Buckle up, folks, and welcome to the fourth installment of America’s Best Golf Road Trips, a six-part GOLF.com series in which our well-traveled writers will guide you through some of the most thrilling itineraries for golfers with a nose for the open road. Each journey will be built around golf but we’ll also sprinkle in a few other sights and stops along the way. Bon voyage!
When you think of golf road trips, Alabama might not be the first destination that comes to mind. But with a plethora of terrific public-access courses, the state has routes that stack up with some of the best drives in golf. From the Gulf Shores heading north, this journey features a stunning and diverse set of courses, and attractions for everyone from sports fans to history buffs. The best part? It can all be done on a single tank of gas. So, pack your golf shoes and your driving gloves, and get ready to hit the trail — the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, that is.
Start point: RTJ Golf Trail at Magnolia Grove, Mobile, Ala.
End point: RTJ Golf Trail at Grand National, Auburn, Ala.
Day 1 (morning): RTJ Golf Trail at Magnolia Grove
The morning and afternoon of your first day can be easily interchanged, but for our purposes, we’ll have you starting at the Crossings Course at Magnolia Grove, a multiple-time host for the LPGA Tour. With a routing that meanders through pines and marshlands, this serene layout isn’t short on scenery, and recent renovations have added waste areas of crushed oyster shells for even more ambiance. Your round here is a worthy kickoff to the journey that awaits.
Day 1 (afternoon): RTJ Golf Trail at Magnolia Grove
No need to travel for your afternoon festivities, as your next destination sits on the same property as your morning 18. After lunch to recharge, head out for some hit-and-giggle fun on Magnolia Grove’s Short Course, which was named one of GOLF’s 25-best par-3 courses in the world. Recent renovations have only enhanced it. A mixture of challenging tee shots and cleverly placed pins will require your A-game if you want to end your first day on the winning end of skins.
Day 2 (morning): RTJ Golf Trail at Cambrian Ridge
A short drive up Interstate 65 takes you to Cambrian Ridge. This 36-hole facility is one of the most challenging stops on the Trail, and you won’t be disappointed by the views either. Mix and match between the Canyon, Loblolly and Sherling nines for some of the most breathtaking scenery in Butler County. If you want to keep driver in the bag, swing by the short course for nine holes of leisurely play.
Day 2 (afternoon): U.S. Civil Rights Trail
After your morning at Cambrian Ridge, it’s on to Montgomery for an afternoon of education. The state capital holds a significant place in civil rights history, as the Alabama Capitol Building was the endpoint for the third march for voting rights, which began in Selma. Other local landmarks of the Civil Rights Movement include Dexter Avenue King Memorial Church, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. served as pastor; the site of Rosa Parks’ arrest; and the courthouse of Judge Frank M. Johnson Jr., whose pivotal rulings helped end legal segregation in the South. All three of these towering figures spent significant portions of their lives in Montgomery, and their legacies are preserved in the capital city. Time spent learning about those who risked everything for their principles — and for the wellbeing of others — is time well spent.
Day 3 (morning): RTJ Golf Trail at Capitol Hill
A quick drive northwest of the city sets you up for a round at one of Capitol Hill’s three championship courses, Judge, Legislator and Senator. Each has a look and personality all its own, and there’s no wrong whichever you choose. The Judge has amazing views along the Alabama River, while the Legislator weaves in and out of pine trees and marshland for a more traditional feel. The Senator can satisfy your craving for a links-style layout, and the test will be stern. As the host of several Korn Ferry Tour events — most recently in 2019 — it’s a true championship track.
Day 3 (afternoon): Auburn University
With the capital city in your rearview mirror, head east to Auburn, and the university that shares the city’s name, to stroll the grounds of a proud SEC school. Head to Toomer’s Corner, at the intersection between downtown Auburn and the Auburn University campus, and then pop into Toomer’s Drugs for some fresh-squeezed lemonade and a bite to eat. If you time your trip correctly, you’re pretty much required to attend a game at Jordan-Hare Stadium. A post-game drink at a bustling nearby campus bar is optional, but highly recommended. War Eagle!
Day 4 (morning): RTJ Golf Trail at Grand National
As long as your hangover isn’t too severe, make the quick drive over to Grand National for your grand finale. As at the other RTJ Golf Trail properties, you’ll have options. On the Lake Course, more than half of the holes hug Lake Saugahatchee, and the vistas on its routing can’t be beat. The course also plays host to the Symetra Tour, giving you yet another chance to test your game where the pros play. The Links Course is the cornerstone of Grand National and features four par-3s that can befuddle even the most experienced players. Finish the trip off with a drink by the pool at the on-site Marriott Hotel, and make a toast to yourself on a trip well played (and well planned).