How to Conquer the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail in Alabama
Featuring 468 golf holes spanning eleven sites
The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail is a collection of championship caliber golf courses designed by Robert Trent Jones Senior, distributed across the state of Alabama, as part of investments by the Retirement Systems of Alabama. The Trail started with 378 holes at eight locations and has grown to 468 holes at eleven sites. The 'Trail' runs for over 300 miles from near the Tennessee state line south to Mobile Bay.
The concept of building a golf trail was the 'brainchild' of Dr. David Bronner, CEO of the Retirement Systems of Alabama who created and executed it to effectively diversify the assets of the state's pension fund and economically benefit the State of Alabama. His philosophy is "the stronger the Retirement Systems of Alabama can make Alabama, the stronger the Retirement Systems will be."
After having visited and playing most of the Trail courses, I would recommend cutting the state into sections, and making separate trips to enjoy all that the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail has to offer. Yes, there are groups that have been known to tackle the RTJ Golf Trail in one whirlwind trip. But, frankly, there is just too much good golf to play and sites to see that would make one trip a long and arduous journey.
Here's my take on how to conquer "The Trail" divided by regions:
Northern Alabama / Huntsville Region:
Beginning in the most northern RTJ golf club, The Shoals has two superb 18 hole golf courses. Start your trip swinging and take on Fighting Joe, the first Trail golf course to exceed 8,000 yards. Then after an overnight at Marriott Shoals Hotel & Spa, play the Schoolmaster, a tree lined challenge played along the Tennessee River.
Moving east to Huntsville, Hampton Cove has three 18 hole layouts, the Highlands, a Scottish links-style layout, the River course with zero bunkers and plenty of water, and the short course which is still challenging and laid out similar to its big brother 7,000 yard wonders. There is no hotel directly connected to Hampton Cove, but there are good accommodations available in Huntsville. Stay two nights and double up one day playing the short course after a morning round on the River or Highlands.
Just down the road in near Gadsden, you'll find four nine hole designs at Silver Lakes that you can play with a stay at a local hotel. The Mindbreaker, Backbreaker, and Heartbreaker are full length challenges while the par 3 will test your short game.
Central Alabama / Birmingham Region:
Flying into Birmingham, you can stay for a few days at the Renaissance Birmingham Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa and play 72 holes of golf at both Oxmoor Valley's 54 hole complex and the longest 18 hole layout on the Trail at Ross Bridge in Hoover, which was carved out of the rolling terrain of Shannon Valley and encircles the resort. Oxmoor Valley's Ridge course,with its roller coaster fairways and huge elevation changes, will test your mettle while the Valley has its own unique challenges. Once again, you have 18 par 3s to sharpen your short game. If you need more golf, you can always take a road trip east just over an hour to Silver Lakes to satisfy your golf craving.
South Central / Montgomery Region:
Moving south to the state capital, Montgomery, the Trail continues its amazing golf with one of its highest praised courses, the simply magnificent Judge, at the 54 hole Capitol Hill. Another part of this dynamic trio, The Senator, is the home of the Symetra Tour's Guardian Championship and was named one of the top new courses in America. The lessor praised Legislator course stretches out to 7400 yards and is just as challenging as its more famous siblings. The Montgomery Marriott Prattville Hotel & Conference Center at Capitol Hill overlooks the courses and is the ideal extended stay to play around.
Just 45 minutes south in Greenville is Cambrian Ridge with 4 nine hole layouts considered the most beautiful and challenging on the Trail, and that is saying something. I have not seen one yet that I consider less than fantastic. One of the nines is another short par 3, but Canyon, Sherling and Loblolly nines will provide aesthetic wonders and challenges.
After golfing around Montgomery, travel east to Grand National, staying at Auburn Marriott Opelika Golf Resort & Spa. The centerpiece here is 600 acre Lake Saugahatchee where 32 of the 54 holes are draped along its filigreed shores. Of the courses on the Trail I played, the Lake was my favorite. The funny thing, my playing partners all picked different ones. Besides the Lake there is an 18 hole short course and the Links, which was a great track.
Southern Alabama / Mobile Region:
In the southeast corner of Alabama is the 36 hole Highland Oaks complex in Dothan consisting of 4 nine hole layouts. One of them is a short par 3 course but the Magnolia, Marshwood and Highlands will give you all the challenge you want no matter how you rotate your play. Dothan has national chain hotels available to stay and play.
Less than 2 hours south of Greenville is Magnolia Grove, a 54 hole feast of golf in Mobile. With another par 3, 18 hole course, Magnolia Grove touts 2 remarkable 18 hole championship layouts, the Falls and the Crossings, which are considerably different from each other.
Twenty four miles away towards the Gulf of Mexico is the "Queen of Southern Resorts," the historic Grand Hotel Marriott Resort, Golf Club & Spa. I would make this amazing spot my headquarters while playing in Mobile, and then test the Lakewood Golf Club's Azalea course in Point Clear. The other 18 hole layout, Dogwood, is scheduled to reopen in November 2019.
There you have it. If I told my wife I was going to Alabama to play 26 golf courses for close to 4 weeks, I would have a problem. But if I broke it up into 4 separate trips over a longer time, I could still be able to say I played all of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, and still be married. One thing I am sure of having experienced a piece of the pie. I want to try the whole pie.
Recently many of the Trail's official hotels have added Spas to their amenity packages, so instead of just playing golf, definitely try the luxurious spas to work out those kinks, get a manicure or pedicure, or just spend a few hours in the steam room, sauna or whirlpool. Get a little indulgence included in your golf experience.
Visit GolfAlabama.org or RTJGOLF.com to learn more.
A Grand Experience Awaits at Grand Geneva Resort & Spa
Nationally - Recognized Property Features 36 Holes
As one of the best golf resorts in Wisconsin, Grand Geneva Resort & Spa offers more than just incredible views and rolling fairways. It's home to the complete golf getaway experience.
We invite you to challenge yourself on our two 18-hole championship courses. The magnificent Brute, at over 7,000 yards, is one of the most breathtaking layouts in the Midwest and is considered one of Wisconsin's best golf courses. Designed by Robert Bruce Harris, the course is enhanced with 68 bunkers and huge rolling greens, averaging over 8,000 square feet.
In addition, The Highlands is a Scottish-inspired, links-style course. It features a beautiful landscape of scenic hills, trickling creeks and lush foliage. It was originally designed by Pete Dye and Jack Nicklaus, and transformed in 1996 by Bob Cupp.
Our daily greens fee includes use of a golf cart, complete use of practice facility with range balls, club storage, GPS yardage system, locker room facilities and a Grand Geneva divot tool and ball marker. For a limited time, take advantage of our “Lunch is on Us” package: play a round of golf for $79 on select dates.
Featured Property: Pinewood County Club - Harshaw, Wisconsin
The Bromann Family Welcomes You to Play "The Most Scenic Golf Course in the Northwoods"
Pinewood Country Club, “The Most Scenic Golf Course in the Northwoods” is a beautiful public golf course located in Harshaw, Wisconsin. Centrally located between Rhinelander, Minocqua and Tomahawk the golf course, proshop and driving range is spread over 300 beautiful acres of the most scenic land of all the Northwoods golf courses. The golf course was built in 1962 by Al and Marie Bromann, Jr. Today it is still a family owned and operated business, with the third generation now owning the golf course, Chip and Jayne Bromann.
The golf course from the back tees is almost 6,200 yards with 4 sets of tees to accommodate all skill levels of golfers. The front nine can be best described as sporty with it being more target golf. The front nine has ponds and tall grass areas that challenge your game. The back nine is over 500 yards longer than the front nine from the back tees and is carved out of the hardwoods on the property.
The driving range is set up with both mats and grass tees. There is a sand trap to practice your bunker shots as well as 4 target greens out in the range itself. A great area to practice improve upon your game.
Pinewood Country Club specializes in golf outings and our in-house Chef can meet any groups needs when it comes to meals. We can handle groups from 25 to 160. Call Pinewood at 715-282-5500 to reserve your group or email Chip Bromann at firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about dates.
STITCH Launches SL2 Golf Bag
The Perfect Walking Bag
STITCH Golf expands its golf bag family with the launch of the SL2 carry golf bag incorporating a unique blend of design and function to meet the needs of today’s serious golfer.
Constructed with STITCH’s Touring Fabric, a proprietary material with the strength of leather, but more light weight, durable, and water resistant, the SL2, $368, also has the versatility of interchangeable single and double straps with the convenience of a stand. Weighing only four pounds, the SL2 is extremely lightweight, yet with multiple dividers, can easily accommodate a full set of 14 clubs. Add in optimal storage, and the SL2 provides the ultimate in comfort, efficiency, and mobility.
Additional features of the SL2 include:
* Full length apparel pocket
* A felt lined pocket for valuables and insulated beverage pocket
* Water and stain resistant with sealed zippers
* Single and double strap included
* 4-way divider with lift-assisted handles
* Gunmetal hardware and finishes
* Detachable rain hood
Since its historic opening in 1927, Arrowhead Golf Club has offered superb golfing experiences to the western suburbs of Chicago. Located in the heart of DuPage County, Arrowhead Golf Club welcomes you to come enjoy the day on their award winning golf course. The beautifully conditioned 27 hole golf course with Bentgrass tees, greens and fairways presents itself more like a country club than your traditional public course. Whether you are a expert or novice golfer, you will see proof of why area golfers, the community and businesses enjoy and appreciate the amenities of the facility. Golfing at Arrowhead is enjoyable no matter which of the three courses you play. The setting is serene, for the course is bordered on three sides by DuPage County Forest Preserve land where it is likely for guests to see fox or deer if they play in the early morning or in the evening.
Plus our superb on-site restaurant features the below daily specials!
Daily specials are available for dine-in only.
Fried Chicken Sunday
+ Half of a chicken, marinated in buttermilk and seasoning, then breaded and fried in-house. Paired with sweet corn on the cob, garlic whipped potatoes and homemade gravy. $13.95
+ House wine and mimosas $4
+ 1/2 pound Angus beef burger, served on a brioche bun with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle spear and homemade potato chips. $6
+ All draft beer pints half-price
+ Choose from hand-crafted beef, fish or chicken tacos. Served with tortilla chips and salsa (no mixing, please). $3 each
+ $3 Modelo 16 oz. draft
Kids eat free.*
Wine & Dine Wednesday
+ Two grilled beef medallions served on a mushroom crusted crostini with a house-made bordelaise sauce, three grilled shrimp served scampi style, garlic whipped potatoes and grilled asparagus. $14.95
+ Half off select wine bottles
+ Spice up your Thursday with Chef’s authentic Creole creations: Shrimp & Grits or Shrimp and Sausage Etouffee. $14.95
+ $6 Hurricanes, $2 Hamm’s, PBR’s, Coors Banquet, Miller High Life or Mickey’s
Kids eat free.*
All-you-can-eat beer battered Cod, made fresh to order and served with fries, slaw and tartar sauce. $13.95
Prime Rib Saturday
+ Herb encrusted and slow roasted ribeye roast. Cut to order and served with au jus, a baked potato and skinny green beans. 12 oz. $20.95 or 16 oz. $25.95.**
*With purchase of adult entrée
**Available after 4P only
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Poland Springs Resort
Want a Unique Golf Experience?
We're always looking for unusual golf experiences, and this time we found one in Poland.
Poland, Maine, that is.
Chances are you won't think of Maine when you're talking golf. It's nothing new at Poland Spring Resort, however. Golf has been played there since 1896. For the last 10 years it's hosted one of the most enticing golf packages that we've come across.
The state of Maine has only about 140 courses, most of them public and many of those nine-holers. Still, Maine has its place in American golf history thanks to the Poland Spring Resort. It is - by most accounts - the oldest resort golf course in the country. The resort has only one Donald Ross course, but there was golf there before Donald Ross arrived.
"We start with Arthur Fenn," said Cyndi Robbins, a remarkable woman who started working at Poland Spring 45 years ago as a waitress and is now the resort's owner. "He's an important part of our history."
Cyndi married Mel Robbins, who took over the ownership of the resort in the 1970s after they were married. When Mel passed away 11 years ago Cyndi opted to keep this historic place going and she's done an admirable job of that.
The town may be best known for the mineral water that has long been produced there, but Robbins makes a strong case for recognizing the importance of golf and Fenn as well. Fenn designed the first course on the property, a nine-holer, in 1896.
A top player himself, Fenn attracted many other top golfers to the resort in the early 1900s. Most notable were Harry Vardon, the famous professional from England, and Scotsman Willie Anderson, the only golfer to win three straight U.S. Opens. Most of the golf professionals of that era were from England or Scotland.
Poland Spring historians consider Fenn the "first American-born golf professional and course designer.' He played with the best golfers of his era, too, but isn't as famous as the Vardons or Andersons because he didn't stray much from Poland Spring to compete in the big national tournaments.
Fenn's daughter Bessie also was part of the operation, and she is considered the "first woman golf professional in charge of a club."
The resort goes much further back than the Fenns. An inn has operated continuously on the property since 1797. It was called the Wentworth Ricker Inn then, and the Ricker family owned the resort for almost 150 years.
"The Rickers hired Fenn because they wanted to be involved in golf,' said Cyndi Robbins, noting that subsequent owners all felt the same way. "We still get people coming just because of our golf course. Some who never played our course have come just because of Donald Ross.'
The legendary Ross was hired by the Rickers to convert Fenn's nine-holer into 18 holes. Ross started work in 1913 and finished the job in 1915, and the course hasn't undergone any major changes since then. The course measured 6,380 yards when it opened and is a 6,178-yard par-71 from the back tees that's called The Links at Poland Spring now.
"In World War II some of his features were let go,' said Cyndi Robbins. "We've worked to restore what we can.'
The Maine Golf Hall of Fame is also housed on the property, which features the Maine Inn - a Colonial-style building with a huge porch and stately white pillars. It's the center for a wide variety of activities offered at the resort. Poland Spring, though, still has just the one golf course.
Many resorts have multiple courses these days, and - rather than build more of courses at the expense of the resort's other entertainment offerings - Robbins opted to start the Maine Golf Trifecta.
She invited the owners of two nearby privately-owned public courses - Spring Meadows at Cole Farms, in the town of Gray, and Fox Ridge, in Auburn - to join forces on a golf package. Neither Spring Meadows nor Fox Ridge offers lodging so package participants stay at Poland Spring.
Spring Meadows and Fox Ridge are much newer courses, and the mix of layouts offered to those joining the Trifecta covers all levels of players. Poland Spring's course is short, flat and historic. Spring Meadows is the most fun with stunning elevation changes. Fox Ridge has some similar features but is a tougher challenge. The most skilled players will like it the best.
The Maine Trifecta has been in effect for 10 years and benefitted all three facilities. For $319 participants can play all three courses, receive two nights of lodging at Poland Spring and four all-you-can-eat buffet meals. With upgraded accommodations the price goes up to $349.
"It's been 10 years in the making and we have something very unique,' said David Pollard, co-owner and manager of Spring Meadows. "We are 15 minutes apart and the owners have come together. That's unheard of. We're very proud of what we've done.'
Spring Meadows, celebrating its 20th anniversary, is a family-owned operation and Pollard's brother Brad owns a restaurant across the street from the course. Robbins also has a restaurant, Cyndi's Dockside, that is separate from the resort.
The Drumlin Putting Course will be lit for evening/night play.
63,000 Square Feet of Serious Fun is the Newest Amenity at Wisconsin's First U.S. Open Venue
On August 1 Erin Hills will unveil the Drumlin - a new putting course designed exclusively for Erin Hills players and overnight guests to have fun before (and after) their rounds.
The Drumlin is located to the north of the 1st tee directly in front of the porch of the clubhouse on top of a ridge, even further enhancing the iconic view from the clubhouse. The putting course wraps around a ridge and will feature bold undulations to provide a fun variety of holes for golfers to enjoy in the afternoon and evenings. It will be lit, allowing for friendly after-dinner competitions.
“Building a one-of-a kind putting facility at Erin Hills is incredibly exciting. This is both an added fun factor and a way to practice putting after you test your skills on a U.S. Open Championship golf course. Whether enjoyed during the day, or with a drink under the lights, we hope players will laugh, have fun and come back again and again to enjoy our new creation,” said Dana Fry and Jason Straka, designers of the new putting course.
Lei Ye, of China,adds her name to the Glenna Collett Vare Trophy.
SentryWorld Proved to Be a Worthy Host for the USGA Championship
Seven times in the 36-hole championship match on Saturday, Jillian Bourdage managed to win a hole after losing the previous one to opponent, Lei Ye.
An eighth seemed imminent as the final of the 71st U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship reached the 36th green at SentryWorld. All that stood between Bourdage, 17, of Taramac, Fla., and extra holes was 5 feet.
She stroked what she thought was a perfect putt. But this time, the ball trailed off to the left at the very end, sending Bourdage to her knees in disbelief.
Ye, 18, then stepped up and converted her 3-foot par putt to secure a 1-up victory, becoming the second player from the People’s Republic of China to win a USGA championship.
“This tournament is the ultimate achievement of junior golf, so yeah, it's been a perfect ending,” said Ye, who played her final junior competition this week.
“That last putt, though it was three feet, I was definitely nervous. It's a big putt. I just told myself, you've practiced this thousands and thousands of times, you could do it in your sleep.”
An incoming freshman at Stanford University, Ye joins 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links winner Alice (Fumie) Jo as the only players from China to claim a USGA championship. The No. 69 player in the Women’s Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR) also is the 13th international player to have her name engraved on the Glenna Collett Vare Trophy, joining the likes of major champions Inbee Park (Korea), Ariya Jutanugarn (Thailand) and I.K. Kim (Korea).
Other names on the trophy include World Golf Hall of Famers Mickey Wright, JoAnne Gunderson Carner, Nancy Lopez, Hollis Stacy and Amy Alcott as well as modern-day stars Lexi Thompson and Minjee Lee.
With the victory, Ye also earned an exemption into the 2020 U.S. Women’s Open at Champions Golf Club in Houston, Texas.
Ye played the equivalent of 4-under-par golf, with the usual match-play concessions, over the 36 holes.
No birdie was bigger than the par-4 35th hole. Ye took an aggressive line off the tee on the dogleg-right, leaving just 105 yards to the flagstick. Her approach with a gap wedge stopped 6 feet from the flagstick and she calmly converted.
"On 17 I saw her hit it left, and I thought it might have gone in the water (the ball stayed dry),” said Ye. “I mean, it didn't change too much how I was going to approach that shot because it was 105 yards, which is a wedge shot, which I have been hitting well this week, so I just thought that I'd land it about 100 [yards], a couple yards right on that slope and have it carry it down towards the flag.”
On the 36th hole, Bourdage, playing first from the fairway, stuffed her 8-iron approach from 130 yards to 5 feet, getting a big applause from the 300 spectators gathered around the green. Ye’s second shot went to the back of the green, leaving her a 50-foot downhill putt that she deftly lagged to 3 feet.
“I was trying to make that 50-footer. It's not impossible,” said Ye. “I've made 50-footers before, you know. Yeah, [I was] hoping for a bit of a miracle there. It got pretty close. I gave it a pretty good chance. I guess it was a lot of pressure on her to extend that match with that five-footer.”
That set the stage for Bourdage to force extra holes.
“I think I just under-read it,” said Bourdage, “but I felt really good when I walked over the ball and my aim looked great from where I was standing. I just gave it my best shot, but that's golf sometimes. They don't all drop.”
For Bourdage, it was her second championship-match setback of 2019. In late April, she and fellow Floridian Casey Weidenfeld fell to Duke University incoming freshmen Megan Furtney and Erica Shepherd in the final of the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship at Timuquana Country Club in Jacksonville, Fla.
Bourdage was also the last remaining player in the field with Wisconsin ties as her mom was born in Manitowoc, and she has other family living in Appleton. Two of her cousins attended the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
“This means so much to me,” said Bourdage, who plans to attend Ohio State in 2020 and major in aviation management. She is 20 hours in to getting her pilot’s license. “And my family has been so supportive, they've been cheering me on all day and encouraging me, even though I had a rough start. But it's just nice that they're always by my side, and it's amazing to be here and get to spend time with them, too.”
A week ago, the competitors at SentryWorld were greeted with tornado warnings and strong storms that forced most of the first official practice round to be postponed. On Saturday, the players were greeted with sunshine, temperatures in the 80s and breezes from 10-25 mph with the highest recorded gust at 22 mph. In other words, an idyllic day to play a championship match.
Ye, also a past U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball runner-up (in 2018 at El Caballero Country Club with Ya Chun Chang), appeared as if she might turn the final into a runaway, grabbing a 3-up lead at the lunch break. She won five of seven holes from the par-5 ninth, a stretch that began with a 6-foot birdie on No. 9. While Bourdage answered with birdies on 11 and 13 to trim the deficit to one hole, a birdie on the par-5 14th and a winning par at 15 pushed Ye’s margin to three holes. Hole 15 proved to be Bourdage’s Waterloo all week, as she played the 383-yard, par-4 in 6 over par.
Bourdage, however, had chances to trim her deficit going into the break, only to miss good birdie chances at 16 and 18 from 6 and 9 feet, respectively.
After some lunch, Bourdage’s attitude changed for the afternoon 18. She took a more free-wheeling approach and by the 26th hole, the match was tied. While Ye never trailed coming home, her lead was never more than 1 up. She hit a beautiful wedge approach to 2 feet on the par-5 27th, only to see Bourdage answer with a 6-foot birdie on the par-5 28th.
Ye took No. 30 with a par when Bourdage failed to get up and down from a bunker, but lost the advantage two holes later on the par-5 32nd as Bourdage’s third shot with a wedge stopped 4 feet from the hole.