In Alabama, you can go for a drive on the RTJ Golf Trail, but these driving skills don’t require a steering wheel. Celebrating 20 years of great public golf in 2012, the entire Trail has received renovations at every course within the past 5 years. While the courses keep getting better, the Trail’s commitment to service and amazing value (most greens fees are between $45 and $64) will always stay the same.
Day 1 Golf – Oxmoor Valley – Birmingham
Oxmoor Valley, a favorite on the RTJ Trail and a great place to start a road trip, is one of the many reasons Golf Digest called Alabama one of the top 50 golf destinations in the world. This 54-hole facility was built on former mining land owned by U.S. Steel. Sculpted from peaks and valleys of the Appalachians, the courses offer scenic forests, numerous creeks and challenging elevation changes. The Ridge course, with its rollercoaster fairways and heavy tree cover, is incredibly photogenic. As a reminder of the site’s former use, the green at the par-5 third hole is buttressed by a shelf of exposed shale rock.
The Valley course is dotted with picturesque lakes and beautiful rolling fairways, and stretches two miles downrange along a slender valley. The 18th hole, a 441-yard par-4, nicknamed “The Assasin,” rises to a dramatic finish at the clubhouse just above the green.
Check out the Short course at Oxmoor, a delightful collection of 18 pure one-shotters that offer severe elevation changes with almost every hole played downhill. It was listed by Golf Digest’s “Places to Play” as one of the nation’s great value public courses.
Day 2 Golf – Capitol Hill – Prattville
Nestled into the gently rolling hills of Birmingham, the Renaissance Birmingham Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa is less than a mile from Oxmoor Valley. To be fully prepared for the day, stop by the breakfast buffet at Brock’s restaurant downstairs at Ross Bridge before heading down I-65 to Prattville. Even though it’s only a short one-hour drive to the course from Birmingham, it wouldn’t be a proper trip without stopping in Clanton at either Durbin Farms Market or Peach Park at Exit 205 off I-65 to pick up some of their famous peaches (or peach ice cream).
Arrive at Capitol Hill in Prattville to find 318-hole championship courses, all of which offer unique challenges and dramatic landscapes. The Judge course, named by Golf magazine as one of the 10 public courses in America worthy of hosting the U.S. Open, begins with an intimidating first tee 200 feet above the fairway overlooking the Alabama River and Montgomery skyline.
The Senator course, a Scottish-links style course with beautifully manicured bent grass greens, welcomes the world’s best golfers at the Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic each year. This course holds more than 160 pothole bunkers and mounds up to 40 feet in height, but it does not have a single tree. The secluded setting on this course will make you and your group feel as though you are the only foursome on the course. The Legislator, a more traditional course, plays in and out of pine trees and along the bluff. The natural landscape is impressive as the course leads back up the bluff to finish at the spectacular clubhouse. Stop in for a relaxing lunch or a quick snack before heading into Montgomery for the afternoon.
Day 3 Golf – Ross Bridge – Birmingham
After a visit to Montgomery, it’s time to head back toward Birmingham. The ultimate golf trip would not be complete without playing the crown jewel of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, Ross Bridge. The youngest of all the RTJ sites, Ross Bridge is beautifully carved into the rolling terrain of Shannon Valley. As mentioned previously, Ross Bridge is the fourth longest golf course in the world, making it a challenge for even the most seasoned golfers. It does offer multiple tees so that golfers of all levels can enjoy the course.
A gristmill on the waterfall reflects the history of the old mining site. Considerable elevation changes combine with water or other natural obstructions to get your attention. Large putting surfaces provide many tempting pin locations that will test golfers’ approach shots.
The picturesque finishing hole leads back toward the resort, where lunch awaits at The Clubhouse. Don’t leave without trying the fried pickles or the onion rings, and for the main course make sure to try the famous Ross Bridge burger with a side of homemade sweet potato fries.
To ensure the proper finish to the perfect trip, stop by the Spa at Ross Bridge for 9,000 square feet of relaxation. Enjoy a signature massage to soothe the muscles or simply spend time in the spa’s sauna, steam room and whirlpool before heading home.
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