Montgomery is the capital of Alabama, and accordingly the most popular facility in the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail is located here. There are some similar characteristics that can be found on the Trail throughout the state — long yardages, hilly routes, and water hazards to boot — but the Senator course is one that goes out of its way to differentiate from Jones’s signature style.
It’s inspired by links golf, with relatively few penalty areas and large patches of fescue between holes, but it doesn’t mean the course plays any easier than its neighbors. Jones takes inspiration from the old world and brings pot bunkers into the fold...more than 160 of them, in fact.
Although the bunkering may take influence from Scotland, the yardage of this course certainly does not: It plays more than 7,600 yards from the tips. Your shots will need to be both long and accurate to survive this round, as Jones’s pots line the fairways. Water finally makes an appearance at No. 17, as a deep “burn” cuts in from the green down to the landing area. The second shot won’t be your last decision of the day, but it will be one of the more intense one.
I have played a lot of links golf in England, Scotland, and Ireland, so I usually cringe when I read that a course is "links like." Unfortunately, I have to say that the Senator fits that bill. The "pot bunkers" are, in actuality, flat bunkers with mounds off to the side and resemble true links-style pot bunkers about as much as I resemble Harry Styles (which is very close to 0). The course is filled with sharp doglegs and ill-defined driving areas. Many of the greens are steeply sloped. Very few offered any sort of opportunity for a run-up shot. The greens were huge, tiered, and sloped to a degree that doesn't resemble any sort of green I've encountered on a classic links course. Of special note is the 17th hole, which may be the most atrociously designed golf hole I've ever played. The tee shot has a lake to the left, but if you carry the lake your ball will careen down to the second hazard area just beyond. If you're short of the green, there is a severe slope that will funnel your ball down into the hazard as well. I assume the play here is two lay-ups and a wedge. Maybe I'll do better next time having some clue how the hole was designed. The best I can say is that this course reminds me of another Robert Trent Jones abomination, the Cashen Course at Ballybunion. Perhaps Mr. RTJ should have stayed away from any sort of "links" association. This was my least favorite course at Capitol Hill by far, and my rating is probably generous because I think the entire facility and complex is great and worth traveling to. If the Senator was a stand-alone course, however, I probably wouldn't play it again
The Senator is the most open of the Prattville RTJ courses. Lots of moguls and pot bunkers. The first hole is welcoming dogleg right. It has 9 pot bunkers, two on the inside elbow. If you can fly this you will have about 150 yards in to a green with pot bunkers front left and right. The first par three is long and has three bunkers in the front, right, middle and center. Pay attention to the yardage as this is a two tiered green. The third is a straight away par four with a gaggle of fairway bunkers on the right side. This shared green has bunkers front right and left. The fourth is also straight away, however there is a pot bunker in the middle of the fairway starting about 190 yards out. The green is surrounded by five pot bunkers. The first par five is straight away, slightly downhill. but is over 600 yards. There are eleven bunkers scattered about, play it as a three shotter. The 6th leans left and a good drive from the elevated tee is in the middle between the fairway bunkers. It is a redan green going left with three bunkers in front and one back right and moguls in the rear. The 7th is the longest par three and I Would advise taking an extra club off the tee. The problem with that is from the tips it is 231 yards. A good tee shot on the par five 8th is between the fairway bunkers. There is also a fairway bunker in the middle of the fairway about 160 yards out. Play it as a three shotter. The 9th is a dogleg left. Big hitters can carry the bunker on the inside elbow to set up an attack wedge. The rest of us should play smart. The green has 6 bunkers around it.
The back starts with a 600+ yard par five. It is a dogleg right, aim left on the inside elbow bunkers. Play it as a three shotter and favor the left side. The 11th is eerily similar to the 3rd. The 12th is the longest par four at 496 yards and should be the number one handicap hole (par five bias). It leans left and there are bunkers on the elbow. My advice, hit it far and straight and hope you can get home in two. The 13th is the shortest hole and rated the easiest. However, the green does have four deep bunkers. The 14th is a long par four that bends right with a couple of bunkers on the inside elbow. If you can carry them, I am jealous. The rest of us should play left of these bunkers and have a long approach in. The 15th also bends right and is a valley par four. A good drive will catch the downslope and leave you with an uphill shot to a green with pot bunkers front, left and rear. The last par three is another long one, all of them over 200 yards. The 17th is an S shaped par five. It requires precision and power. Stay left of the hazard off the tee. Possible to get home in two, but only go for it if you have a perfect lie, as you will have to carry a ravine. Otherwise aim your second shot between the two left fairway bunkers. The 18th leans left and the approach is uphill to a green with five bunkers.
Only links style course I've ever gotten to play and it was in Prattville, AL of all places. The area isn't great for a weekend visit but if you are in town you should definitely find time for this course.