Myra and I are creatures of habit to be sure and a consistent routine is integral to our often intense review feature junkets running smoothly. A good night’s sleep and a solid hearty breakfast are key to the day running smoothly for us. It’s easy to accomplish at this incredible resort as the beds are as comfy as our own at home and the food here is delicious. After sharing some pleasantries with Carlos, originally from Puerto Rico, and being served French toast with seasonal berries by the soft spoken and efficient Lasha we were geared up to head off.
Carlos, the Bell Captain at The Marriott Shoals Hotel and Spa, shared with us some of the challenges his family down in Puerto Rico is dealing with from the recent devastation caused by Hurricane Maria. It again was a sobering reminder for both Myra and me that we are more than fortunate knowing that our challenges are often based upon how well we do golfing.
Even after 25 years, it’s amazing how some things seem so fresh in your mind. Seeing the green and white Robert Trent Jones Trail road signs brought me right back to the 1992. It’s not that they’re special in any way, it’s just seeing those words on a directional sign.
Everything about playing a round of golf on a Trail course is special. It starts with the drive down a half mile long entrance road, tree lined with quaint looking glass street lamps along the way.
As you come through the entrance gates and follow the road up past the parking lot you gaze upon the ever familiar plantation style clubhouse of other Trail sites looming in behind a practice putting green situated out front by the bag drop. I really love this design feature. You drive completely around the round putting green, it’s a very cool feature.
Today Myra and I have a prime 11 AM tee time and it’s a beautiful windless 70°F day to boot. We are greeted by Destiny who is handling the check in procedure at the pro shop counter. She like her colleague, Assistant Golf Professional, Hunter who we met briefly yesterday is very friendly and had us pointed in the right direction towards the practice area then alternately the first tee within 2 to 3 minutes.
We headed down to the practice range and while Myra began her warm up I walked over and chatted with Gary, who is working for a subcontractor repairing bunkers on the golf course. Impressively they have been hired to even repair the bunker adjacent to the practice chipping green. This commitment to the ongoing maintenance of the golf course doesn’t surprise me as there is more to building a fantastic course than just saying “here it is; come play.”
With the sun beaming down upon us and warmed up, we headed to the first tee of the Schoolmaster course where we are greeted by the starter named Dick formally from the Buckeye State. Myra, a Michigander and him exchanged some friendly banter about being “rival” states. It has to with college football of course. Dick gave us some valuable pointers on playing a few of the dogleg holes that have blind tee shots to landing areas.
For late October, the course is in excellent condition and any recent aeration and top dressing maintenance that has been performed on the greens has them recovered to be very smooth and puttable.
There are some fantastic and very rewarding holes on both the front and back nine. Wide landing areas are in abundance, but that doesn’t mean taking your foot off the gas. Many of the approach shots are to elevated greens and carrying the ball the full length of the shot right to the flag is highly recommended. Both the par fives on the front nine; holes 4 and 9 are very impressive dogleg left uphill monsters.
The par 10th is a gorgeous gem of a hole to begin your back nine. It is on this hole that a single golfer playing behind us finally catches up. We invite Mr. Russ Wilson, a member at The Shoals, to join us and he proceeds to make a long putt with me tending the flag for fabulous birdie and here I thought my par was impressive. Not only is he a very friendly and enjoyable man to play golf with some of his local knowledge was of great assistance to both Myra and me.
Again outside of the actual playing aspects of the course, features such as washrooms accessible every few holes and water stations are those extra little touches some courses overlook.
Being a lover of par fives I was really excited to see back to back par 5’s on holes 11 and 12. I was even more excited to par both of them. Myra was keeping up to us two guys with some great shots herself and showing off some very impressive chipping skills with her Odyssey chipper.
I managed a par, par finish for a 44-41= 85 and Myra in spite of all those long par fives was happy with her total of 110. 7 bogeys for her on a new course is good play. 9 pars for myself meant I got half of it right.
We invited Russ to join us at the Fighting Joe Course Friday and he was as pleased as we were when he said he’d love to. When we told him we were from Vancouver Island, he happily shared that he and his wife Barbara had celebrated their 30th anniversary there a few years back.
We packed up our gear and headed in to grab a cold drink and sit out on the veranda overlooking the 18th green with the Tennessee River in the background. We had a few laughs with both Katie and Lexi in the bar, as I pulled out some old bartending skills and showed them a trick on how to uncork a stubborn bottle of wine and prevent it from happening in the future.
Back at our beautiful lodging the Marriott Shoals Hotel and Spa, we shared an elevator ride with two Englishman who were over to play golf Trail style. Sean from Birmingham, the English one not the Alabama one, asked me if the course we played today was one of the Robert Trent Jones Trail and also if it was a good one to play. Myra and I both told him the trip across the Atlantic with some of his buddies would be well worth it with the combination of 2 fantastic golf courses, excellent service and this beautiful fall weather it was an unbeatable combination.
Next up, Fighting Joe here we come. God bless the Robert Trent Jones Trail.