We went to the Boston Golf Show in March and were surprised to see a booth for the
Alabama Golf Trail. “This is the first time that we have ever been to the Boston Show,
and we are excited to be here,” said a representative from Alabama Tourism who was
manning the booth. I told him I published a golf magazine in Southern New England and
had visited and written about the Trail in 2007. “You need to come back to see all the
improvements,” he said. “We have a press trip coming up in June in conjunction with the
U.S. Women’s Open at Shoal Creek in Birmingham, and I’m sure they would want a
New England golf writer,” he added.
The next day I emailed the person running the press trip. She was the same
representative who had run the trip in 2007, and said that I could certainly be included in
The press trip included eight writers from around the globe (there were two from South
Korea—one who wrote for a Chinese glossy publication. What was unique about the trip
were a father and son from Chicago who had won the grand prize of a week’s golf trip,
including airfare, hotel and all meals, were able to join the writers. It really does pay to
enter those drawing at the Golf Shows!
We flew into Birmingham (PVD to Atlanta, then a short hop to Birmingham
Airport—under four hours) and stayed at the Renaissance Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa
This is the most high-end course on the Trail, and it is spectacular. The golf course
measures 8,191 yards on almost 300 acres and was built by Roger Rulewich of
Massachusetts who was Robert Trent Jones, Sr.’s lead designer, so it qualified as a RTJ
Trail course. There are five sets of tees, so pick the right one for your game. The first
hole is very difficult, and it sets the trend for most of the holes. The views are
spectacular, however, and it is a must play. The rates are double all of the other courses
on the Trail (still very reasonable for what you are getting), but it was rated the #2 best
new course in the country for a reason. The Champions Tour held an event here for many
The next morning we checked out and hopped on the bus for the short ride to Shoal
Creek and the Women’s Open. It was great to talk to locals Megan Khang and Brittany
Altomare (see June/July 2018 issue) and watch the best women golfers in the world.
Next we headed down Interstate 65 from Birmingham south to Mobile. For us
easterners used to traveling on Route 95 with the smell of the sea always pretty close by,
Route 65 runs north-south through Nashville and straight through Alabama ending at
Mobile Bay. All of the 26 courses and 468 holes of the Trail are within short drives from
Interstates, so the travel is made very easy.
That night we stayed at The Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel & Spa. This
towering hotel, originally opened in 1852 and closed in the 1970’s, was reopened in 2007
and was named one of the “Top 500 Hotels in the World” by Travel + Leisure in 2015. A
large part of our press trip was to show off the upgrading and reconstruction of the eight
hotels owned by the Trail. Half of them received major renovations in 2017 to provide
the luxury and hospitality that RTJ guests desire.
We also stayed at the Grand Hotel Marriott Resort, Golf Club & Spa in Point Clear,
Alabama. This beautiful resort sitting right along Mobile Bay recently underwent $400
million in renovations. The 405 rooms, 20,000 square foot spa with 12 treatment rooms
and the two golf courses across the street make this a must stay and play destination.
The two courses on the property play out of the Lakewood Club. They are called
Dogwood and Azalea and are part of the 26 courses on the RTJ Trail. Actually, Azalea
was the last course added on the Trail in 2005.
We played the Azalea and were impressed with the beautiful moss-draped live oaks that
are strategically in play throughout the course. There is an island green on number 14, a
par 5 that must be played thoughtfully.
Lakewood has a wonderful practice area called The Experience, and guests can work
on many parts of their game on this five-acre facility. Lakewood is private, but is open to
guests staying at the Grand Hotel or on a RTJ package.
Magnolia Grove, a 54-hole RTJ facility featuring two 18-hole layouts, the Crossing and
The Falls, and an 18-hole short course ranked 4 th in the world by Golf Magazine is just a
few miles fromdowntown Mobile. We did not have time to play, but my good friend, Joe
Hall who publishes Tee Times Golf Magazine in Tennessee, said it was his favorite
course anywhere. This reporter will get back there to play the three courses.
In 2007 we had played Capital Hill in Prattville and Cambrian Ridge in Greenville, but
have never been in North Alabama where there are also many great RTJ Trail courses.
Everything about the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail is first class. The courses are
wonderful, the hospitality is outstanding and the value is amazing. We kept saying,
“What would this course cost to play back home?”
We can’t end this story without talking about the food. This reporter has become a huge
fan of Shrimp and Grits. This is the same guy who thought grits was cream of wheat and
was putting milk and sugar on while a soldier at Ft. Benning, Ga. “You put salt and butter
on them” said a sergeant looking over my shoulder. Southern hospitality, great food,
wonderful accommodations and superb golf courses that are so reasonably priced makes
the RTJ Golf Trail a must visit.
Golf Digest rates the Robert Trent Jones Trail as the best golf value in America and it is
easy to see why. The Trail courses are difficult but challenging and fun to play. Make
sure you choose the correct tee box for your game.
We’ve talked to many golfers about the best way to play Alabama golf. Our method of
playing from Birmingham and south required quite a bit of traveling. The best way might
be to stay and play in each region. The Trail meanders throughout Alabama. Wherever
you play, you will be insured of a great golfing experience. The Trail has set up a
wonderful website www.rtjgolf.com where you can get all the information needed to
book a trip or find out more. You can also call 1-800-949-4444.
Bruce Vittner is a member of the Golf Writers of America and the Golf Travel Writers of
America and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.