Legendary rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd sang the praises of this state situated in the heart of the Deep South.
Sweet home Alabama, where the skies are so blue. Sweet home Alabama, where all of your putts roll true…
Well, those are not exactly the lyrics as sung by lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, but the words certainly ring true for those who have played golf here.
Sports fans with limited familiarity of Alabama think of the Crimson Tide and its heated college football rivalry with in-state Auburn. There is not a more anticipated and heated game in the nation than their annual Iron Bowl grudge matches. National championships are frequently on the line; fans of the losing team need 364 days to recover.
But Alabama also knows golf. Professional golfers Hubert Green (Birmingham) and Stewart Cink (Huntsville) are natives.
The state’s greatest legacy to the game of golf, though, is its superlative Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. The collection of 26 courses – 468 total golf holes – are strategically spread across Alabama, from Huntsville in the north to Mobile on the Gulf Coast.
The true beauty of the RTJ Golf Trail is that it offers a string of impeccably groomed courses at values that any working man can afford. It is a case of private course quality at public course prices. As evidence, two LPGA Tour events were held on trail courses in 2014; next year the PGA Tour hosts an event at the Grand National course near Auburn. Meanwhile, average green fees are $50, which is what you would expect to pay at borderline municipal courses – not layouts meeting the high demands of world-class players.
The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, named after the architect of its courses, is not exactly a well-kept secret. Since opening in 1992, its courses have hosted more than 10 million rounds played by golfers from around the globe.
The genesis of the trail is unique and worth quick mention. It was the brainchild of the CEO responsible for the state’s pension fund. The idea was to diversify the pension fund’s assets and spur the state’s economy. Accomplishing that goal through golf course construction was thought to be foolhardy at the time; Don Quixote came under less scrutiny and fewer quizzical stares for jousting with windmills. But Dr. David Bronner pushed through his initiative, increased the state’s tourism revenue by nearly $7 billion dollars and has made Sweet Home Alabama a destination that should be on every traveling golfer’s bucket list.
The image accompanying this article is courtesy of photographer Michael Clemmer.