Road trip to Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail in Alabama

Updated: October 1, 2013

By Steve Turcotte, Inside Golf Editor

As our rental car made its way into the state of Alabama from the Atlanta airport, the signs on the freeway told us all we wanted to know about the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. How big is the Trail? So big that the courses have their own signs off major freeways to point you in the right direction.

Welcome to the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, a collection of some of the best public golf courses in the country designed by one of the top golf course designers himself and courses which are located throughout Alabama. The Trail is made up of 11 facilities and 468 holes from The Shoals in Florence in north Alabama to the Lakewood Golf Club on the Gulf Coast. The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail is the largest golf course construction project in history with most of the courses all opening at the same time in 1992.

And it’s not all just about the golf. The Trail also has some terrific resort hotels to go along with the golf, giving the area a look of a first-class golf destination. In fact, said Bill Lang of the Trail, tourism dollars have went from $2.8 billion a year in Alabama before the Trail to $11 billion after the Trail. It might not all be Trail tourism dollars, but having that many courses, hotels and resorts has not hurt the tourism business.

It used to be that college football was the only big business in Alabama. With the two-time defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide and Auburn Tigers, the college football business is big money. But now, so is the golf business.

The professional tours have even taken notice. The LPGA plays two events a year along the Trail and the Champions Tour has played on the Trail as well.

The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail started as an idea from Dr. David G. Bronner, who is in charge of the Retirement Systems of Alabama (a collection of state-employee pension funds).

More than 20 years ago he was looking for a way to invest in the economy in the state of Alabama. He came up with the idea that golf would be an answer. He came up with the idea of opening a collection of golf courses at the same time with one big-name architect and then letting the golfing public see what Alabama is all about.

A couple of the facilities have come on later, like Ross Bridge in Birmingham, Capitol Hill in Prattville and the Shoals in Muscle Shoals, giving the Trail its 468 holes of golf at 11 facilities.

Some of the facilities are off the hook. The Renaissance Ross Bridge is one of the top hotels in the world and the adjoining golf courses hosted the Champions Tour. The one thing about Ross Bridge is when you look at the yardage from the back tees. It measures a whopping 8,191 yards. Who’s sadistic enough to play from there? “There are guys who do it,” said Lang. Really? It is the fourth-longest course in the world.

What strikes you about the Trail is the variety of golf. When you think of the south, you think of trees and flatlands and wetlands. With the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail you get hills, trees, views, lakes, wetlands …. you get it all.


In fact, Oxmoor Valley in Birmingham might just be one of the hilliest golf courses around. There are three 18-hole courses at Oxmoor Valley and the Valley Course has a 441-yard par-4 called “The Assassin.” The name of the hole says it all.

Grand National in Opelika has three 18-hole tracks and the facility was named the best public golf in the country by Golf World. And for good reason. The Lakes and Links courses are both great tests and the 18-hole short course has nine holes which have a lake in play.

Capitol Hill in Montgomery has three courses – all different. The Senator is a links layout with some tall rough off the fairways and the Judge has an opening hole that drops 200 feet straight downhill. The Legislator course plays through some tall pine trees.

Cambrian Ridge in Greenville has three nines but no hole might be tougher than the Canyon’s opening 501-yard par-4 with a 200-foot drop from tee to fairway.

And the price is right when you hit the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. Greens fees range from $40-$100 with the average of $50 during the peak season. The top times to head to the Trail are spring and fall months. For more information, see the web site