Last week I joined a group of golf writers and Pam Shaheen of Crossroads Marketing Inc. for a week-long trip to play golf courses in Alabama. We played several of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail courses, plus a couple that are marketed as part of the Honours Golf collection. The RTJ Trail will celebrate its 20th anniversary next year and has been a unqualified success in the mission set out for it by the state’s retirement system. The system was built to highlight Alabama as a travel destination and as a prospective site for new economic development. Over the past two decades, golf groups in this country and abroad have found their way to Alabama as a result, and three major automobile plants have landed here. Mercedes Benz, Honda and Hyundai-Kia have all begun production here over that time period. Honours Golf manages golf courses in numerous southeastern states.
Due to flight delays, I missed the first round at Highland Park, a venerable old course in downtown Birmingham. However, I’ve played this course numerous times with Jim Smither of the Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau. This is an Honours course that is owned by the city of Birmingham and it was in great shape. Its heritage includes a tournament won there by Bobby Jones when he was a teenager. Bob Hope also played this course when he was in Birmingham years ago. We made our way that evening to Montgomery, where we dined as a group at Dreamland BBQ, an Alabama institution that began in Tuscaloosa. I had a great pork plate and their signature banana pudding for dessert. Several members of the Montgomery CVB and Alabama tourism office joined us at Dreamland.
The following morning, I played at Capitol Hill, an RTJ complex in nearby Prattville that includes three 18-hole regulation layouts. We played The Senator, a links-style course that hosts the LPGA’s Navistar Classic golf tournament. The Senator layout is immaculate and its greens are treacherously fast, but I was also fascinated by the course’s use of indiginous kudzu. Several holes on the front that are framed by kudzu-draped forests. As a southerner, I’m familiar with this wild plant that overtakes entire sections of forests and creates eerie backdrops that are as beautiful as they are mysterious. Ravines and glens on some holes were covered by this vine and made for gorgeous canopies along the way. Director of Golf Mike Beverly joined my group and we had a great weather for golf.
That evening, we made our way to Auburn, where I stayed at the impressive Hotel at Auburn University. John Wild, president of the Auburn and Opelika Tourism Bureau, arranged to take us on a tour of Jordan-Hare Stadium, home to the 2010 national champion Auburn football team, and then hosted us at Brick Oven Pizza, a campus icon, for pizza, calzones and beer.
The Senator course at Capitol Hill is host to the LPGA’s Navistar Classic each summer.
I loved the kudzu that framed several holes on the front nine. This wild plant is prevalent in many parts of the American south.
We stopped for a moment to take in the wild foliage that thrived in this ravine on The Senator’s front side.