The Lists

From A to Z: Everything you need to know about Alabama golf adventures


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My editor asked me to abbreviate my anthology of Alabama love into an article “of reasonable length.” Reasonable length ... hmmmmm. I’ve been covering the leisure life in Alabama extensively since my first visit seven years ago and have written more than 80 stories — some 140,000 words total — on the good, better and bests of this beautiful state. Verbally reducing that plethora of passion by 80 to 90 percent is a bit harder than you’d think. But with a focus on the highest of highlights, I’ve arrange my thoughts alphabetically — into 26 letters — of what I love, and what I hope you’ll love as well.

A

Appalachian Trail: The 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail rolls into the northeast corner of Alabama like high tide, washing over the colorful foothills and leaving behind boulder accents and a collection of lakes, creeks and waterfalls that perfectly suit a golf architect’s eye. One such architect, Sammy Dean, sculpted his creation amidst that sensational scenery at Cherokee Ridge Country Club — a course primarily built around a 17-acre lake, Lynn’s Creek and an 80-foot waterfall.

At the opposite end of the state (southeast), in a similarly stunning setting, the Auburn Marriott Opelika Resort and Spa at Grand National is one of 11 signature sites on the world-famous Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. This site features a hotel with multiple pools and three Robert Trent Jones golf courses: The Links — a course that isn’t actually all that “linksy” and could very well be the hardest course on the entire Trail. The Lake — a course whose name suits it perfectly, with twelve holes on Lake Saugahatchee, including a 3-par signature hole I’ve called “The Impossible” given the 230-yard carry over water to an island green that is rather hard to hit and hold with a 3-wood. The Short Course — an 18-hole collection of great 3-pars with more than half of the holes on Lake Saugahatchee. If I can ace a hole on this course, everyone can.

B

Barbecue / Barbeque / Bar-B-Q / BBQ: Alabama is famous for its smoked meat, with a savory something for everyone regardless of how you spell the word. I have a little black book chock full of “must-stop meat shops” like the The Brick Pit in Mobile and Bob Sykes in Bessemer. And I insist that on a drive through Decatur you need to check out the famous white BBQ sauce from 2014 World BBQ Champion Big Bob Gibson.

Not far from The Brick Pit in Mobile, The Battle House Renaissance Resort and Spa is an historic Marriott marvel with a rooftop pool and verandah ideal for taking in memorable municipal and Mobile River views. Pet friendly with a full-service spa and fitness center, Whispering Arches for kids (and childlike adults like myself), and table tennis for those of a competitive nature, the hotel is a favorite stay close to another favorite eatery — The Blind Mule.

Birmingham is the largest city in Alabama, with a population of roughly 220,000 and an international airport that is easy to access from everywhere. Those with an interest in history would enjoy a visit to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. Those with an interest in golf would enjoy a visit to Ballantrae Golf Club, a par-72, 7,310-yard, semi-private Bob Cupp course with five sets of tees that weaves through scenic wooded valleys, over creeks and around gorgeous lakes, providing the public golfer a well-polished country club experience. Stunning 3-pars at 14 and 17 give a fun, beautiful round even more style points.

C

Cambrian Ridge: Another stop on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, Cambrian Ridge has four nine-hole courses, including a Short Course and a semi-circular driving range among the craziest you’ll find this side of Top of the Rock in Branson, Missouri. The courses here — Canyon, Sherling and Loblolly — are tough, with tons of water, steep elevation changes and turbulent greens complexes, but there may not be a more beautiful site on The Trail. The Short Course is wedged between a steep ridge and the shores of Sherling Lake, with water in play on five holes and very little grass on some of those holes, a nine I deem “exhaustingly exhilarating.”

As beautiful as Cambrian Ridge truly is, Cheaha State Park is even more so. The panoramic views from Alabama’s highest point, 70 miles east of Birmingham, defy most vocabularies. Overlooking the massive Talladega National Forest, Cheaha State Park offers camping sites, Lodge, Cabin and Chalet reservations accommodations literally marked as historic treasures — with some of them perched atop cliffs on Cheaha Mountain. Golf groups can rent out the 12-bedroom Bald Rock Lodge and find a quality and scenic, mountainous Troon Golf experience in the former apple orchard at the base of the mountain at Cider Ridge Golf Club. Cider Ridge is the definition of a “hidden gem,” sneaking through the Appalachian foothills with superb scenery and some radically fun golf holes. Dramatic elevation changes are the signature feature of the course and the local apple juice is pretty great, too.


Farther south, 51 miles south of Mobile, Craft Farms Golf Resort has 36 holes designed by my golf hero — the legendary Arnold Palmer. The two championship courses — Cotton Creek and Cypress Bend — sit just minutes from the white sand beaches of the Gulf of Mexico, a great amenity for the golfer with family in tow. Exquisitely managed by Honours Golf (a division of Troon), Cotton Creek — a Par 72 with five sets of tee boxes, stretching to 7,127 yards — and Cypress Bend — a Par 72 with five sets of tees reaching 6,848 yards — make for a wonderful day of golf, and the Cotton Creek Bar & Grill overlooking the 18th green is the perfect way to cap that day (Try their homemade chicken salad). You can sum up the Cotton Farms experience with five words: Arnold Palmer. Water freaking everywhere.

D

Dr. David Bronner will forever be remembered as one of golf’s greatest pioneers, the Minnesota transplant with a vision that not only transformed the state of Alabama but every other state that has coordinated golf trails since then. The innovative mind behind the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail and CEO of the Retirement Systems of Alabama wanted The Trail to be all-inclusive of age, skill and gender — and he pulled off that historic feat by providing players with short courses, state-of-the-art practice facilities and championship courses ranging from 4,700 yards to 8,200 yards all designed by one of the game’s greatest architectural minds.

Near the southernmost stops of The Trail, ferries cut the corner of the Gulf of Mexico to, from and around Dauphin Island. If you’re lucky enough to catch the last boat over to or from Fort Morgan, you might catch a knockout sunset — it’s a budget-friendly sunset cruise that could even include a dolphin escort.

E

Eagle’s Nest Golf Course: In northeast Alabaman, on the Tennessee River branch of Lake Guntersville, Eagle’s Nest Golf Course is actually in the Lake Guntersville State Park, expertly renovated by former PGA Tour Pro Jerry Pate. Set atop Taylor Mountain, next to The Lodge, cabins and luxury chalets, the many elevation changes provide some stunning views and plenty of challenging holes.

F

FarmLinks at Pursell Farms: Just 49 miles southeast of Birmingham, this golf club has been ranked the “No. 1 Public Golf Course in Alabama” by Golfweek seven of the past nine years. Dr. Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry’s FarmLinks is a unique and special experience, from the trail of historic signs to the immaculate conditioning and ridiculously awesome views (especially from the par-3 5th hole with its 172-foot vertical drop tee-to-green). The stay-and-play guest truly maximizes a visit, with so many lodging options to choose from, and the staff at Pursell Farms defines “Southern hospitality,” treating every guest like family. With the Orvis Shooting Grounds, the Spring House Spa, the chef-prepared food at Arrington and the lively atmosphere of Old Tom’s Pub, you won’t ever want to leave. In some ways, the FarmLinks golf course is a bonus. And the fact that the golf course, spectacular on so many points in its own right, is a bonus ... is yet another bonus.

Alabama may not have a wide variety of wildlife compared to many states, but they do have some wild nightlife, especially on the Florida-Alabama border at the Flora-Bama Lounge, Package and Oyster Bar. In 2017, MSN awarded the Gulf Shores hotspot the “No. 1 Beach Bar in America” and Southern Living Magazine ALWAYS lists it among their “Best Bars of the South.” They are famous for their five stages of Live music, oyster bar, interesting décor and massive beach concerts. Oh, and the yummy alcoholic goodness that is the Bushwacker.

G

Gulf Shores: Once a “Best Kept Secret,” Alabama’s 32 miles of soft white Gulf Coast sand and accompanying crystal blue waters now have the magnetic pull of the sun, keeping visitors in a constant orbit. Suffice it to say, when part of your family history involves a Gulf Coast vacation, that history is likely to repeat itself. Summed up as “Coastal beaches with Midwest prices,” the place is packed with attractions ranging from the home of the famous “Throwed Rolls” at Lambert’s in Foley (where they actually throw hot rolls at your head) to Glenlakes Golf Club, a 27-hole facility with a 6,938-yard 18-hole Bruce Devlin and Robert Von Hagge course (Vista Dunes) and a 3,065-yard Lakes nine. Check out the Lodge at Gulf State Park for a unique Hilton Hotels experience. You won’t need more food after Lambert’s, but I usually don’t eat there twice in one week so I’ll occasionally venture out to other favorites like Hog Wild Beach & BBQ (Tantrum sandwich and Big T’s Sampler), Matt’s Homemade Ice Cream and City Donuts for breakfast.

Since we’re focusing on Gulf Shores, we might as well include another marquee stay-play in the area, the Marriott Autograph Collection’s Grand Hotel Golf Resort and Spa on 550 acres of shoreline property in Point Clear, with a spectacularly scenic setting on Mobile Bay. Offering The Grand Beach, a boardwalk packed with hammocks and comfortable chairs next to Alabama’s “ocean,” the resort also offers indoor/outdoor pools and whirlpools, a waterslide, bike rentals and trails, fishing, the spa and a fitness center, plus a 36-hole RTJ Golf Trail site — Lakewood Club — literally just across the street. Lakewood Golf is semi-private, with Dogwood and Azalea courses (both designed by Perry Maxwell) alternating days for public play to keep one course each day for members-only. First opened in 1944, the club joined The Trail in 2005 and became two 18-hole courses. The Azalea course is 500 yards longer, but the front nine on the Dogwood course is arguably the toughest (and most scenic).

Guntersville: It’s a straight 70-mile shot up Highway 79 from Birmingham to Guntersville, where you’ll find enough golf to shake 14 sticks at and a variety of lodging to balance out any budget. Gunter’s Landing is a special place, and not just because of its beautiful lake setting. The course was honored by Golf Advisor as “The No. 1 Course for Value in all of America” in 2018. The 18-hole course winds through thick woods loaded with ponds and gives your golf group the enviable sense of being the only group on the course. Gunter’s Landing has collected other accolades recently for “Friendliest Course” and “Pace of Play,” which tells you that management not only has their eye on the ball but follows said metaphorical ball until it goes in the hole. Plan to land at the Goose Pond Colony Resort up here as well, a municipal resort on Guntersville Lake with cottages, lodge, a full-service marina and two golf courses. The 18-hole Lake Course is a George Cobb design that opened in 1971 and provides views of the Tennessee River from every hole. The 18-hole Plantation is also good fun if you have enough time and energy in your day for 36 holes. When in the area and done hitting golf balls, barbecue lovers would be wise to hit Holy Smokes or 50 Taters for dinner.

H

Honours Golf would be the most famous name in Alabama golf were it not for the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. The management company, now a branch of Troon Golf, was built by Bob Barrett and Rob Shults, and operates many of the beautiful courses in the Gulf Shores region.

Huntsville: No matter what anyone else says, Huntsville has to be the “Barbecue Capital of Alabama” with no less than 45 BBQ joints in town and some of the best ones in the state at that. I was told, “Ask 10 men to pick their one favorite and you’ll get 11 answers.” Of the 11 I’ve personally visited, Melvin’s Place, Pig N Out, The Chuckwagon and Boarhog’s stand out as my favorites. (If you’ve been here, what’s yours?) In Huntsville you’re only 10 miles from the 54 golf holes at Hampton Cove. The northern gateway to the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, Hampton Cove has a Highlands Course that was restored in 2008 to its original links-inspired design (with a cool rustic mule barn on No. 5), a River Course in the flood plain of the Flint River that is the flattest course on The Trail (with water in play on 16 holes but not a single bunker) and an 18-hole Short Course with water in play on 11 holes.

I

Interesting Fact: Alabama is the only state in the United States with all the natural resources to make Iron. Golfers use irons, so I thought this inclusion might be appropriate.

J

The Judge: Alabama’s state capital also hosts a 1,500-acre Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail site at Capitol Hill, and The Judge presides over that 54-hole facility. Of the three full-length golf courses — Judge, Senator and Legislator — The Judge pounds your senses the hardest in every way, from the first tee box (which many consider Alabama’s single most dramatic golf shot) to all the twists, turns, rises and falls along the Alabama River. Listed by Golf Magazine as a “Top 10 Candidate to Host the U.S. Open,” The Judge doesn’t need the USGA’s help to be challenging. Another course on the property, The Legislator, is similarly tough, though a bit less dramatic. And The Senator is no pushover (with 160 pot bunkers), hosting The Symetra Tour’s Guardian Championship each year. The golf facility, while technically 13 miles north of Montgomery, is connected to the Montgomery Marriott Prattville Hotel and Conference Center and not far from several of my favorite restaurants like Fat Boy’s, Mrs. B’s Home Cooking, K&J’s Rib Shack, and the Urban Cookhouse. While in Montgomery, if you’re looking for more golf, check out a pair of municipal facilities: the nine-hole Gateway Golf Course and the 18-hole Lagoon Park Golf Course.

K

Kiva Dunes Resort: Down in Gulf Shores, 65 miles south of Mobile, many contend this to be U.S. Open Champion Jerry Pate’s greatest design, a fabulous stay-and-play destination out on a barrier peninsula near Fort Morgan, wedged between Bon Secour Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Kiva Dunes is one of those magical courses that appears flat and benign, almost simple to play, then boggles your mind with the challenges presented in the subterranean movement and creativity. The course is beautiful and the property is as close to the beach as golf gets in Alabama. Offering a lodge and vacation rentals — condos and houses — four swimming pools, tennis courts and a beach club on the white Gulf Highland shores “sand-wiched” between Bon Secour Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, Kiva Dunes continues to step up their golf and getaway games.

L

Limestone Springs: Sticking to Jerry Pate designs, 36 miles north of Birmingham in Oneonta, Limestone Springs is without a doubt one of the more dramatic rounds in all of Alabama. With 225 rippling acres of Appalachian Mountain beauty, this par-72, 7,000-yard Jerry Pate golf course was last rated 4.5 Stars by Golf Digest in no small part due to the diversity of the design. The many elevated tees showcase panoramic ridge, valley and bluff views, while the green-carpet playground sneaks around rivers, lakes and limestone outcroppings.

M

Mardi Gras: You may not know (and many may not want you to know) that Mardis Gras actually began in Mobile, Alabama, and that “Carnival” is still celebrated in Mobile from November through February each year. Mobile is a spectacular place for parties — scenery (on The Gulf), barbecue (thanks to Meat Boss, listed by Travel + Leisure as one of “The 25 Best Places for Barbecue in the United States”) and for the golf at Magnolia Grove. Magnolia Grove features two full-length golf courses and an 18-hole Short Course that Golf Digest once named as the best par-3 course in America. Both of the full-length courses at Magnolia Grove are fair and fun. The Falls Course is a bit flatter and easier, the only par-71 track on The Trail. It weaves around creeks, marshland and waterfalls to some pretty big greens. The Crossings Course has hosted numerous LPGA Tour events and features cool crushed-oyster-shell waste areas, plenty of water, great wooden bridges (including a covered one) and dramatic tee shots galore.

Marriott Shoals Hotel and Spa: From southwest Alabama we go all the way northwest, 65 miles west of Huntsville, to a place that has been a signature stay for more than a century — a setting made famous by musical acts who recorded here such as Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding and Bob Dylan, as well as for its setting on the Tennessee River adjacent the Wilson Dam. Highlighted by Alabama’s only rotating restaurant — the 360 Grille — overlooking Florence, and the awesome vibe of Swampers Bar and Grille, the resort also has an indoor pool and outdoor water park, a whirlpool, sauna and fitness center, and plays host to thousands visiting the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail site in Muscle Shoals, with 36 holes of golf on the Schoolmaster and Fighting Joe courses, only 11.5 miles away.
If you’ve ever felt like 7,000 yards just wasn’t enough golf course for you, Fighting Joe (named after Joseph “Fighting Joe” Wheeler) will make your day — it was the first course in America to exceed 8,000 yards, tipping out at 8,092 with three 5-pars longer than 600 yards (and the “signature” par 5 is relatively “short” at only 592 yards). The Schoolmaster is named after President Woodrow Wilson, rolls along the Tennessee River not far from Wilson Dam and, while not as long, might actually be the tougher of the two courses.

N

NASCAR’s fastest track is at Talladega, outside Birmingham, and the only place people might go faster is driving to pick up their barbecue at Archibald’s in Tuscaloosa — home to some of the best hickory cooked ribs.

O

Ol’ Colony Golf Club: And while you’re in Tuscaloosa, only 57 miles west of Birmingham, the pride of the Tuscaloosa Parks and Recreation Authority is another Jerry Pate design — a First Tee facility with a par of 72 and length of only 6,494 from the tips. Featuring more than 25 acres of lakes, sneaking into play on many of the last dozen holes, the largely flat course has a uniquely Carolina feel, with marsh, pine needles and many rugged rows of trees. Many consider it to be one of Alabama’s “Best Golf Values.”

Oxmoor Valley Golf Club: Circling back to Birmingham, Oxmoor Valley is just two miles from the Renaissance Ross Bridge (more on that amazing place later). There are two full-length courses at Oxmoor Valley and an 18-hole Short Course. The Ridge Course is a rollercoaster with more than 150 feet of elevation changes and some amazing green complexes carved into remarkable limestone structures. The Valley Course is much tighter with more lakes and low-lying holes, less dramatic elevation changes but still plenty of scenery. The practice facilities at Oxmoor Valley (and throughout The Trail) are high-quality enrichment spaces, either as a warmup or to fix something that’s broken in your swing.

P

Peninsula Golf and Racquet Club: Whether or not you know the name, Earl Stone has designed 34 golf courses — and two of his best are in southern Alabama, with one of those being the 27-hole Peninsula Golf and Racquet Club. The far-too-unheralded architect is exceptionally skilled at maximizing fun out of minimally elevated playgrounds and Peninsula is the epitome of that distinction — a mostly flat but character-rich property on Fort Morgan Peninsula, wedged between Little Lagoon and Bon Secour Bay, adjacent the Bon Secour Wildlife Preserve. Covering 800 acres of pristine parkland with oaks, cypress, eagles and alligators, Golf Digest consistently ranks the course “4.5 Stars” and calls it “one of the most memorable and enjoyable courses in the southeast.” Stone said of his work at Peninsula: “This is my best work. God left us a golf course just waiting for someone to grow grass on it.” Each of the three nines — Cypress, Lakes and Marsh — are distinctive, beautiful and fun.

Q

Quick Facts: Alabama’s State Quarter was the first to feature braille — a tribute to famous native Helen Keller. Quality and Quantity would’ve both worked too, as words to describe the golf in the state, but the next letter covers that pretty well.

R

Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail: The single biggest enterprise in the history of golf — an 11-facility golf network with 27 courses spread across all of Alabama. Twenty. Seven. Pinehurst Resort has 10 golf courses comparatively. Technically, in size and amenities (lodging, restaurants, water parks) The Trail is THE biggest golf resort on Earth. Thanks to Marriott Resorts and their eight partnering hotels, all but three of the Trail locations have lodging and dining on-site or nearby, and ALL of the courses are conveniently connected by a web of interstate highways. Tired of people essentially driving around Alabama to get to the beaches of Florida and the Gulf Coast of Texas, Dr. David Bronner came up with a plan to keep all those tourism dollars in Alabama. He and Robert Vaughan (of Sunbelt Golf Corporation) banked the entire development on an architect in his 80s. Robert Trent Jones Sr. went to work on the 378 golf holes — more than 100 miles of golf — which further expanded in 2005 and now boasts 468 golf holes. More than 12 million golfers have visited The Trail so far, including my son and I — we played 22 of the 27 courses (and ate at 22 Sonic restaurants) in 12 incredible summer days. Talk about a Bucket List trip!

Renaissance Birmingham Ross Bridge Golf Resort and Spa: As a teacher you’re not supposed to have favorites, but most teachers probably do. As a golfer and traveler, you can’t help but have favorites, and many an Alabama golfer has found their favorite in Birmingham. When a favorite Stay pairs up with a favorite Play, it’s logical that place would be the most recommended place in a state. Welcome to the Renaissance Ross Bridge. Maybe it’s the Irish “castle on a hill” vibe of the non-Irish hotel perched over Hoover that gets me. Maybe it’s the waterpark in the courtyard or the live music pumping out the windows from the piano bar at JT’s Lounge. Maybe it’s the fact that the golf clubhouse is in the hotel, the course is right out the door and the food at Brock’s and The Clubhouse Restaurant is spectacular all day and all night long. Favoritism likely stems from all of those things, but most of the Renaissance love is about the spectacular Ross Bridge golf course. Rumor has it there’s a mammoth buried under the first fairway. (Three different people shared that rumor BTW.) Fact or fiction, there’s no denying that this rollercoaster around the hills, over the lakes and alongside the waterfalls is as picturesque, fun and underrated of public-resort golf as you’ll find in the South. Ross Bridge is the 5th longest course in the world at 8,191 yards, with 10 holes that play along the lakes and signature waterfalls. In full bloom, the course feels very much like Augusta National (legitimately), and the wild topography is sure to keep you entertained. As the sun sets over the waterfall that drops 80 feet between the greens that close each nine, listen for the bagpiper, sublimely wrapping up another day.

Rock Creek Golf Club: Rumor has it that the first golf in America was played here in 1170 by Prince Madoc. While not part of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, Rock Creek is perfectly wedged between two of The Trail’s sites, 16 miles south of Mobile in Fairhope. Rock Creek is the other Earl Stone masterpiece I referred to earlier, another gem that also consistently rates 4.5 Stars by Golf Digest. This par-72, 6,920-yard parkland course has such an old-school feel, with beautiful hole after beautiful hole sprinkled with tall pines, marsh, water, wooden-bordered bulkhead greens, plateau fairways and gorgeous white sand.

S

Shuttleworth International Airport (BHM) in Birmingham: For people not driving over or down, this airport is the most likely angle of approach — the gateway with your gate to Alabama Golf — and many who come through these gates will do so ready to jump on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. Ross Bridge and Oxmoor Valley are close and convenient, in Birmingham, and then there’s Silver Lakes.

Silver Lakes Golf Course in Gadsden. Silver Lakes has 36 golf holes — three nine-hole routings called Heartbreaker, Mindbreaker and Backbreaker — and a polar opposite experience (by length and description) in the lovely lakeside Short Course. The most resilient of The Trail’s courses, Silver Lakes was bludgeoned by an EF4 tornado in 2011 and nearly completely destroyed and then completely rebuilt, better than ever by most accounts. The conditioning here, as it is throughout the Trail, is immaculate, and the three regulation nines are all big, brawny and beautiful. But the Short Course ... well, it’s so pretty, with all the water and waterfalls, and is truthfully my favorite short course on the entire Trail.

Steelwood Golf Club: Everyone can play ALL of the courses on The Trail, and everyone can head 21 miles east of Mobile to Loxley, but golfers can only play the par-72, 7,096-yard lakeside Jerry Pate gem if they stay overnight in the two fully-furnished Stewart Lodges overlooking the 200-acre freshwater lake. Six of the golf holes at Steelwood border the lake, making for some daunting shot and spectacular views, especially at sunset. Everyone I’ve spoken to agrees that this is great place to retire ... for the night or a lifetime.

T

Trees: There are a ton of trees in Alabama, and by virtue of that fact, there is also an awful lot of timber. Timberline Golf Club is 33 miles south of Birmingham in Calera, a 6,745-yard, par-71 semi-private course designed in 2002 by U.S. Open champion Jerry Pate and ranked among “Alabama’s Top 10 Public Courses” from 2010 to 2015 by Golfweek. Four sets of tee boxes launch off into tall timber hallways lined with pines, oaks and other hardwoods, providing for a most rural-feeling of rounds only minutes from the city.

TimberCreek Golf Club: Wooden you know it ... more timber. And more Earl Stone. At TimberCreek, the designer expanded his magnificent portfolio east of the Gulf Shores with 27 holes carved through a dense forest of Dogwoods, Magnolias and Pines (the names of the three nines). A popular play, given how different it is from other area courses, the Augusta National aura is anything but an accident.

U

The Unclaimed Baggage Center: With apologies to golfers who thought this story was all about them, there is an unbelievable “mall” in northeast Alabama where you can literally buy other people’s property (everything you can imagine) ... accumulated from the 0.5 percent of suitcases that were NEVER reunited with their proprietors (after a mandatory three-month waiting period). This VERY real place opened all the way back in 1970 and is seriously one of Alabama’s most visited tourist attractions — a 40,000-square-foot store where new items roll out hourly and “lost” treasures are “found” by value hunters (including golfers) daily.

V

Vista-Dunes: It’s worth revisiting this 18-hole course at Glenlakes Golf Club in Gulf Shores — a 6,938-yard Bruce Devlin and Robert Von Hagge course — if for no other reason than I haven’t mentioned Lambert’s in a few thousand words (only 2.8 miles from this course), and I’m really wishing someone would throw one of their famous rolls at my mouth right now.

W

Waffle Houses: Residents claim the rest of the country has almost as many Starbucks as Alabama does Waffle Houses. I’m not sure about that, and I’m certainly not above eating breakfast at one daily when I’m traveling here for golf. Two waffles with hashbrowns dashed, smashed, slashed and bashed. Perfect. Waffle Houses are indeed a “Southern staple.” Another famous Southern staple is baseball, and Willie Mays (one of the best baseball players ever) is from Alabama. As are other superstars such as Jesse Owens, Hank Aaron, Hank Williams Sr. and Channing Tatum (special thanks to my wife for adding that last one in).

X

X-OUT: Titleist is famous for branding its range balls with that term. And Alabama is famous for being the first state in the United States to “X-OUT” work on Christmas Day, making December 25 official holiday. (Did I do “X” justice?)

Y

The Yellowhammer State: That Alabama nickname is a strong one. Not that “The Heart of Dixie” and “The Cotton State” are any less appropriate. I just know that when I visited, I had a Yellow Nike driver and could hammer the ball. That driver and ability are long gone now, but the Yellowhammer State still pounds away at you with all its colorful awesomeness.

Zzzz

You’ve gotta be tired by now. Alabama has way too many adventures and way too much great golf for anyone to take standing up. It knocks you out. OK, so maybe the last few letters of this alphabetical run-through didn’t exactly scream “GOLF,” but you should’ve had sufficient incentive to schedule a golf trip to Alabama 20 or so letters ago. Wake up, get your golf buddies together or throw the family in the van and go. And if you do take the family, (just so you don’t feel cheated by the letter “Z”), take them to the The Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo. I’m not monkeying around, and neither should you. Go play golf in Alabama.

• • •

For more information about the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, visit RTJGolf.com, and to learn more about golf and travel throughout Alabama, visit GolfAlabama.org

About the author

Eric N. Hart

Eric N. Hart

Eric Hart (aka MobileGolfer) is GolfTripX.com’s Associate Editor for Golf & Travel and owner of Stays + Plays Travel Agency in the Midwest. Eric has stayed at 250-plus resorts and hotels around the world and played 500-plus golf courses. He has worked with 16 tourism agencies and written more than 1,100 articles for 14 regional, national and international golf, family and travel publications since he began in 2007. With a passion for promoting both golf and family travel, Eric routinely hits the road with his son and/or the full family (wife and four kids).

Reach Eric by email at info[at]staysandplays.com

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