent completion, The Senator course at Capitol Hill
was named among the top new courses in the country by Golf Magazine.
- Readers of Golf Magazine rated The Judge course at Capitol
Hill a 5 out of a perfect 5 rating.
- Because of the Trail, Alabama was named one of the top 10 destinations
in the world for golf by the International Association of Golf
RTJ Golf Trail Features