The Story of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail

By Ryan Watson

The story of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail reads a little bit like fiction. It starts in the 1980s with Dr. David Bronner, the CEO of Alabama’s pension fund for state employees. What Bronner wanted was a more diversified portfolio to drive up the pension fund, while simultaneously creating both tourism revenue and turning Alabama into a retirement destination. His solution? Get one of the world’s best golf architects to create a championship caliber golf trail, and that’s exactly what he did with the help of Robert Trent Jones, Sr.

Robert Trent Jones is one of the few course architects to be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. But with 500 courses to his name across 30+ countries, including Spyglass Hill in Pebble Beach and Mauna Kea in Hawaii, it’s easy to see why Jones was admitted. It was precisely the expertise that Bronner wanted in order to put Alabama on the golfing map. The project was one of Jones last projects, undertaken when he was in his 80s. The result? 11 facilities with 468(!) holes open to the public. While these are championship courses, a variety of tee boxes allow the courses to remain playable for all skill levels.

The courses have hosted several professional events, with 2 of the golf trail’s courses serving as home courses to LPGA events. The Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic is hosted by Capitol Hill’s Senator Course, while Magnolia Grove’s The Crossings hosts the Airbus LPGA Classic. In addition, the 2015 Barbasol Championship was hosted by the Grand National facility near Auburn and Opelika. The facilities are all affordable, with annual memberships available for folks looking to play year-round. Alabama residents and those that live within 100 miles of a facility can also get discounts of up to 50% with a Trail Card.

Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail Facilities

Cambrian Ridge

101 Sunbelt Pkwy, Greenville, AL 36037

Courses: Canyon (9 holes), Sherling (9 holes), Loblolly (9 holes), Short Course (9 holes)
Note: golfers play 18 holes as either Canyon/Loblolly, Loblolly/Sherling, or Sherling/Canyon.

Capitol Hill

2600 Constitution Ave, Prattville, AL 36066

Courses: Judge, Legislator, Senator

Grand National

3000 Robert Trent Jones Trl, Opelika, Alabama 36801, Lee County

Courses: Lake, Links, Short Course

Hampton Cove

450 Old Hwy 431, Owens Cross Roads, AL 35763

Courses: Highlands, River, Short Course

Highland Oaks

904 Royal Pkwy, Dothan, AL 36305

Courses: Highlands (9 holes), Marshwood (9 holes), Magnolia (9 holes), Short Course (9 holes)
Note: golfers play 18 holes as either Highlands/Marshwood, Magnolia/Highlands, or Marshwood/Magnolia.

Lakewood Golf Club

1 Grand Boulevard, Fairhope, AL 36532

Courses: Azalea, Dogwood

Magnolia Grove

7001 Magnolia Grove Pkwy, Mobile, AL 36618

Courses: Crossings, Falls, Short Course

Oxmoor Valley

100 Sunbelt Pkwy, Birmingham, AL 35211

Courses: Ridge, Valley, Short Course

Ross Bridge

4000 Grand Ave, Hoover, AL 35226

Silver Lakes

1 Sunbelt Pkwy, Gadsden, AL 35905

Courses: Backbreaker (9 holes), Heartbreaker (9 holes), Mindbreaker (9 holes), Short Course (9 holes)
Note: golfers play 18 holes as either Backbreaker/Mindbreaker, Heartbreaker/Backbreaker, or Mindbreaker/Heartbreaker.

The Shoals

990 Sunbelt Pkwy, Muscle Shoals, AL 35661

Courses: Fighting Joe, Schoolmaster

About the Author

Ryan Watson is a freelance sportswriter and history professor. He has been an avid fan of golf since his father signed him up for golf camp as a young child. Ryan enjoys following the professional game and learning about new equipment and gadgets.