By Len Ziehm

There’s a handful of golf trails across the country – and then there’s the Robert Trent Jones Trail that stretches over about 400 miles in Alabama, from the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains to the Gulf Coast.

This collection of courses is like no other. It includes 26 courses — or 468 holes — spread around 11 locations. Eight of the locations have upscale lodging available. The scenery is beautiful throughout.

Every serious golfer should visit the RTJ Trail at some point. They’ll find courses that reflect the best golf in the U.S. and offer challenges for players of all abilities. Course conditions are uniformly good and the greens fees are fairly priced. One warning, though: Be prepared for significant elevation changes on most every hole, not just every course. Flat courses don’t fit the RTJ style.

We’ve made three visits to the Trail. Two were over-night stops spread over several years. The last was extensive – seven courses over six days with no hotel stay longer than one night. We were on the move to experience everything the Trail has to offer, on and off the courses.

We made stops at seven of the 11 Trail destinations and, while the golf certainly didn’t disappoint, we were taken almost as much by the non-golf attractions along the way. The RTJ Trail isn’t all about golf.

A little history first. Dr. David Bronner, the chief executive officer of the Retirement Systems of Alabama, is the visionary credited with getting the Trail launched in 1992. It gave a big boost to Alabama’s tourism. With millions of dollars worth of television commercials provided at no cost by the state pension fund each year the Alabama tourism industry has grown from $1.8 billion in 1992 to over $24 billion. That’s according to Lee Sentell, director of the Alabama Tourism Department.

In promoting the Trail, the media attention also benefitted many other attractions – and we were happy to check them out in between our rounds. More