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TRAIL GUIDETHE OFFICIAL GUIDE TO ALABAMA'S ROBERT TRENT JONES GOLF TRAIL » 2020

THIS ISAlabamaFrom the McWane Science Center inBirmingham to the U.S. Space & Rocket Centerin Huntsville, you can take it all in.Alabama.Travel/DiscoveryFeelthe draw of explorationand discoverySeeHearhistory that propelledus into the futurerocket science fromreal rocket scientistsU.S. Space & Rocket Center, Huntsville

OFFTHETRAILWILL AINSWORTH,LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR,STATE OF ALABAMAAllow me to wish you the best of luck and loads of fun and excitement during your journey on Alabama’sfabled Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail.As an avid and lifelong golfer, I have played many of the courses on the Trail and can offer firsthandtestimony that every aspect of your game will be tested. The RTJ Trail’s Fighting Joe course in Muscle Shoalsand the Ross Bridge course in Birmingham, for example, both rank in the Top 10 longest courses in the world,and demand booming but precise drives. The Senator course in Prattville, on the other hand, will require youto adjust your game to the rolling, links style play of Scotland and Britain.In addition to challenging play, our courses also offer you great beauty. Standing atop the towering teebox on the first hole of the Senator course with our majestic State Capitol Building, Montgomery skyline, andmeandering Alabama River spread out before you will certainly reinforce your love for the great game of golf.I am confident that once you have played just a course or two, you will firmly understand why the PGA,LPGA, WEB.com Tour, and Symetra Tour have each held tournaments to test their professionals’ skills on theRobert Trent Jones Golf Trail.While in Alabama, I encourage you to also enjoy the history and hospitality that we offer. From the USSAlabama Battleship in Mobile to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, our state provides youhundreds of unique historic sites to visit, and our dining opportunities range from delicious country-cookingand barbecue joints to the finest Michelin-starred restaurants.Once you have visited Alabama and played the RTJ Golf Trail, it is my hope that you will come back againand again and encourage your friends and family to travel here, as well.May your drives be long and your three-putts be few,Will AinsworthLieutenant GovernorTHE TRAIL GUIDE 2020 EDITION3

TITO’STEE TIMETry a Tito’s Lemonade Tea!

2020TRAIL GUIDERidge No. 4 at Oxmoor Valley6 LOVE LETTERS TO ALABAMA:THE RTJ GOLF TRAIL FROM A TO Z20 LUXURY LODGINGALONG THE TRAILOpened 28 years ago, learn interesting tipson playing and exploring the Trail from anational golf travel writer.Some of the country’s top luxury hotelsare on the Trail. Get some R&R in theseeight hotels and resorts.14GRAND GOLF & TRADITIONSALONG MOBILE BAYOpened in 1847, the Grand Hotel Golf Resort& Spa completed a massive renovation to itscourses and the entire resort.26CHEERSBartenders from the RTJ Resort Collectionproperties share insights on what to orderand where to go.28 ALABAMA’SINTERNATIONAL ARTISTPraised internationally for his unique style,this acclaimed artist from Alabama simplygoes by one name, Nall.30 WELCOME HOMEWith two residential communities, you canexperience the Trail all year long.34 PROFESSIONAL PLAYThe Trail has hosted professional golf forthe past 22 years. Here is a recap of thethree tournaments in 2019 and dates for2020 events.36 A VISITOR’S GUIDETO THE TRAILA detailed guide and map to all 11 siteson the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail.On the cover Ross Bridge Golf landscape photography throughout by Michael Clemmer.THE TRAIL GUIDE 2020 EDITION5

Robert Trent Jones, Sr.LOVE LETTERStoALABAMAthe ROBERTTRENT JONES GOLF TRAIL EXPERIENCE FROM A to ZBY ERIC HART 6rtjgolf.com

Lake No. 2 at Grand National

IIf a picture is worth a thousand words, I’ve got a few pictures for you—pictures of love in the form of LOVE LETTERS to Alabama. I’ve been atravel and leisure writer for over a decade, and first met Alabama sevenyears ago. Man, she was something, a true “southern belle,” courteous,kind, generous, and oh so beautiful unforgettable in every good andperfect way—it was love at first, second, and every successive sight.I’ve written a lot about her the past seven years—some eighty storiesand over 140,000 words—on everything I love, and everything I thinkyou’d love about her too. She loves the outdoors—mountains, lakes, thesoft sandy shores of The Gulf—and golf. Boy, does she love golf! Shetook me on a tour of the world famous Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail—wevisited all eleven sites, saw all 26 courses, and played 378 of the 468holes. It was wow pure wow! It’s hard to find the words. In fact, it’shard to adequately summarize Alabama’s impression on me in general might even be impossible. But, if you’ll oblige me, I’d love to share somehighlights on Alabama and the Trail—listed alphabetically from A to Z.Get to know her a little, and I believe you’ll love her a lot. ···»AThe famous 2,200-mile Appalachian Trailtrickles out of Georgia’s Chattahoochee NationalForest into northeast Alabama where it spills overcolorful foothills and into the rivers, lakes, andwaterfalls of Talladega National Forest. Where thattrail officially stops and starts is open to loosegeographical interpretation but, essentially, wherethe Appalachian Trail ends the Robert Trent JonesGolf Trail begins, and the “father of modern golfcourse architecture” left Alabama residents andguests with an impressive portfolio of golf work thatsignificantly stands out among the rest of thestate’s standout beauty.On the southern side of the state, the AuburnBIt’s spelled all four ways in Alabama and it doesn’treally matter which is correct Barbecue/Barbeque/Bar-B-Q/BBQ. Carnivoressure don’t care, we just want to eat the meat, andAlabama’s world-class smokers are happy to obligethe masses with massive quantities of perfectlyprepared chicken, beef, and pork. My “little blackBBQ book” is packed with “finger-licking favorites”like Bob Sykes in Bessemer, and 2014 World BBQChampion Big Bob Gibson’s in Decatur.Not far from the stellar Bay Barbecue in Mobile,The Battle House RenaissanceMobile Hotel & Spa is a unique andMarriott Opelika Resort & Spa atGrand National is one of the Robert TrentJones Golf Trail’s eleven signature sites. Mr. Jones,who designed over 300 courses in 45 states and 29countries, considered the Grand National propertythe single greatest golf site he’d ever seen, andbuilt three courses along the shores of the 600-acreLake Saugahatchee. The Links Course emphasizeschallenging fun, with a dozen holes on the water andwetlands. The Lake Course emphasizes beautifulrisks, with another eleven holes on the lake and onehole in the lake, the signature 3-par 15th. And theShort Course is a stellar collection of 3-pars justbegging for an ace. I was happy to oblige. A popularhost hotel for hundreds of annual golf groups, theMarriott features great food and multiple pools notfar from Auburn University.historic Marriott with a massive rooftop pool andverandah offering spectacular city and Mobile Riverviews. Treat yourself to a treatment at their fullservice spa, please your palette at any of their threedining establishments, tell secrets to the WhisperingArches, or walk down the street for a bit and a biteat The Blind Mule.Birmingham is 250 miles north of Mobileand the largest city in Alabama, with a population ofroughly 220,000 and the easy-access ShuttleworthInternational Airport. Many a golf trip on the Trailbegins and ends there, and many a mind is blownby some of Birmingham’s Best BBQ—the “MeatThree-Peat” at Saw’s, Saw’s Juke Joint, and Saw’sSoul Kitchen.C8rtjgolf.comAlmost exactly halfway between Birmingham andMobile, Cambrian Ridge is another stopon the Trail, with four nine-hole courses, and one ofAmerica’s most dramatic driving ranges. The threefull-length nines — Canyon, Sherling, and Loblolly— are some of the Trail’s prettiest and toughestcourses, with water everywhere, dramatic elevationchanges, and wild green complexes. Super fun asthose three nines are, they’re scarcely as fun as theShort nine, pinched between a chiseled rock ridgeand the shimmering Sherling Lake. I call the propertyexhaustingly exhilarating. Golf Digest calls it “One ofAmerica’s 40 Best Value” golf facilities.DThe Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail would not existwithout the original vision from Dr. David G.Bronner, unquestionably one of golf’s greatestpioneers. The former Minnesota native moved toAlabama to move literal mountains, transformingthe state into a golf mecca that not only defiedall precedents but established one that hasnever again been matched. The collection of Trailgolf—short courses, incredible practice facilities,and championship designs from 4,700 to 8,200yards—directly benefits the Retirement Systemsof Alabama and every golfer of every age and skilllevel who comes to play. Best of all, the Trail isrelatively unaffected by winter, with courses prettymuch playable (and snow-free) 365 days, fivehours, 48 minutes and 46 seconds a year, andlonger on leap years.EAmerica’s greatest Short Course may very well be the13-hole Preserve in Bandon, Oregon, but “America’sGreatest Collection of Executive Courses”is undoubtedly in Alabama on the Trail. What RobertTrent Jones, Sr. accomplished on his “long” coursesis quite commendable. What he accomplishedwith his incredibly fun short courses is nearlyincomprehensible. Mr. Jones built four 18-hole shortcourses (at Grand National, Hampton Cove, MagnoliaGrove, and Oxmoor Valley) and three 9-hole shortcourses (at Cambrian Ridge, Highland Oaks, andSilver Lakes). In all, that means there is an awesomeabbreviated play option at seven of the ElevenTrail Sites. Robert Trent Jones, Sr. made quitea splash with these hits. The rest of us make asplash with our misses on them.FIt’s all about the numbers these two numbers:Five Hundred Thousand and FourHundred-Sixty-Eight. Five HundredThousand golfers visit the Trail each year. Half amillion. Each and every year. That number isn’tdecreasing. If anything, as more people discoverthe remarkable stay and play and play and play

Dr. David G. Bronnervalues, that number is only increasing. The othernumber—468—that’s how many golf holes are onthe Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. If you’re a masteritinerant with a bit of a crazy streak, you can playthem, all of them, on one trip. If you’re a tad morereasonable, you can cover them in multiple trips.However you go about it, the goal should be thesame—“Play them all.”Gthat joined the Trail in 2005. The courses alternatebetween member and public play daily, and whilethe Azalea Course is a powerful draw, considering itis basically brand new coming off a 2019 renovation,many contend the front nine on the Dogwood Courseis one of the Trail’s five best nines. NOTE: TheLakewood Club hosts the 59th U.S. Senior Women’sAmateur Championship September 12-17, 2020.HFew spots are more alluring and leisurely rewardingthan the Marriott Autograph Collection’s GrandHotel Golf Resort & Spa in PointClear. Featuring 550 acres of boardwalk-linedproperty directly on Mobile Bay, the resort also offersindoor and outdoor pools, a water park, spa, fitnesscenter, stunning boardwalk, and 36 holes of RobertTrent Jones Golf across the street at The LakewoodClub. The semi-private Lakewood has two 18-holechampionship courses designed by Perry MaxwellIn Point Clear, you’re only 30 miles southeast of thegreat Trail golf at Magnolia Grove in Mobile, butyou’re also only 180 miles southwest of another36-hole Trail site at Highland Oaks inDothan. Highland Oaks has four nine-hole courses.The Highlands, Magnolia, and Marshwood nines arequite scenic, and the Short nine is quite fun, withdaunting water carries and wild greens.From the southeast to the northeast we go, fromHighland Oaks to Huntsville. Locally knownas the “Barbecue Capital of Alabama” Huntsvilledeserves way more credit than that. With fifty BBQjoints in town (on last count)—roughly one stop per3,900 residents—it seriously merits considerationas the “Barbecue Capital of America.” The quantityof offerings is significant, but not more significantthan the incredible consistency of the quality. Shortof listing all fifty restaurants, I’ll say Melvin’s Place,Pig N Out, The Chuckwagon, and Boarhog’s, all aregreat places to start. Just do yourself a favor anddon’t count calories. If you want to count something,count on playing the 54 golf holes at the Trail’sHampton Cove, just 10 miles from Huntsville.The River Course, along the Flint River, is the flattestcourse on the Trail, without a single bunker. TheHighlands Course has tons of dramatic views andelevation changes, with a cool rustic mule barn onNo. 5. And the 18-hole Short Course can get prettywet and wild, with water in play on 11 holes.THE TRAIL GUIDE 2020 EDITION9

No. 9 at Ross Bridge10rtjgolf.com

IThe Ironton Ironworks were a pair ofblast furnaces that operated near the Trail’s currentOxmoor Valley site back in the 1860’s. While the golffacility wasn’t built then, it was built there later, onformer mining land, a resourceful conversion by Mr.Jones. Equally resourceful, Alabama is the only statein the U.S. that doesn’t have to import any resourcesto make iron. And golfers can buy irons here. Win, win.JLakewood Club, and lovely lakes on the courses likeLake Saugahatchee at Grand National, SherlingLake at Cambrian Ridge, and Wheelless Lake atHighland Oaks. Off the Trail, but never far from it,other lakes impress like Guntersville Lake, LewisSmith Lake, Wheeler Lake, and Lake Martin, with itscool replica of the Plymouth Lighthouse.MI can’t imagine a jury would deliberate much on thegreatness of golf in Alabama—the verdict seemsunanimously in the state’s favor—but I know forcertain that all deliberation comes to rest whenyou meet The Judge. Judge and jury meet theexecutioner on the first tee, where the killer tee shotis easily the most dramatic opening moment inAlabama golf, and the rest of the property doesn’tdip in drama much from there. The 1,500-acreRobert Trent Jones Golf Trail site at Capitol Hill sitsjust outside the state capital, and God pounds hisgavel of stunning natural beauty into your head onliterally every hole. With three 18-hole courses—Judge, Senator, and Legislator—the 54-hole propertypeaks and plummets along the Alabama River andadjacent the Montgomery Marriott Prattville Hotel—a most convenient stay and play partner. The Judge is“U.S. Open host worthy,” already challenging withoutthe USGA’s help, and featuring 14 holes on thewater. The Legislator is tough as well, a bit tighter,and swampier, but not any less entertaining. Andthe Scottish-Links style Senator is many a player’sfavorite, more wide-open, but with 160 pot bunkers,and therefore far from a pushover. The Senator hoststhe Symetra Tour’s Guardian Championship eachyear, and a Korn Ferry Tour event. The capital cityof Alabama may not have as much great BBQ asHuntsville, but it still has spectacular options likeFat Boy’s and Urban Cookhouse.It’s a little known fact that Mardi Grasactually began in Mobile, Alabama. Everyonethinks it began in Louisiana. Not so. In Alabamathey refer to it as “Carnival” and it is celebratedhere from November to February every year. If you’redown here for the real Mardi Gras, you might aswell golf and Mobile has a spectacular Trail siteat Magnolia Grove. With two full-lengthcourses—Falls and Crossings—and a thrilling18-hole Short course that Golf Digest once labeled“The Best Par-3 Course in America” you’ll find plentyto celebrate in Mobile. The Falls is the only Par 71course on the Trail. The Crossings is a popular LPGATour host with unique crushed-oyster shell wasteareas and some pretty cool wooden bridges.NAlabama is a state rich in football history, with alegacy built on championship teams and coacheslike Paul William “Bear” Bryant (25 years, 6national championships) and, more recently,Nick Saban—the University of Alabamafootball coach, in Tuscaloosa since 2007 (5national championships so far at Alabama).OKIf you were jumping up and down just now, worriedthat I’d left a great Montgomery BBQ stop off mylist, don’t worry I’ve got it covered. K&J’sRib Shack on South Court Street is easilyone of Alabama’s best meat markets, completewith a chalkboard menu and some of the world’sfriendliest owners, specializing in amazing ribs,chicken, and Southern sides. Save room for thepound cake, assuming there’s some left.LRising from the ashes of a former steel-mine, theRobert Trent Jones Golf Trail’s Oxmoor Valleysits just a few miles outside Birmingham, and justtwo miles from another Trail site at RenaissanceRoss Bridge. Oxmoor Valley features two full-lengthcourses and an 18-hole short course. It’s hard todescribe The Ridge Course as anything other than“a rollercoaster” given the dramatic 150 feet ofelevation changes and turbulent green complexescarved into remarkable limestone structures. TheValley Course is equally moving with more landscapehighlights and more water, and the Short Coursecleverly lets you use almost every club in the bag,and a camera if you have one along.PWhatever it is that you LOVE most about Alabama,there’s no denying that everyone is drawn, in oneway or another, to the Lakes. The Robert TrentJones Golf Trail has tons of lakes of its own—fromLees Lake adjacent Silver Lakes Golf Course to ThePractice more, play better that’s the general ruleof thought, and the magnificent spreads of landgiven to the Trail’s Practice Facilitiesshow that they were anything but an afterthoughtin Dr. Bronner’s master plan. He didn’t just wantto grow golf courses, he wanted to grow the game,and the incredible practice areas at Oxmoor Valley(and throughout the Trail) let you work on everyaspect of your game on your own, or with help froma highly qualified instructor.QFrom Qualified Instructors to highly QualifiedProfessionals and Managers at every stop, theRobert Trent Jones Golf Trail is one finely tuned,extremely in-sync operation. Few things on the Trailimpress more than the consistency in service andattention to detail, both inside the clubhouses andout on the courses. That Quality is remarkableto say the least, and commendable on any scale,but especially on one with the Quantity of golffacilities, courses, and holes like this one.RThe single biggest golf endeavor in the history of theworld was the Robert Trent Jones GolfTrail — no kidding—a science project of greaterproportion and imagination than anything Newton,Bell, or Einstein ever produced individually, orcollectively for that matter. Is that an exaggeration?Maybe a little. What isn’t an exaggeration is thatthis project comprised of building 8 facilities and378 golf holes simultaneously—more than 100miles of golf course at one time. What did thoseother geniuses ever achieve on that scale? That’swhat I thought. Mr. Jones, often referred to as “Trent”so as not to confuse him with the equally famousgolfer, Bobby Jones, may have his name all over thecourses and the state, but given that he was in his80’s when the work began, he wasn’t able to do allthe architectural designing alone. His senior projectmanager, Roger Rulewich, deserves a considerableamount of credit as the man driving all of Trent’sarchitectural plans. The Trail fully expanded to 11sites, 26 courses and 468 golf holes, and partneredup with eight Marriott Resort hotels to form theworld’s largest golf resort. All but three of the Trailsites have Marriott (or Renaissance) Hotels onsite or nearby, and every Trail site is convenientlylinked via interstate highway. By every conceivablestandard, the science project of all science projectswas a success—a solid A —and over 13 milliongolfers have visited the global attraction so far.Many, including myself and Golf Channel’sMatt Ginella, consider the flagship hotel and golfcourse of the Trail to be the RenaissanceBirmingham Ross Bridge GolfResort & Spa. Part of that has to do withthe “castle on the hill” appearance. Part of that isthe perfectly balanced indoor/outdoor vibes of theplace, ideal for couples, families, and individualgolfers alike. There isn’t a Six Flags theme park inAlabama and they don’t really need one. They haveTHE TRAIL GUIDE 2020 EDITION11

Short Course No. 4 at Silver LakesRenaissance Ross Bridge. The Renaissance hasmultiple pools, a world-class spa, a piano bar atJT’s Lounge, fine dining at Brocks, and casual faresand flair at The Clubhouse restaurant. It has agolf course with a mammoth buried under the firstfairway (supposedly) and eighteen rollercoasters onthe course, each with varying heights of elevationand exhilaration. The beauty of the lakes andwaterfalls dwarfs even the 8,191-yard course, andthe bow on the gift of the experience is the bagpiperbidding adieu to the day at an impressively nearperfect place.The Renaissance brand is strongly representedelsewhere on the Trail, in both Montgomery andMobile. The Renaissance MobileRiverview Plaza offers spectacular viewsof Mobile Bay and the fabulous Harbor Roomrestaurant not far from the Mobile ConventionCenter and the Magnolia Grove Trail site. TheRenaissance Montgomery Hotel& Spa at the Convention Centerhas a fabulous European-style spa, and a 1,800seat Performing Arts Centre near the Alabama Riverwith shuttle service to the Trail’s Capitol Hill site.12rtjgolf.comSOne of the rare Trail sites without its own Marriottor Renaissance is Silver Lakes in Gadsden.Because it appears as if the facility is sort of outthere on its own, many people overlook it. Bigmistake. Huge. Silver Lakes is a simple drive fromBirmingham, Huntsville, and Auburn/Opelika with36 golf holes from three nines called Heartbreaker,Mindbreaker, and Backbreaker, and my favorite9-hole short course on the Trail. It’s now a wellknown story that Silver Lakes was destroyed by anEF4 tornado in 2011 and Trail management had todecide whether or not to invest in bringing it back.Bring it back they did, bigger and better than ever,and many a Trail guest claims it among their favoritestops. In fact, the only thing more stunning than theircomeback story may be the incredible beauty of theproperty. The place resonates “wow factor.”Another place that resonates wow factor is theTrail site at The Shoals. Located in the farnorthwest corner of the state in Florence and MuscleShoals, RTJ Shoals has two 18-hole courses only11.5 miles from the incredible Marriott ShoalsHotel & Spa and those two golf courses are almostsurreal. Fighting Joe was the first course built inthe United States over 8,000 yards at 8,092, andThe Schoolmaster (named after President WoodrowWilson), with a spectacular setting on the river,might actually be the tougher course.TThe gorgeous river I just referenced, that definesmany of the golf holes at The Shoals, is theTennessee River, and if you follow thatriver west a few miles, you’ll find the Wilson Damand beyond that one of the coolest hotels in theSouth. The Marriott Shoals Hotel & Spa doesn’t justsit on and overlook the Tennessee River, it towersover it, with epic panoramic views from Alabama’sonly rotating restaurant—the 360 Grille—amost luxurious of spa settings, and fun, relaxinghangouts at the indoor pool, outdoor waterpark,and one of my favorite bars anywhere—Swampers.Turns out I’m not alone with those socialsentiments. Swampers Bar & Grille features photosand memorabilia from musical celebrities whorecorded in Muscle Shoals including Bob Dylan,Otis Redding, and Aretha Franklin. The bar featureslive music nightly, and you never know who youwill see having drinks.

UI miss Alabama and the Trail every day. So manygreat people. So many great values. And speakingof values, few golf packages can touch the value ofthe Trail’s “Unlimited Golf Specials.”The seasonal memberships are an absolute steal,considering you can play all you want at 9 of the 11sites for a remarkably low monthly rate (only RossBridge and The Lakewood Club are excluded).VXDr. David Bronner’s partner for the massive Trailproject was Vaughan Bobby Vaughan.(Think “Bond James Bond”) Vaughn formed SunBeltGolf Corporation to develop, build, and operate theoriginal eight sites and eighteen original courses.Then they added more. And more. And more. Usinga baseball analogy, they essentially hit back to backgrand slams, which is pretty hard to do.WSpeaking of baseball, Alabama is the home stateof some of the game’s greatest—mega stars likeWillie Mays and Hank Aaron, as well as othercelebrities like Jesse Owens, Carl Lewis, Bo Jackson,and Channing Tatum (a fact provided a bit too quicklyby my wife).Water Street in Mobile offers easy accessto the Port of Mobile, the city’s convention center andthe Carnival Cruise terminal. Both the Battle Houseand Renaissance Riverview Plaza are located onthis historic street. If you get a craving in Mobile forraw oysters, the original Wintzell’s OysterHouse is just a few blocks away from both RTJResort Collection hotels.YThe letter “X” is often used to represent anunknown number. I’d rather deal with the known.The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail is 172,398 walkingor riding yards long. The shortest distance betweenany two sites is 2 miles, from Oxmoor Valley toRoss Bridge, and the longest distance between anytwo sites is 384 miles, from The Lakewood Club toThe Shoals. Full circle you can hit every single Trailsite in 1,078 miles. The longest 18-hole courseis Ross Bridge, at 8,191 yards from the Tips. Theshortest 18-hole course is the Short Course atGrand National, at 1,715 yards from the Teals. Oh,and if you like to watch golf the Trail has hostedat least one professional golf tournament each ofthe past 23 years.While Alabama does not have one specificdesignated nickname, it does have several itanswers to including the YellowhammerState—a Yellowhammer being a bird in thebunting family. Others know Alabama as the CottonState and the Heart of Dixie. I know Alabama asawesome. The state tree is the longleaf pine. Thestate flower is the camellia. The state capital isMontgomery. The state of being for those visitingis typically one of bliss. And now you know.ZAll good things must come to an end, unfortunately.I hated leaving Alabama hated watching herdisappear in my rearview mirror. I was tempted toturn around, to run back to her, even move downthere so I could forever stay with her. Who knows,maybe I will someday. For now though, I reminisce,and I write love letters like these. I’ve got a picture ofher above my desk, of my son and I standing therewith her on the first tee box of The Judge. It reallypulls at my heartstrings. I miss you Alabama. Infact, I’m leaving this last letter open unfinished.I’m convinced there’s more to our story. This isn’t“goodbye.” This is merely “see you later.” nTHE TRAIL GUIDE 2020 EDITION13

Dogwood No. 10 at Lakewood14rtjgolf.com

GRANDGOLF&TRADITIONSMOBILE BAYalong BY TOMMY HICKS It happens the moment you turn off Scenic Highway 98 in Point Clear, aimed either for The LakewoodClub or, on the other side of the street, the Grand Hotel Golf Resort & Spa — you just feel better.There’s something almost magical that takes place and your senses register the change in an instant.You’re not just heading toward a golf course, you’ve turned your vehicle toward a golf destination and agolf experience that enhances every aspect of the game, every amenity it can provide, every challenge,every possibility. You’re not just heading toward check-in at a hotel, you’re driving toward history,toward beauty, toward comfort, and relaxation the likes of which you haven’t previously known. ···»THE TRAIL GUIDE 2020 EDITION15

Golf’s biggest enemy right now is time. People don’t have five or six hours(to play). By the time you leave the house and go hit balls, play, have adrink after, it’s six hours. That was the idea behind the Experience. It’syour first turf experience. Previously, people who went to the practice areawould probably wonder, ‘Is this what the whole place is going to be like?’TThe marriage of The Lakewood Club and the Grand Hotel Golf Resort & Spa isperfect, just perfect. Golfers are caught up in the challenge of the two recentlyrenovated courses, Dogwood and Azalea, and the beauty that engulfs both;guests at The Grand, also recently renovated, are wowed by the historic aspectsof the property, both obvious and hidden, which are wrapped in a layer ofcontemporary offerings, and there are the views, all those gorgeous views, fromthe greenery and flowers, to the sunrises and sunsets, to the lushness of theproperty itself.To turn onto either road is to turn off the beaten path and enter the Land ofAhhhs. You’re able to push the rest of the world aside during your time thereand just relax and enjoy all that is in front of you, all that surrounds you.THE LAKEWOOD CLUBThe drive off Scenic Highway 98 to The Lakewood Club clubhouse is worth thetrip. A small road that winds between homes and portions of the DogwoodCourse offers an entryway that is serene and creates a sense of anticipation forwhat lies ahead.Arriving at the clubhouse, golfers are greeted warmly by attendants whoprovide warm smiles along with answers to any questions that may arise.Immediately, it is evident the two courses will provide not only a beautifullandscape on which to play, but the challenges one would expect from such a club.Renovations did not erase the historic nature of the facility, but insteadenhanced those qualities. Inside the clubhouse, the historic nature of the clubbecomes even more evident, though it also features a pro shop, restaurant, andbar that provides state-of-the-art amenities.The club, part of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, lives up to its hype andreputation as one of the Southeast’s finest golf facilities.Before you even step on the first tee of either course, it is obvious you are atspecial place, a club that offers all that you will require. For most golfers, theday’s play begins at The Grand Golf Experience, the practice facility that livesup to its name.The Experience fea

THE RTJ GOLF TRAIL FROM A TO Z Opened 28 years ago, learn interesting tips on playing and exploring the Trail from a national golf travel writer. 14 GRAND GOLF & TRADITIONS ALONG MOBILE BAY Opened in 1847, the Grand Hotel Golf Resort & Spa completed a massive renovation to its courses