3000 Robert Trent Jones Trail,
Alabama (AL) 36801,
- +1 334 749 9042
8 miles NW of Opelika
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Robert Trent Jones
The 7,149-yard Lake course on the RTJ Golf Trail at Grand National features a dozen holes that skirt the banks of Lake Saugahatchee. The 230-yard par three 15th plays to an island green and is perhaps the best one-shot hole on the RTJ Golf Trail.
In 1997, the Lake Course played host to what is now the Web.com Tour Championship, the season-ending tournament for the PGA Tour’s Web.com Tour and this event has also been held at RTJ Golf Trail courses in Mobile (1998), Dothan (1999-2000) and Prattville (2001-2005).
The Lake course also hosted the first edition of the Barbasol Championship in 2015, played as an alternative event for the Open Championship. The winner doesn’t earn an invitation to the Masters but they do receive a two-year PGA Tour exemption and entry to the USPGA Championship event.
One of my favorite courses on the RTJ Trail. Be prepared to be humbled. Between the staggered fairway bunkers, the woods and the water good shots can easily lead to double bogeys. The par 3 15th is a white knuckler at 230 yards all carry over water to what can be best described as a football shape green. Our group had 16 guys and only one golfer hit the green. A real test of golf at a great value
Where It All Began Over 25 Years Ago! Grand National near Auburn/Opelika was the first course to ever open on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. Now there are 26 courses on 11 sites spread across the State of Alabama. Jones Sr. reportedly said that this particular property was the single greatest site for a golf complex he had ever seen. There are three 18-hole courses to challenge you with 32 of the 54 holes nudging up against the 600-acre Lake Saugahatcee.
The Lake Course is the current home of the PGA TOUR’s Barbasol Championship vied on the same week as the ‘British Open’ so you can get a chance test your skills against the pros. This layout is not what you would normally expect from a typical PGA course since there are lots of trees with small areas for the gallery. The fairways are visibly tight looking but are actually more open then they look. There are a number of peninsula greens that will definitely challenge your approach shots.
The picturesque opening hole sets the stage for your round. This shorter par-4 starts from an elevated tee area and swoops down to the left. Driver is not recommended since there is a very small landing area to work with. The most prudent decision is to take a mid-iron and stay short or right of the huge fairway bunker to leave yourself with a short iron approach to a well-protected peninsula green. Accuracy rather than distance is paramount here.
The second hole reinforces my option. A mid length par-4 where water runs down the entire left side and two giant bunkers on the right await any faded drives. The green has two bunkers short and right and the lake surrounds the remainder of this peninsula green.
There are many great holes here but my most favourite hole maybe the short par-5 12th hole. A photogenic dog-leg left that hugs Lake Saugahatchee with four well-placed bunkers that you need to avoid.
All the par-3’s are amazing but the most memorable has to be the 230-yard 15th with an island green that might be the best one-shot hole on the trail.
The Links Course reportedly has the strongest finishing hole on the Trail, but the Short Course was absolutely outstanding. With a good combination of short and long holes, some uphill, some downhill and more than half touching the lake, every hole is unique and what I’d consider a signature hole anywhere else.
Dave Finn is our Canadian Correspondent. To read more about golf in Alabama visit his website at: