Golf Blog

Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail

The trail trip was officially kicked off at Fazio's  Old Overton .

The trail trip was officially kicked off at Fazio's Old Overton.

The Robert Trent Jones (RTJ) Golf Trail in Alabama has been on my "To Do" list for many years.  2016 would be the year that we would finally pull the trigger on the trail.

Widely known as the greatest value in golf, the RTJ Golf Trail consists of 11 locations across the state of Alabama.  All together there are 26 golf courses and 468 golf holes.  Although the desire to play all 468 holes was there, we would only play 144 of them.

Before we tackled the trail, we decided to get in a warm up round at Tom Fazio's Old Overton.  It was no problem warming up as the temperature was around 90 degrees.  

 

The 6th hole at  Ross Bridge  is the 2nd in a great set of 4 par 3's.

The 6th hole at Ross Bridge is the 2nd in a great set of 4 par 3's.

After the initial golf/sweat fest at Old Overton, our numbers increased to 5 as we took on our first RTJ Trail course at Ross Bridge.  Because of the heat, we were one of the only groups on the course and we decided to play as a five some.

After the initial 18 at Ross Bridge, the trip really began to pick up some steam as we headed down the road to play Oxmoor Valley's Ridge course.  We also picked up 2 additional golfers and became a force to be reckoned with on The Trail.

We would play the front nine on the Ridge Course twice to bring the day's hole count to 45.  I would also set several personal records for most birdies in a single day with 8 and most gallons sweated in a 12 hour period with 5.

One of my favorite par 5's on the trip was the 3rd hole at  Oxmoor Valley's Ridge Course .

One of my favorite par 5's on the trip was the 3rd hole at Oxmoor Valley's Ridge Course.

Trip Organizer, Nik Divakaruni, finds the green on the island 6th hole on The  Judge at Capitol Hill .

Trip Organizer, Nik Divakaruni, finds the green on the island 6th hole on The Judge at Capitol Hill.

Those who drink from the birdie well on 16 are rumored to finish strong.  Naturally, I bathed in it.

Those who drink from the birdie well on 16 are rumored to finish strong.  Naturally, I bathed in it.

 

With the golf crew in full force we headed out for another day of 45 holes of golf at Capitol Hill.  It would be a day of government officials as we took on The Judge, The Senator, and finally, The Legislator.

Not everyone would make the full 45 holes.  We would lose 2 golfers after 36 stating that things were getting "Too political"  Others would argue that the highlight of the day was the banana pudding between 18's.  Everyone would agree that the opening hole on The Judge was awesome.

Be sure to click on the course links to view more photos.

The final putt on the 45th hole of the day would fall as the sun would set on  The Legislator .

The final putt on the 45th hole of the day would fall as the sun would set on The Legislator.

The trigger that inspired the visit to the south was actually the beginning of the 2015 NCAA College Football season.  In addition to golfing like fiends, we would be attending the Auburn Clemson game in Auburn.  

After a day of 18 holes at Grand National's Lake course, we set out to tailgate hard and then get our College Football kickoff on.  This would be my first SEC football experience and I would not be disappointed.  The tailgators ate and drank like linebackers, the fans cheered as if their hair was on fire, and we joined right in.

The War Eagle at Auburn circles the stadium before kickoff and lands at midfield.  Here he stops by to say hi to the out-of-towners.

The War Eagle at Auburn circles the stadium before kickoff and lands at midfield.  Here he stops by to say hi to the out-of-towners.

Golf animal, Nik, holes out from 150 yards and shows me the ball. What a boss!

Golf animal, Nik, holes out from 150 yards and shows me the ball. What a boss!

Expert green reader, Kris Buerkle, sizes up a 20 footer and then jars it.

Expert green reader, Kris Buerkle, sizes up a 20 footer and then jars it.

The  Links Course at Grand National  comes in at #6 on Golf Digest's Best in State rankings.

The Links Course at Grand National comes in at #6 on Golf Digest's Best in State rankings.

The 8th hole on the  Short Course  is just one of 18 outstanding par 3's.

The 8th hole on the Short Course is just one of 18 outstanding par 3's.

Capitol Hill's  Senator Course  plays host to the Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic.

Capitol Hill's Senator Course plays host to the Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic.

Brad Thompson, a former backup QB at Clemson, routinely bombs the driver 310+ and inspires his playing partners to come up wtih creative new excuses for not hitting a wedge into every green.

Brad Thompson, a former backup QB at Clemson, routinely bombs the driver 310+ and inspires his playing partners to come up wtih creative new excuses for not hitting a wedge into every green.

A stong tailgate scene unfolds at Auburn. University

A stong tailgate scene unfolds at Auburn. University

Clemson would emerge victorious but they would not cover the spread, which was bad news for the majority of our gang.  To ease the pain, we retired back to our local Days Inn accomodations and played frisbee in the parking lot.

The next morning the golf would continue with another day of 36 holes at Grand National.  The Links course was rumoured to be one of the toughest tests of golf on the trail and we wanted a piece of the action.

In the "Shot of the Trip" Nik Divakaruni would hole out from 150 yards for birdie on the 12th hole.  Nik would attempt to purchase the entire beverage cart in celebration.  I would join in the golf party by playing one of my better rounds of the year and carding a 72 after a rousing birdie on 18.

After finishing up on the Links course, we had enough time left on the trip to hit up the par 3 course at Grand National.  The Short Course consists of 18 outstanding par 3's ranging from 100 yards to over 200.  Each one of these holes would be a welcome addition to most championship layouts.

If you have never hit a bunker shot in your bare feet, you are missing out.

If you have never hit a bunker shot in your bare feet, you are missing out.

We took off our shoes to feel the bermuda on our toes and work on our sock tan lines.  Captain Joe Garvey even went shirtless for 6 holes.  Just as darkness overtook the course, we finished up on 18.  Unfortunately, we would leave Alabama before the sun would rise on the RTJ Golf Trail again.  With 324 holes remaining to be played, a return trip is in order.

Golfing up a Storm

Recently I took a trip to visit my parents new home in Paradise, CA.  Naturally, this provided the perfect excuse for me to take a trip from Seattle down to CA and golf my little heart out along the way.  I booked a ton of tee times, packed a bag, and threw my clubs in the car.  This was going to be a monster of a trip covering 13 golf courses, with multiple 36 hole days, and walking every one of the courses.  Feel free to click on the link of the courses to check out the full galleries and write-ups.

The Oregon Courses:  On my way down to CA I took on 3 courses in the Bend area.

  • Aspen Lakes Golf Club - I started the trip off with a bang visiting the #15 Best in State on Golf Digest's rankings.  The cinder red bunkers gave this course a unique look and feel.
  • Black Butte Ranch Golf Club - An early morning tee time for a day of 36 started off at this classic Oregon staple.
  • Tetherow - Teeing it up with the club champion was a definite advantage in helping to navigate this challenging Kidd design.  I managed only 4 pars, but rolled in 5 birdies.
The view from the 10th tee at Black Butte Ranch 

The view from the 10th tee at Black Butte Ranch 

The 15th hole at Aspen Lakes Golf Club

The 15th hole at Aspen Lakes Golf Club

California Courses:  During my stay in CA, I hit up some local gems with my Dad and friends.

  • Table Mountain Golf Course - A local Paradise municipal track.  The Dad and I had fun whacking it around the local layout.
  • Sevillano Links -  This John Daly signature course plays just under 8000 yards from the back tees.  Like an idiot, I played the tips and had a blast grinding it out.
  • Bidwell Park Golf Course - We teed it up with the local city champion who showed us how to properly strike a golf ball.  The course features many friendly deer that you can walk right up to.  They don't cheer for birdies though and seemed relatively uninterested in that 6 footer you missed for par.
  • Bailey Creek Golf Course - One of the local favorites.  This course came highly recommended and did not disappoint.
The 8th hole at Sevillano Links

The 8th hole at Sevillano Links

The 18th hole at Bidwell Park

The 18th hole at Bidwell Park

Complimentary Scoring Pie Chart

The 600 yard par 5 12th hole at Crosswater

The 600 yard par 5 12th hole at Crosswater

The Home Stretch:  With the end in sight I crossed the finish line in style

  • Pronghorn Fazio Course - My favorite course of the trip.  For a guy who likes to take pictures, Fazio makes it fun.  Also there is a lava tube hole!!
  • Bend Golf & Country Club -  A classic country club experience and a fun course to play.  I managed to make 16 pars for the second 18 on a day of 36.
  • Pumpkin Ridge Witch Hollow - For the final round of the trip I teed it up with Sean Ogle of breakingeighty.com.  Sean was a fantastic host and helped me to conclude the trip with finesse.
The 6th hole at Fazio's course at Pronghorn

The 6th hole at Fazio's course at Pronghorn

Awards & Accolades:

  • Best Par 3 - The 8th hole at Pronghorn's Fazio Course.  Nicknamed the "Lava tube" hole, this was an easy victory for #8.  Honorable mention goes to #5 at Running Y.
  • Best Par 4 - With 130 contenders this one was tough but #6 at Tetherow takes home the honors.  Honorable mentions to #6 at Pronghorn, #18 at Crosswater, and #6 at Pumpkin Ridge. The 6th hole cleaning up in this category.
  • Best Par 5 - #12 at Crosswater wins the award here.  I also enjoyed #2 at Running Y, #17 at Widgi Creek and #14 at Pumpkin Ridge.
  • Best Photo:  #18 at Pronghorn.
  • Best Course:  Pronghorn with a close runner up in Crosswater.

A big thanks to everyone that I played with and who invited me onto their courses.  Until next time!!

The 18th hole at Tetherow

The 18th hole at Tetherow

Bidwell Park has more deer per hole than I had strokes. 

Bidwell Park has more deer per hole than I had strokes. 

 

By the Numbers:

  • 13 rounds of golf played
  • 234 holes of golf played
  • Average score: 75.1
  • Pars: 137
  • Birdies: 34
  • Bogies: 54
  • Double Bogies: 9
  • Eagle putts missed: 5
The 3rd hole at Table Mountain 

The 3rd hole at Table Mountain 

Oregon Courses:  The trip back to Seattle.  This would be the meat of the golf trip with 2 back to back 36 hole days.

  • Running Y Ranch - Definitely the best value on the trip.  The Arnold Palmer design was definitely the best surprise on the trip.
  • Crosswater Club -  Considered by every golfer that I played with as one of their favorite courses in Oregon.  Cross water is one of the state's best coming in at #9 in the state on Golf Digest's list.
  • Widgi Creek Golf Club -  One of the higher end public courses in the Bend area.  I finished up the day of 36 with a nice twilight round.
The par 4, 4th hole at Running Y Ranch

The par 4, 4th hole at Running Y Ranch

The tough par 5 17th at Widgi Creek

The tough par 5 17th at Widgi Creek

The par 3, 3rd hole at Bend Golf & Country Club

The par 3, 3rd hole at Bend Golf & Country Club

The par 4, 6th hole at Pumpkin Ridge.

The par 4, 6th hole at Pumpkin Ridge.

#18 at Crosswater.  A runner up in the par 4 contest

#18 at Crosswater.  A runner up in the par 4 contest

The 8th hole at Pronghorn takes the cake in Best Par 3.

The 8th hole at Pronghorn takes the cake in Best Par 3.

#6 at Tetherow takes home the victory in the par 4 competition

#6 at Tetherow takes home the victory in the par 4 competition

My favorite photo from the trip comes from #18 at Pronghorn.  This photo pretty much took itself.

My favorite photo from the trip comes from #18 at Pronghorn.  This photo pretty much took itself.