Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail - Robert Trent JonesRobert Trent Jones Golf Trail

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.

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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 billion.

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.

Fast Facts

  • 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 (near Montgomery).

  • 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.

Course Descriptions

  • Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail - Robert Trent JonesCambrian 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 to $45.

  • 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: 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 for hotel information

  • Hampton CoveHampton 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.

  • Highland 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.

  • Magnolia GroveMagnolia 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 for hotel information

  • Oxmoor ValleyOxmoor 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 to $55.

  • 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 National
  • 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. 12-14, 2003

Course Quotes

  • “Alabama has the American golfer’s equivalent of Disney World.”
    - Golf Magazine
  • “Alabama’s 100 miles of golf stands on par with the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge or the Interstate Highway System.”
    - 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.” – Golf Magazine

Course Kudos

  • 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 Tour Operators.

RTJ Golf Trail Features