Alabama's Winning Fairways

The temperature is great, the leaves are beginning to glow, and the greens are calling. Now is the time to hit the links.
Ashley Johnson

You may have visited Alabama before, but never like this. Fall is the best time to see the vibrant colors and enjoy the cool breezes along the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. With two recent additions and multiple hotel, spa, and restaurant upgrades, the reasons to take your foursome or your family on a tour of Alabama just got stronger. And you haven't even seen the bargain prices.

Tee Up
Experience the 26 courses and 8 resorts scattered across the rolling hills, vast plains, and lush coastal regions of Alabama. The two newer sites, Ross Bridge in Hoover and The Shoals in Muscle Shoals, add greater variety to the trail. Ross Bridge, influenced by Scottish tradition, features a nightly bagpiper who marks sunset at the green of the 18th hole. The Shoals' Fighting Joe course racks up an unbelievable 8,092 yards from the first tee box through the bunkered greens and back around by the Tennessee River.

Keep Swinging
Resorts follow the trail through Alabama, and they sport fine dining, luxurious pools, and, of course, the 19th hole. The Marriott Shoals Hotel & Spa in Florence sits across the Tennessee River from The Shoals courses. Perched high atop a bluff, the resort basks in the shadow of one of thecity's upscale eateries, 360 Grille. Renaissance Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa rises elegantly above the skyline of nearby Birmingham. The Grand Hotel Marriott Resort, Golf Club & Spa, located in Point Clear on the shores of Mobile Bay, offers new rooms and amenities following the hotel's renovation after Hurricane Katrina.

Unwind
Five of the resorts have spas, so book an appointment, and take advantage of a massage to work out sore muscles left from the day's round. While you unwind, think about planning a trip again next year. Trust us, with the constant modification of the greens, you'll be glad to come back.

For more information: Visit www.rtjgolf.com.

Trail Highlights
Best Challenge: On the par-3 18th hole of Muscle Shoals' Fighting Joe, an elevated tee box, a 300-foot drop, and 200 yards to the pin make you focus hard on hitting the green, lest your ball land in the Tennessee River.

Best Fairways: The Azalea Course of the Grand Hotel Marriott Resort's Lakewood Golf Club presents killer yardage and fairways lined by trees accented with Spanish moss. Hole No. 6 is a 491-yarder along a gradual incline.

Best View: At the first hole on Capitol Hill's The Judge, tee off into a 200-foot drop toward a pin 415 yards away. The Alabama River and the distant Montgomery skyline serve as backdrop.

May I Suggest the Four Iron?
These great courses include a GPS golf assistant in each cart. Not only will the screens give you the exact yardage to the front, middle, and back of the greens, but they'll also give you tips on how to avoid the hazards and navigate the roughs. The Lakewood Club includes a digital diagram of the course, including markers for foursomes that may be sneaking up behind you. You'll love having a cyber caddy in your cart, especially because you won't have to tip. Now if only it could find that shank into the rough….

A True Bargain
The Shoals, Capitol Hill, Magnolia Grove, and Grand National will set you back just $50 for 18 holes during the fall season (September 1-November 18). Lakewood Golf Club is pricier, coming in at $125 for a day on the links. Visit www.rtjgolf.com for seasonal discounts, including Autumn's Unlimited Deal. For $189, you can tee off as often as you would like at any of the Robert Trent Jones courses for three days in a row, and add Tuesday as a fourth day for free. (Ross Bridge is not a part of the deal, but you can include it in the package by paying rack rate; The Judge at Capitol Hill is an additional $12 per round.)

"Alabama's Winning Fairways" is from the September 2007 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.