In this blog post you’ll find everything you need to know about the world-renowed Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail.
What is it, who designed it, where is it located, how many golf courses are there, which is the best golf course? Even the best places to stay when visiting is covered below.
There are many great golf courses in Alabama. But for the all-in-one experience, you might want to consider the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. Enjoy.
What is the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail?
The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail is a network of golf courses all designed by the famous golf course architect Robert Trent Jones.
These golf courses are all located in the state of Alabama and different sections are played as a golf tour over a number of days.
How did the idea of the Alabama trail come about?
We need to jump back to the late 1980s, and specifically to a man called Dr. David Bronner who at the time was the CEO of the Retirement Systems of Alabama.
Bronner had a simple but wildly ambitious aim. In a nutshell he wanted to drive economic growth by building a series of public access golf courses throughout the state. Building these golf courses, it would in theory attract retirees and boost tourism, thus improving the overall economic outlook and growth for the state (and Retirement Systems of Alabama!).
In keeping with the audacious vision, he decided to build 20-plus golf courses across eight locations in Alabama. Running down from the Appalachians in the north, right down to the Gulf of Mexico in the south, this was mind-blowing stuff. (The trail has since expanded to eleven sites).
Why is it called the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail?
It was called the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail due to the involvement of the great golf course architect Robert Trent Jones Sr.
Bronner knew getting an A-list golf course architect was critical to the success of the project.
Firstly, it would guarantee the golf courses were designed to the highest standard. Every course would benefit from the experience and design principles this architect would bring.
Secondly, it would give the trail a much needed boost in credibility.
With that in mind, he reached out to the highly respected Robert Trent Jones Sr, one of the pre-eminent architects of the time. The only problem was, Trent Jones Sr. was in semi-retirement and very much in the latter years of his career.
Across 50 years he’d been involved in the creation of over 500 golf courses. Yet the appeal of being part of this once in a lifetime project clearly inspired him to leave his mark in a special way.
From that moment one, Trent Jones Sr. was the design inspiration behind the majority of golf courses on the trail. A trail which of course bears his name.
How many golf courses are there on the Alabama golf trail?
There are 26 golf courses on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, which combine to make an eye-watering 468 holes of golf.
They are spread across eleven different locations and each one is a top-class 18-hole championship layout.
And we’re talking about quality as well as quantity. Many of these golf courses are considered as some of the best in the state.
When designing and routing each course, the design philosophy was not to force any courses into the landscape. Instead each of them was designed in keeping with the natural lay-of-the-land.
As such there is real variety and also character to each of the courses on the trail. Many of which have stood the test of time.
What are the best golf courses on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail?
The best golf course on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail is The Judge course at Capitol Hill. Located close to the city of Montgomery, the course has been littered with praise by all major golf publications.
It has stunning views across the Alabama River and was selected by Golf Magazine as one of the 10 public golf courses in America worthy of holding a US Open.
Alongside the Judge course, two other best golf courses on the Robert Trent Jones golf trail include Ross Bridge close to Birmingham and the Lake course at the sensational Grand National resort.
Where to stay when playing the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail in Alabama?
There are eleven sites on the trail separated by over 700 miles. Therefore finding some good hotels to stay in is essential.
Fortunately there are a number of hotels that are officially part of the trail. These are all either part of the Marriott or Renaissance chain of hotels. So you can be assured of quality accommodation and a high-level of service.
In 2017 and 2018, every single one of these hotels enjoyed a major renovation. Each now provides a distinctive level of luxury and comfort which elevates the accommodation options.
Of course, there is nothing stopping you staying in a local motel or a more affordable city center option. But if you’re looking for something a bit more comfortable and up-market, then these are the places to stay.
Birmingham Region (North Alabama)
Renaissance Montgomery Hotel & Spa at the Convention Center
Located in downtown Montgomery close to the Alabama River, the Renaissance Montgomery was part of the revitalization of this area. The European-style spa is one of the top ranked spas in North America.
Auburn Marriott Opelika Hotel & Conference Center at Grand National
This epic hotel is perfect for golfers having been completely renovated in a golf theme. The large pool complex and outdoor bar are favorites with clients. The majority of the luxury guest rooms overlook the superb Grand National golf course.
Montgomery Marriott Prattville Hotel & Conference Center at Capitol Hill
Although there is far less capacity compared to other options on this list, the 74 recently renovated guest rooms are hugely spacious. You’re just minutes from downtown and benefit from indoor and outdoor dining options.
Mobile Bay Region (South Alabama)
The Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel & Spa
A grand hotel and the perfect urban retreat which harks back to the mid 19th century. The Battle House also received Four Diamond ratings from AAA. The hotel has a stunning historic lobby, 238 guest rooms and a new spa.
Grand Hotel Marriott Resort, Golf Club & Spa
The epitome of Southern hospitality in a historic hotel. The Grand is now part of the Autograph Collection, and over the years has received a litany of awards. It has one of Marriott’s best spas and a collection of the finest luxury rooms.
Renaissance Mobile Riverview Plaza Hotel
The Four Diamond Hotel caters primarily for business guests. But it nonetheless boasts a prime downtown location with spectacular views of Mobile Bay. There are 373 elegant and comfortable guest rooms.
Golf Courses on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail
Cambrian Ridge, Greenville
27 holes of golf overlooking the scenic Sherling Lake and just 40 miles from Montgomery. Cambrian Ridge is renowned as one of the more attractive stops on the trail but also one of the more challenging.
There are three loops of 9 holes, the Canyon, Loblolly and Sherling loops. All three are top class and recently underwent major renovations. Vistas were opened up whilst greens were redesigned and reseeded.
Capitol Hill, Pratville
There are three outstanding championship golf courses at Capitol Hill. Hardly surprising then this 1,500 acre club was voted the #2 public golf facility in America by Golf World readers.
The Judge course is immense and was named by Golf Magazine as one of the 10 public courses in America which should host a US Open. The Senator is a Scottish-links style course recognised as one of the best new courses by Golf Magazine.
Grand National, Auburn/Opelika
One of the most stunning natural landscapes for golf, an opinion shared by Robert Trent Jones Sr.
Grand National has two superb championship courses onsite and a sublime Short Course. Voted the #1 golf facility in America by Golf Digest readers. Truly top class whilst 32 of the 54 holes meander along the shores of the serene Lake Saugahatchee.
Hampton Cove, Huntsville
Another club with two superb 18-hole layouts and a challenging yet approachable Short Course.
The Highlands and The River courses are far more traditional in style. Apart from the greens, there was very little movement and manipulation of the land during the build.
The River course is also the only Trent Jones Sr. course without any bunkers. A welcome respite being as there is water on 16 of the 18 holes!
Highland Oaks, Dothan
Three loops of nine are on offer here with the Highlands and Magnolia combination considered the optimum layout. The Marshwood nine is however hugely popular, not just because it is a fine course. But also because it is home to the notorious sixth hole, a monstrous 701 yard par-5.
There is also a 9-hole Short Course which oozes character.
Lakewood Club, Point Clear
This club harks back to the mid-20th century with the original 18-holes designed by Perry Maxwell. It was later expanded into 36-holes of which we have the Azalea and Dogwood courses.
Both recently enjoyed a complete overhaul and the renovation has elevated their status further. No wonder Golf Magazine considers Lakewood Club as one of the ‘Best Golf Resorts in America’.
Magnolia Grove, Mobile
Rated by major golf publications as one of the best public courses in the country and also one of the most affordable, Magnolia Grove is great.
This is a wonderful setting for golf. Mashlands, lakes, creeks and forests of hardwoods and pine. It is also highly rated, with the LPGA and Korn Ferry Tours having made Magnolia Grove a stop on their tours.
Oxmoor Valley, Birmingham
Oxmoor Valley is located on mining land formerly owned by the U.S. Steel. This is a fascinating plot with a number of rises and valleys created over the years by the former occupants.
Both championship courses, the Ridge and the Valley, wind through dense woodland and abundant creeks. The Ridge course is particularly photo-friendly, with a litany of elevation changes.
Ross Bridge, Hoover
Without doubt, one of the finest options on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. The traditional parkland Ross Bridge is the only course onsite, but boy you’ll be happy to play it over and over again.
It is one of the longest courses in the world stretching to an awe-inspiring 8,191 yards. But length is not the only highlight. It is an all-round class layout which has been celebrated by the likes of Zagat, Golf Digest and Golf Magazine amongst others.
Silver Lakes, Anniston/Gadsden
Nestled in the Appalachian foothills, is the sumptuous Silver Lakes. There are three loops of nine-holes, each with its own character and challenge on offer.
The Backbreaker nine has stunning views and wide fairways. The Heartbreaker nine is slightly more undulating but don’t be scared to pull the driver out. The Mindbreaker is a slightly shorter nine which plots its way around wetlands and elegant woodland.
Like many of the courses in the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, there is also a Short course for beginners.
The Shoals, Muscle Shoals
One of the newest additions to the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail yet a club with plenty of pedigree.
The Shoals has two fantastic championship courses and is sat right on the banks of the Tennessee River. Fighting Joe is a beast of a course, which plays true but long. Wide open fairways bordered by tall grasses, from the backs you could be playing well-over 8,000 yards.
The Schoolmaster is no less a challenge, just shy of 8,000 yards from the backs. But this is a completely different challenge, with narrow fairways and well protected greens.
What is the most difficult golf course on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail?
The most difficult golf course on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail has to be the mighty Ross Bridge. The routing has been carved into the Shannon Valley thus featuring forced carries and magnificent elevation changes.
This really is a masterful design. Picturesque views, fairways meandering along lakes, high ridges, you really have it all.
Make sure to take in the mighty waterfall which splits the 9th and 18th greens.
*Occasionally I will recommend services which I think add value to you the user, and offer you a way to find out more about a particular golf resort or course. If you make a purchase by clicking one of the links, I may earn an affiliate fee. However, please rest assured yourgolfcourses.com is 100% independent and these commissions in no way influence the content OR rankings 🙂