Direct flights from Denver put you on the trail of good ol’ SOUTHERN-STYLE golf hospitality.
SWEET HOME ALABAMA is more than just a song or a movie, although they both certainly evoke the spirit of a beautiful state. It’s also a mantra for the hardworking, friendly folks that travelers encounter along the way. From the bagboys and beverage cart girls on the world-class golf courses to the servers and chefs in the award-winning restaurants, visitors are made to feel right at home, ensuring that time spent in Alabama is as sweet as the tea.
It’s a golf destination unlike any other. It’s home to the original golf trail, modern and historic golf resorts, and over 32 miles of sugarwhite beaches on the Gulf of Mexico. Both the incomparable Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail and the Arnold Palmer-designed Craft Farms Resort in Gulf Shores put Alabama on the radar of traveling golf groups more than two decades ago. The ensuing years have upgraded the state’s position on all types of vacation bucket lists by spawning award-winning hotels, spas and luxury resorts; exciting craft breweries with medal-worthy beers; world-renowned bass fishing events and red snapper rodeos; and a thriving culinary scene.
Here’s a north-to-south snapshot of some of the golf locales to create a custom golf vacation in Sweet Home Alabama.
Huntsville is a great place to start your Alabama golf journey, as it’s the northernmost location of the RTJ Golf Trail—the 54-hole Hampton Cove—and home to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. But there are also two other trails to enjoy while in the Rocket City. Wet your whistle at any or all of the 10 stops along the Downtown Huntsville Craft Beer Trail or the nine-stop Downtown Huntsville Craft Coffee Trail. Lodging options range from convenient hotels near golf to upscale accommodations downtown.
Birmingham plays host to two RTJ Golf Trail sites (Ross Bridge and Oxmoor Valley) and the state’s most luxurious golf resort at Renaissance Birmingham Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa. Alabama’s largest city also features the Barber Vintage Motor Sports Museum, Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, James Beard Award-winning restaurants such as Highlands Bar and Grill and the Hot and Hot Fish Club, four craft breweries and big-city nightlife options. You can choose to stay on-site at Ross Bridge, a historic downtown hotel, boutique inn or any number of convenient branded hotels.
For a rare treat, head 45 minutes south of Birmingham to Sylacauga, where Pursell Farms indulges guests with the perennially award-winning Farmlinks Golf Club and an array of lodging options, ranging from a new boutique inn, four-bedroom golf cottages and an eight-bedroom lodge.
Auburn & Opelika
Sister cities Auburn and Opelika combine to create the coolest college town and one of the South’s most intriguing small towns. It’s also home to Robert Trent Jones’ favorite location on his trail. The RTJ Golf Trail at Grand National boasts 54 holes of scenic and challenging golf along a gleaming lake. These two small towns have an abundance of great eateries too, plus the Red Clay Brewery and the award-winning John Emerald Distilling Company are located in historic downtown Opelika. Your overnight choices include the on-site Marriott Golf Resort & Spa at Grand National, the on-campus Auburn University Hotel and a selection of hotels and B&Bs.
Mobile, once called the Paris of the South, has long been the cultural center of the Gulf Coast, providing an authentic experience unlike any other in the region. As the birthplace of America’s original Mardi Gras, this port city majors in good times. Attractions include the USS Alabama battleship, Bellingrath Gardens & Home, riverboat dinner cruises, Dauphin Street entertainment district and a couple of craft breweries. Not only is Mobile home to the RTJ Golf Trail’s 54-hole Magnolia Grove, but there are several other challenging courses to keep you in town a bit longer—which is something you’ll surely want to do if you stay at either the historic Renaissance Battle House Hotel & Spa or the Renaissance Riverview Plaza, both part of the RTJ Golf Trail collection of hotels and resorts.
That collection — as well as the courses of the RTJ Golf Trail — reach their southernmost point across the Mobile River Bridge and Bayway in Point Clear, where you’ll find the glorious century-and-a-half-old Grand Hotel Golf Resort and Spa, considered the “queen of Southern resorts,” and home to Lakewood Golf Club’s Dogwood and Azalea courses.
Gulf Shores & Orange Beach
Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, which lie a half-hour drive from Point Clear, are home to 32 miles of white-sand beaches that line the pristine turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Add the nine premier golf courses—including two by Arnold Palmer at Craft Farms and the Jerry Pate-designed Kiva Dunes in Gulf Shores, Alabama’s only beachfront golf resort—to numerous adventure activities, including fishing, boating, kayaking and biking, and you’ll find there’s more to this small beach town than meets the eye.
After a full day of fun in the sun, grab a hearty meal at one of the many locally owned restaurants that specialize in everything from fresh seafood to sweet Alabama BBQ, and don’t forget to wash it all down with a cold beer at Big Beach Brewing Company or an infamous bushwacker (aka adult milkshake) at the legendary Flora-Bama Lounge & Oyster Bar. An outstanding selection of accommodations—from high-rise condos and colorful beach houses to nationally-branded hotels and resorts—dot the Gulf Shores and Orange Beach areas.
Flying From Denver
It’s so easy to get to Alabama from Colorado. First, there are daily, non-stop flights from Denver into four area airports: Huntsville (HSV), the start to the RTJ Golf Trail in north Alabama; Birmingham (BHM), which makes a perfect hub for an RTJ Golf Trail trip; Mobile’s new downtown airport (BFM), which puts you near Magnolia Grove; and Pensacola (PNS), which is the closest airport (30 miles) to the Gulf Shores-Orange Beach area. Other Colorado airports also have direct flights to Atlanta (ATL), which is less than two hours away from two RTJ Golf Trail locations.
Info To Go
The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, with its eight hotels/resorts and 26 courses at 11 sites, and Coastal Alabama Golf, the booking entity for the Gulf Shores-Orange Beach area, will customize golf packages for your foursome or group. Check out AlabamaGolfTours.com for sample itineraries and information, or visit RTJGolf.com and CoastalAlabamaGolf.com to book today.
This article appeared in the 2019 Winter Issue of Colorado AvidGolfer.
Colorado AvidGolfer Magazine is the state’s leading resource for golf and the lifestyle that surrounds it, publishing eight issues annually and proudly delivering daily content via coloradoavidgolfer.com.