How the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail is Changing...for the Better

The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail isn't just for road-trippin' and beer sippin' anymore.

Sure, you can still have that kind of experience if you want it, but the RTJ Trail is smartly branching out to offer more of a resort golf experience, too.

Here's where you can find it:

The changes are probably best evident at the Trail's two coastal area stops.

Last year, for instance, I wrote:

"Point Clear, the southernmost stop on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, is an anomaly. Instead of the Trail's usual binge of democratic golf and on-the-go mentality at various stops, Point Clear is a true resort that exudes a more relaxed, 'stay awhile' vibe."

And now, you can get a similar experience about 40 minutes away at the Magnolia Grove stop in Mobile.

In addition to renovations making the two, 18-hole courses here much more player friendly, the Magnolia Grove site now has two "official" sophisticated, full-service hotels that also anchor downtown Mobile's dining and entertainment district.

One is the Battle House Renaissance Hotel; the other is the Renaissance Riverview Plaza Hotel. Both are owned by the RTJ Golf Trail's parent, Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA).

In the case of the Battle House, the RSA revived a long-shuttered historic grand dame through a marvelous restoration and expansion.

The notoriously hard-to-please editors of Golf Odyssey recently said that:

"the Battle House oozes character," and, overall, "the combination of enjoyable, inexpensive golf and a neat historic hotel makes Magnolia Grove and Mobile an intriguing trail stop."

I hope this "resort-ification" trend spreads northward to other stops, but not to the point of destroying what put the Trail on the map in the first place.

After all, if you just stay in one place, you're not really on a trail.

What's your take on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail and what seems to be its desire to make itself more resort-y?

Please share your comments or read what others are saying below.

Craig Better is one of the founding editors of Golf Vacation Insider. In addition to traveling to 15 foreign countries, he has twice traveled across America to play golf courses in all 50 United States. Prior to joining Golf Vacation Insider, Craig was a freelance writer who contributed to GOLF Magazine, Travel + Leisure Golf, Maxim Magazine, USAToday.com, and co-authored Zagat Survey’s book, America’s Top Golf Courses.
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I have a strong preference for southern golf courses- the weather is better, the people are nicer, and the courses tend to better kept. I personally have been to the Robert Trent Jones Club only twice, but I have found a similar vibe in the Pinehurst area of North Carolina. They are gorgeous, and will even host the 2014 US Open. If you like the RTJ, check them out!

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I'm a big fan of the trail - this will be the 6th year our group makes the trek from Atlanta. We are more the weekend warrior crowd playing 36 Fri/Sat and finishing up with a round Sunday morning. I would love to see what else the trail has to offer but Auburn and Capitol Hill are just convenient from the big city. We always have it planned for "next year" to stay on premise in more of the nicer accomodations but end up getting by at the Holiday Inn. Thanks for the write up on RTJ. I enjoy reading about it.

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My husband and I enjoy playing different courses along the Trail. I would agree with Warren that some of us have matured and enjoy taking it a little slower and enjoying the downtime between rounds. We really appreciate the quality of the golf courses along the Trail.

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Looks like you're going to have ideal weather in the Birmingham area -- sunny, low 80s. Enjoy.

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Heading to the trail this Thursday for six rounds in four days, old school. Playing both courses at Oxmoor, Ross Bridge, and the three courses at Capital Hill. No resorts on this trip...

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Since playing the Ridge course at Oxmore Valley on its opening day those many years ago, I have been a great fan of The Trail. Although I have not made all of the stops, I have played seven of the venues and never been disappointed. What a grand vision for Alabama and golfers all over the country.

I would suggest that as the Trail has aged, so have those of us who have been there since the beginning. 36 holes in one day, living out of a suitcase and driving to the next stop after a full day of golf and partying are probably for younger and more energetic folks. For some of us, taking a little more time, playing the courses at each venue over a two day stretch with great accomodations to enjoy during the stay makes perfect sense. Further, it does nothing to deter the road warriors.

I have only played one of the Magnolia Grove renovations. Nice design, but it was too new when I played it and just needed some maturation to heal the scars of construction. Point Clear and the Grand Hotel are simply out of this world for anyone.

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I made a week-long trip to Alabama 5-6 years ago with four other Swedes. We mixed up the Trail courses (Capitol Hill and Grand National) with a few others (Limestone Springs, Capstone Club, and Ol' Colony) and came away very pleased with the trip. If I was to do it again I would definately include Mobile, not so much for the 'resorti-fication', but because I'm under the impression that it is a quite unique city.

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How the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail is Changing...for the Better