The "Magnificent Seven" of Alabama Golf
Must Play Golf Courses On the RTJ Golf Trail
By Mike May
When you visit central Alabama to play golf, you will be spoiled for choice when it comes to places to play. The focal point will be the Robert Trent Jones (RTJ) Golf Trail, specifically these layouts: Birmingham (Oxmoor Valley), Hoover (Ross Bridge), Montgomery (Capitol Hill), and Opelika (Grand National). Three other non-RTJ courses, which deserve to be placed in the 'must play' category, include FarmLinks near Sylacauga and two layouts in Tuscaloosa, NorthRiver and Ol' Colony.
The Ridge course at Oxmoor Valley has a number of elevation changes and is filled with many photo opps! The par 5 third, the 'Signature Hole,' is cleverly designed as your tee shot is hit to a peninsula-like fairway. The green is raised from the fairway and is supported by a shelf of exposed shale rock and railroad ties. This is a one-of-a-kind hole, never to be forgotten.
When you stand on the first tee of the Judge, located at Capitol Hill, it is stunning! From the back tees, it's a 200-foot drop from the tee to the fairway, which is flanked by the backwaters of the Alabama River. Ideally, hit your tee shot long and straight, preferably straight! Water flanks the right and rear of the Judge's first green. Well struck drives here are remembered forever!
When you visit Grand National to play the Lake and Links courses, many of the holes will border Lake Saugahatchee. At the Lake course, use your camera on the par 3 15th hole. From the tee, it's 100 percent carry over water. This hole is very, very scenic. On the Links course, the 18th green is a difficult finishing hole. Your tee shot must be struck over the corner of the lake. Then, the approach shot is hit to a shallow, raised green -- supported by massive rocks. Pars are both holes are worthy of celebration!
The 'Signature Hole' at FarmLinks is the par 3 fifth, where the tee shot is jaw-dropping! Once you reach your teebox, you'll be faced with a downhill shot to the green. From the back tees, there's a 170-foot vertical drop from tee to green. Sulphur Mountain sits perched in the distance.
At NorthRiver, the finest par 4 is the 16th hole. From any tee marker, you must hit your tee shot over water. Then, on your approach, if your shot drifts right or short, it will get 'wet' or 'sandy.' If the wind is in your face, it's one of the finest holes in the state. Birdies here deserve a 'fistpump' and a 'high five.'
The 9th hole at Ross Bridge is a right-to-left dogleg par four where water hugs the left side of the fairway from tee to green. Water also borders the front of the green. To complicate matters, the 9th fairway is split by a sand bunker which appears in the middle of the fairway. From the fairway, it's a short iron to a quasi-island green.
What makes these golf courses so special? They are accessible and affordable. Finally, when you visit Ol' Colony, consider wearing cream and crimson since it's the home of the University of Alabama golf program. Roll Tide!
Revised: 10/28/2015 - Article Viewed 20,213 Times
About: Mike May
Mike May is a Wellington, Florida-based freelance golf and sportswriter, who is also a 25+ year public relations and communications executive in the sporting goods industry. He is also a veteran high school soccer official, an experienced high school basketball coach, an avid athlete, a part-time personal trainer, and a passionate golfer who is forever in pursuit of Old Man Par. He is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America.
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