Archive » October 23, 2008
GOLF & TRAVEL
By Ray Navis, Contributing Writer
The RTJ Golf Trail starts in Mobile
“The Trail” is known throughout the golf world as an incredible collection of high quality public access golf facilities. The Robert Trent Jones Golf (RTJ) Trail runs the length of Alabama, starting in Mobile and stretching all the way to the Tennessee border. Mobile is a fast growing yet charming southern city and a perfect starting place for this unique golf trek.
Mobile is one of the last bastions of Southern Charm. The people really are different here. Visitors will notice that locals here are friendlier and more well-mannered than in any other U.S. destination. The city is undergoing an economic transformation. The growth of international shipping has fueled this growth, which extends across the bay to the dynamic Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay. Downtown Mobile has been renovated with new skyscrapers, but care has been taken to preserve its history. The city has its own French Quarter with charming restaurants and shops.
The RTJ Golf Trail was the brilliant idea of Dr. David Bronner, CEO of The Retirement Systems of Alabama. Bronner wanted to diversify the pension fund investments in a way that would bring prosperity to Alabama. Famed golf architect Robert Trent Jones was hired to lay out 18 championship courses. The project was so successful that more courses were added and The RTJ Trail now has 26 courses at 11 different sites. These sites encompass hundreds of acres of land with thick forests, lakes and rivers.
Arriving at a trail site is a very different golf experience. Very few, if any, homes – just nature, and lots of it. Most courses in the U.S. are crowded onto 150 acres or less with homes lining the fairways. Trail courses are spread out on 200 acres or more. This allows for a pleasant uncrowded day on the course. Green fees are very reasonable throughout the trail, making this trip the best value in golf today. In the winter, the southernmost sites are probably the best bet for great weather.
Magnolia Grove is the site closest to Mobile and it has 54 holes of golf, including two championship 18-hole courses and an 18-hole par three course. As with all trail sites, the facilities are top notch, including traditional southern style clubhouses and large practice areas. Each 18 is carved out of a thick forest of hardwood and pine and winds its way past creeks, marshland and lakes. The Crossings 18 is home to an LPGA event held each September. The Falls 18 is probably the more difficult of the two, requiring length and accuracy. The Short course was recently rated the best par three course in the U.S. Its 18 par-three holes range in length from 70 yards to more than 200 yards with many crossing water. For more information on the RTJ Trail, visit www.rtjgolf.com.
The Battle House and the Riverview Plaza Hotels offer two distinct options for overnight guests. The Battle House is the old classic southern hotel that dominated the Mobile social scene for more than 100 years.
It has been tastefully remodeled and still has the charm and elegance that drew President Woodrow Wilson and Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
Located just one block from the convention center, The Battle House is now a Renaissance Property. For more information, visit www.rsabattlehouse.com.
The Renaissance Riverview Plaza Hotel is Mobile’s waterfront option. Last year it received a $55 million dollar remodel, including a new fitness center, swimming pool and restaurant.
The hotel connects to the convention center via a skywalk. Historic museums, restaurants and mansions are within walking distance. For more information, visit www.riverviewmobile.com.
On your way in or out of Mobile, the Bonefish Grill near the Mobile airport is a must stop. Proprietor Keith Burbank has gone out of his way to make this a superior dining experience.
Mobile has great local fish options, of course, with its proximity to the Gulf.
Keith has enhanced this with fresh salmon flown in from Alaska and lobster from Maine. He brings in the best fish from all over the U.S. depending on season.
We dined on Ahi tuna, Pacific salmon and local shrimp. The food was absolutely first rate; as good as I have ever tasted.
Keith takes the same care when it comes to service, and he has generated a loyal customer base. This restaurant is very popular with Ladies Professional Golf Association Tour players when they play each year at nearby Magnolia Grove.
Our visit was on a weeknight out of season and yet the restaurant was full. With operations like this, it is no wonder that the Bonefish Grill has become so popular. For more information, visit www.bonefishgrill.com.