It was an early wake up call for some as I recall. As we were on an 8 day tour of the Robert Trent Jones Trail (www.rtjgolf.com) playing one course, parking our butts for the night and then moving on in the morning. When I say “Playing the Trail the way it was meant to be,” I am referring back to when the Trail was first introduced 25 years ago, and the stay and play infrastructure back then was nothing like it is today.
On today’s Trail Experience you have plenty of reason to park your butts in one location for a few days and experience the other courses the Trail has to offer in each region and enjoy all that the respective areas have to offer. Believe me, there is so much to see and do!
Time was not a luxury for the this group of 30 International Golf Tour Operators from 19 countries who were here to get in as much as possible in the time we had. We had just finished a very enjoyable evening in Auburn and before you know it, that 5:15 wake call had us hoping.
Six rounds in 8 days, today we were headed to the Alabama Gulf Coast. Next up the Falls Course at RTJ’s Magnolia Grove property in Mobile.
To my point of Stay and Play for a few days in each location along the Trail, at Magnolia Grove you will find 54 holes of recently renovated golf. Renovations maintained the integrity of the renowned designer Robert Trent Jones but made the courses a little more player friendly. The Trail courses did have that reputation of being on the more difficult side.
The Crossing Course has played host to the LPGA Tour. An open parkland in style course with a great collection of par 3’s. The toughest being the 17th – and not even any water to deal with! You can’t help but notice the crushed oyster shells in the waste bunkers.
The Falls Course, reopened in 2010, is carved through hardwood and pine, around creeks, lakes and marshlands and is characterized by large contoured greens and deep white sand cloverleaf bunkers. Par 5 – tenth hole is the favorite here featuring a waterfall protecting a contoured green.
Also recently renovated, Golf Digest named the Short Course at Magnolia Grove as the best par-3 course in America.
After golf we were whisked away to an elaborate dinner at Dauphins (www.godauphins.com) with panoramic views from the 34th floor of the Trustmark Building overlooking Mobile Bay. The menu celebrates classic coastal cuisine with hints of Caribbean and Creole. A must stop, and guaranteed that you will savour every moment of your evening.
There are a couple of Marriott Renaissance properties to choose from in downtown Mobile plus a host of others. It was the charming and elegant Battle House Hotel & Spa for our group in the heart of the entertainment district. No shortage of things to do here. As tired as many of us were from the long day, several managed to wander over to a music festival and carry on into the wee hours…again! www.visitmobile.co
Before we ventured over to Gulf Shores for our last round at Kiva Dunes we were treated to breakfast at one of the must stop attractions: GulfQuest National Maritime Museum in the Port of Mobile with 90 interactive exhibits, simulators, displays and theatres. www.gulfquest.org
It was slightly more than an hour east and south to Alabama’s most southern tip where Mobile Bay meets the Gulf of Mexico. On a narrow strip of land known as the Ft. Morgan Peninsula you will find one of Alabama’s top ranked courses and arguably the Gulf Coast’s most spectacular setting – Kiva Dunes Golf Course at a Resort of the same name. www.kivadunes.com
The Orange Beach – Gulf Shores region is becoming very popular with golfers, and Kiva Dunes is leading the way with a number of other world class properties such as Craft Farms with 36 holes of Arnold Palmer design and an Earl Stone gem, the Peninsula. There are plenty of beach front condo units as well as hotel options to choose from.
Kiva is not part of the Robert Trent Jones Trail but you will enjoy the same excellent standards as on the Trail. A very challenging Jerry Pate design, to say the least. Somewhat narrow fairways are often flanked by large waste bunkers of which I managed to find my share. Luckily I was able to avoid the wetter of the obstructions along the way to the large slick greens. Of course when you are on the gulf coast you can always count on some wind just to make things a little more interesting.
When your round is over there is no better way to kick back and relax than at the Kiva Beach Club and our group did just that. “Relax, you’re on Kiva Time as they say!” I kind of like margarita time! A breathtaking setting on the Gulf of Mexico. You just never want to leave and why would you…at least not before the beautiful sunset! Accommodations at Kiva include ocean side beach homes and condos.
The Gulf Shores & Orange Beach regions (www.gulfshores.com) of the Alabama Gulf Coast lace the southern border to the Gulf of Mexico. 32 miles of sand and clear waters and other than golf offer up unlimited water sports, including deep sea fishing.
Of course you are not going to find a better location for seafood than on the coast but certainly not limited as when you are in the south you will find just about anything you desire and plenty of it and that goes for the portions as well.
All good things must come to an end. Unfortunately this great Alabama / Robert Trent Jones Trail experience had to come to an end as well. There is plenty more courses on the Trail for me to discover and you can bet I will be back.