Choose your own adventure and discover Alabama’s 22 state parks.
From the beginning of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail to the end, as well as famed and challenging courses along the coast, Alabama is a golf lover’s paradise with experiences unlike any other.
Hit a tee shot from a cliff overlooking the Tennessee River, over what seems to be a bottomless ravine. Stand in the fairway and aim at twin greens bisected by an 80-foot waterfall. From a bluff above the Alabama River, watch your drive sail through the clouds then fall to a ribbon of fairway 200 feet below. These are the kinds of shots you always remember – the ones that give you that extra zing of adrenaline before and after you swing. You'll find these breathtaking shots up and down the world-famous Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail in Alabama, which helped transform the state into one of the most popular golf destinations in the world. Others have tried to copy the concept, but Alabama's trail is the unrivaled original.
Hoover's Ross Bridge, the Trail's crown jewel, opened in 2006 and became home to the Champions Tour's Regions Charity Classic. Nestled in the peaceful valley of Shades Mountain, the wide-open layout gives golfers variety and options, including the chance to play an 8,200-yard course if you're feeling feisty. It is just down the road from Birmingham's Oxmoor Valley, a 54-hole facility.
Other Trail sites with 54 holes include Capitol Hill in Prattville, Grand National in Opelika, Magnolia Grove in Mobile, and Hampton Cove in Huntsville. Several others have 36 holes, like The Shoals in Florence, Silver Lakes in Anniston, Highland Oaks in Dothan, Cambrian Ridge in Greenville and Lakewood in Point Clear.
The Trail stops are spaced conveniently along the state's major roads, so you are never far away from one of those memorable golf shots. Most Trail sites are now associated with luxury Marriott hotels and spas, making stay-and-play packages convenient and affordable.
While the Trail gains worldwide attention for its quantity and quality, the state is blessed with many other golf treasures. The Gulf Shores Golf Association, an affiliate of courses in southwestern Alabama, can help arrange vacations that include world-class golf, sugar-white beaches and charter fishing expeditions. Kiva Dunes, consistently one of the state's top courses, is part of the GSGA, as is Cotton Creek and Cypress Bend, the only layouts in the state designed by the legendary Arnold Palmer. Peninsula, Rock Creek, Glenlakes, TimberCreek and Soldiers Creek are other popular coastal golf retreats.
Limestone Springs in Oneonta and FarmLinks Golf Resort in Sylacauga are two relatively new courses that consistently garner rave reviews. Old favorites like StillWaters Golf Club in Dadeville, Point Mallard in Decatur and Goose Pond Colony in Scottsboro remain as popular as ever.
Alabama's state park system also offers some fun and inexpensive golf options like Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores and Oak Mountain in Birmingham. Montgomery's Lagoon Park and Mobile's Azalea City are challenging municipal layouts.
Whether you stay on the Trail or venture to some of the state's other hideaways, it's definitely worth the golf trip to Alabama.
Gareth Clary is the golf writer for the Mobile Press-Register and Southern Breeze magazine.