are many things that Alabama is associated with that may come to mind
before golf. But in the late 1980s a massive step was taken to change
that. David Bronner, CEO of the Retirement Systems of Alabama, devised
a plan to diversify the assets of the state pension fund by bringing more
tourist dollars into the state economy. The result was the Robert Trent
Jones Golf Trail. Jonesí ultimate accomplishment, the Trail consists of
378 holes spread over eight multi-course facilities. The project didnít
just produce a bunch of Alabama golf courses, but an experience that is
seeped in everything Alabama. The RTJ Trail is massive and meant to be
explored. But it will be hard to err in your exploration as most of the
Trailís courses are regarded as among the finest in Alabama golf.
Cambrian Ridge is regarded as the best of the 36-hole facilities. Broken
up into four nine-hole courses, The Sherling Course might be the best
nine on the entire trail. Here Jones created holes that might never have
made it off of paper if he hadnít had 378 holes to work with. Case in
point is the finishing hole, which marches steeply uphill, past a boulder
filled ravine to a double green it shares with the final hole of the Canyon
nine. The rest of the Sherling Course is nearly as dramatic. It has a
slope rating of 142 and reaches 3,681yards. It provides as much excitement
as can fit into nine holes.
The Canyon Course at Cambrian Ridge is almost as grand. Cut into an
old hunting forest, the Canyon Courseís 501-yard opening hole drops over
200 feet from tee to green. And itís a par four.
to the Gulf Coast is Magnolia Grove. This 54-hole facility in Mobile features
two championship courses and an 18 hole short course. The main course
at Magnolia Grove is The Falls Course. Liberally sized greens are surrounded
by equally large cloverleaf bunkers. There are few flat holes at the Falls
Course. Most are characterized by hilly fairways and elevated greens and
tee boxes. The Crossings Course is named after the railroad that you must
cross to reach the thirteenth hole. No. 4 is very similar in design to
Augusta nationalís famous eleventh hole.
The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail isnít all Alabama has to offer golfers.
There was golf in the state before RTJ Trail and new courses continue
to spring up today. These courses offer tradition and Southern hospitality.
In Gulf Shores, Kiva
Dunes Golf Course has established itself nationally as a gem. A links-style
layout, Kiva Dunes was tabbed the second-best new public course in the
nation by Golf Digest not long after it opened in April 1995. Its
stunning views of the Gulf of Mexico probably had something to do with
this immediate success, but itís continued popularity stems from its Southern
charm and timeless feel. Itís not uncommon to run across a local animal
during a round. Alligators, rabbits, salamanders, foxes and several species
of birds are wander through the course. This is a testament to the courseís
attempt to not disturb the local wildlife areas. Designed by Jerry Pate,
Kiva Dunes might have you examining sand thatís not near the Gulf of Mexico.
Pateís bunkering is varied and numerous. Pine trees and small, wind-ravaged
oaks can also cause problems.
The Shoals lies between the Wheeler and Wilson dams on the Tennessee River. The Wilson Dam, authorized by President Wilson in 1918, was the first dam constructed on the River. President Wilson was known as "The Schoolmaster" while he was an elected official, because of his notable background in the teaching profession. Our west course - The Schoolmaster - will command all the players study their homework well. Superior shot making will be required to make the grade. Nestled in the woods, it appears more refined than the brawny Fighting Joe.
Fighting Joe Golf Course is the first of the 18 hole courses to open at The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at The Shoals. Named after Gen. Fighting Joe Wheeler, one of among the few generals to fight in both the Confederate and US Armies, Fighting Joe is also the first Trail course to break 8,000 yards, stretching 8072 from the back tees. It's long, really long, and traditional straight-forward golf. You can see where you are going but can you get there?
The Fighting Joe course will take you breath away. Every hole is in keeping with the natural topography along the Tennessee River, wooded, rolling and spectacular. Come prepared to do battle!
Alabama Golf Destinations