World-class golf trail in Alabama
The Ross Bridge course of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail is one of the longest courses in the world but offers multiple tees for golfers of all levels. The 18-hole course is carved into the rolling Shannon Valley around the Renaissance Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa in Hoover, Ala.Contributed Photos by Michael Clemmer
A crazy idea actually came true.
Dr. David G. Bronner is credited with the idea of creating Alabama's Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail nearly 20 years ago.
His vision of affordable stay-and-play golf evolved into an 11-site, 26-course, 468-hole stretch of golf and leisure along the roads from Huntsville to Mobile. The trail has received hundreds of accolades from various golf, travel, style and dining magazines and newspapers across the globe.
It's not just about the golf. Bronner, who controlled the pension fund of more than 300,000 Alabama residents, had grander plans as the CEO of the Retirement Systems of Alabama.
"We focus every day on enhancing our guests' experience on the golf courses and in our hotels," Bronner says in the official Trail Guide. "The RTJ Golf Trail offers a unique blend of great golf, luxurious accommodations and world-class amenities in picturesque settings."
Along the trail, there's plenty of natural scenery, Alabama history, some fishing and more than likely, some football at just about every stop.
According to the guide, since the trail opened in 1992, tourism revenues in Alabama have risen from under $2 billion to more than $9 billion.
Golfers played more than 530,000 rounds on the Trail in 2009, and according to its official guide, more than half of those rounds were played by visitors to Alabama.
Trail courses have been the site of LPGA, PGA Tour, USGA and NCAA tournaments. Yet each course provides playability to average golfers, who can usually pay about $50 per round.
"The trail is special because it's known across the world and the holes are very majestic," said Heath Henrich, an assistant professional at the Hampton Cove location in Owens Cross Roads in Huntsville. "Our site has two totally different golf courses from each other. One is contemporary with no bunkers but water on 16 holes, and our highlands course is a very link-style course."
In Tennessee, World Golf Hall of Fame member Jack Nicklaus designed a trio of courses knows as the Bear Trace trail. Unlike the RTJ Trail, the Bear Trace is just about golf. Courses are located at Tims Ford, Cumberland Mountain and Harrison Bay.
The Cambrian Ridge nine-hole Short Course in Greenville, Ala., is a collection of par-three holes laid out between a ridge and Sherling Lake. With water in play on five of the holes, the course is both scenic and challenging.
BY THE NUMBERS
• 8,191: Yards that Ross Bridge in Hoover can stretch to.
• 468: Golf holes on the 26 courses at 11 locations.
• 372: Miles between Hampton Cove in Huntsville and Magnolia Grove in Mobile.
• Sept. 12-18: Dates for the Navistar LPGA Classic at Capitol Hill in Prattville.
• -10: Winning score of Maria Hjorth at the Avnet LPGA Classic in April on the Crossings Course in Mobile.
Source: RTJ Official Trail Guide