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Happy (Golf) Trails To You

Nov 20, 2014 12:15 AM
Tags: golf course
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David Bonner got the idea back in the late 1980s after seeing the movie "Field of Dreams." He was in charge of the state of Alabama's pension funds at that time and he was always on the lookout for investments to diversity and strengthen the Alabama coffers. But when Bonner decided to "build it" and see people come he was not envisioning baseball diamonds in Alabama cornfield - he was planning to build golf courses.


Bonner set out to construct the Alabama Golf Trail - 21 public courses at eight sites along 100 miles of Alabama countryside. All at one time. He lured one of the game's most prolific architects, Robert Trent Jones, out of semi-retirement to design the courses with a philosophy to make the tracks playable for golfers of all abilities - the courses can play as short as 4,700 yards and stretch out past 8,000 yards for tournaments. Some holes sport as many as twelve tee boxes.


The Alabama golf course construction project was rebranded the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail and it was the largest golf course construction project ever attempted. More than 700 pieces of heavy equipment were gnawing at the earth at a single time across the Heart of Dixie to shape the courses. The golf trail was a smash with golfers from the get-go. Two more sites were completed in 2005 and today "The Trail" can require nearly a month to complete with 26 courses and 468 championship holes. Several of the courses hold special events, including the Bring Your Old Buddy Scramble staged at all Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail locations each December.


It did not take other states long to develop their own trails. In Indiana the Pete Dye Golf Trail zig zags down the center of the Hooiser State with five destinations and seven courses, moving south to the French Lick Resort which always hovers near the top of any rankings for golf destinations. Louisiana has the Audubon Golf Trail (legendary ornithologist and painter John James Audubon lived in New Orleans and painted birds there for a time) with 12 courses crafted by Louisiana natives Hal Sutton, David Toms and others. Arkansas has a dozen courses in 11 unique locations for its Natural State Golf Trail - none, however, designed by Arkansas favorite son John Daly.


So the next time you are looking for a unique golf vacation all you need to do is pack up the sticks and hit the trail!

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