Blazing a Trail for 20 Years
Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail Celebrates Two Decades in 2012
By Glen Turk
In the golf world these numbers are as impressive as the 2011 statistics of Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees. The hallmark numbers of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail throughout 2012 are 26, 468, and 20. These figures represent the number of courses across Alabama, the number of holes on the Trail, and the number of years the RTJ Trail has been in existence. The number 1 can also be added to this list, as the RTJ Trail is the number one source of income for the Yellowhammer State.
The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail is a treasure shared by the entire state as it stretches from the rolling hills of northern and central Alabama to the wetlands and woods near the Gulf Coast. Each of the eleven venues on the Trail is within a two-hour drive of the next closest course, and each is within 15 minutes of a major interstate. All 11 properties are located in or near major cities including Anniston, Auburn, Birmingham, Dothan, Greenville, Huntsville, Mobile, Point Clear, Prattville (near Montgomery), Hoover and Muscle Shoals/Florence.
The mastermind behind the Trail is Dr. David Bronner, the man who was put in charge of Alabama's pension plan in the 80's. Initially his multi-course, one designer idea was met with extreme skepticism. Today it is the finest state run golf entity in the nation and the envy of numerous states who tried to copy the concept. "Two dozen states have tried the copy the idea," stated Dr. Bronner, "but only one spent the money." Bronner added that some states attempted to create a golf trail by using existing courses. "There's only one real Trail,'' Dr. Bronner affirmed.
The Trail almost never got off the ground, save for a returned phone call from legendary designer Robert Trent Jones, who came out of retirement to turn Bronner's dream into reality. This was only after five other "top designers" believed the plan was either too grandiose or fool hardy. "We wanted to change the image of the state,'' Dr. Bronner said. "The Trail has done that. A lot of people would never have come to Alabama if it hadn't been for the Trail. It has changed the perception of Alabama," concluded Bronner.
Twenty years later the perception is so outrageously good that the RTJ Trail expects to see its 10 millionth visitor in 2012. To put that number in context, more people have visited Alabama to play golf on the Trail than currently live in New York City. Besides the dynamic beauty of the properties, affordability has been a bellwether of the Trail. Nine of the 11 sites feature green fees below $75 and when combined with their value-driven Stay and Play packages, the phrase "too good to be true" comes to mind. "The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail has been making world-class golf accessible in Alabama to the public for the past 20 years. With reasonable green fees and affordable hotels and resorts, this is a great year to visit the original Trail," said John Cannon, CEO of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail.
The four 54 hole properties that started the rage in 1992 (Magnolia Grove in Mobile, Hampton Cove in Huntsville, Oxmoor Valley in Birmingham, and Grand National in Opelika) all underwent renovations last year including the replacement of numerous greens. Silver Lakes in Anniston/Gadsden features 36 holes and underwent a significant renovation after tornado damage in 2011. Clearly, the RTJ Trail refuses to rest on their laurels, as continued improvement is the key to another 20 successful years.
Make sure to visit www.rtjgolf.com for a list of all properties plus more updates on the Trail and the 20th Year activities. A major celebration is being planned for May in Birmingham. Each location will be celebrating the milestone and special packages and promotions will be added throughout the year and will be highlighted on www.rtjgolf.com.
Revised: 10/11/2012 - Article Viewed 22,456 Times
About: Glen Turk
Glen Turk is a Wisconsin native and is the Senior Writer/Editor of Midwest Golfing Magazine. Midwest Golfing Magazine was formerly known as Pub-Links Golfer's Magazine and is a free publication distributed four times per year throughout Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa, Indiana, and Ohio.
His duties at MGM include writing course features, facilitating product testing, and overseeing the overall content and look of the magazine. But clearly his most important task is playing as much golf as his wife allows. Fortunately for him, she plays also and loves out-driving him even with a 60 yard head start.
Glen plays to a 6 handicap but once set a record by having his ball retriever regripped 15 times in one calendar year. It was a December trip to Guam that ultimately did him in. Finally, if you haven't caught on by now, the two most worthy weapons in Glen's writing arsenal are self-deprecating humor and pithy one-liners.
My signature line, "Be A Force on The Course" and now more recently, "Hit 'Em Where They Mow!" can be reused at no charge.
Contact Glen Turk:
Midwest Golfing Magazine - Senior Writer Editor