25 years later, not much has changed on this veranda
It is highly likely that 25 years ago today I sat on this exact same wooden rocking chair on the veranda of the clubhouse at the Grand National on the Robert Trent Jones Trail in Opelika, Alabama.
Public Welcome – pleasing to see it’s for everyone to enjoy
At that time, I was escorting 11 other golfers from Saskatchewan who joined me for a one week golf holiday in the inaugural year of the trail. I am repeating the same final two days as I did back in 1992 by playing the Lake Course and then the short course with my lovely wife and favourite golf partner Myra.
The short Par 4 opening hole on the Lake Course
For 25 years I have been telling anyone who cares to listen this is singularly the best array of high-quality golf courses within one geographical area anywhere on the planet.
This is based on value for money, quality of golf courses, customer service, ease of access and overall facilities including club houses and practice facilities.
No, I am not suggesting that I am all knowing as far as the ultimate location to play multiple rounds of golf, but my list includes numerous rounds in Scotland, The Costa Del Sol of Spain, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, Sydney, Australia, Jamaica and Whistler, British Columbia to name a few.
With the water left, the second is a tight Par 4 with great bunkering
After arriving at The Grand National this morning, Tommy a very capable and engaging young Auburn University student got our clubs loaded up onto our cart. We headed into the Pro Shop where I spent a valuable few minutes speaking with Head Golf Professional, Jim Bishop.
Myra pitches on to the 3rd green
I do not know what his game or teaching skills are like, but if they parallel his personality then I imagine he has tons of students and makes a whack of birdies. He exhibited an extremely friendly nature and expressed true interest in some of the things I shared about my history in the golf business.
Two fisherman enjoy Lake Saugahatchee as we approach the Par 5 7th
Now 25 years is a long time to remember a golf course especially when you’ve played literally hundreds of golf courses and I must admit my memories of this course did not come flooding back to me right away.
I was waiting for that seminal moment, but it didn’t happen on a golf hole as I expected. Instead, it all came back to me when we crossed Lake Saugahatchee on the long iron bridge from the 9th green over to the 10th tee.
Looking as cool as I can at 58, one happy golf writer
Leading up to that point I know why I always expressed such a high regard for The Grand National as the front nine is so pleasing to play. Our starter David a local lifelong resident of Opelika give us just enough information to keep us focussed and one of the front nine highlights is the double green that number one and six share.
The downhill Par 4 11th home of my bunker hole out
Like the day before at The Legislator, my bunker lessons again paid off as I holed out another shot from the sand this time to save my par four on the 11th.
Then as we came down the 14th fairway, my eyes looked were drawn over the water to the 15th green. It was 1992 all over again and I couldn’t wait to get down to this illustrious par three.
Oh the signature hole, I call it Memory Lane, the Par 3 15th
The final four finishing holes all came flooding back to me and I can even remember two putting for par on 15 all those years ago. 2017 was to be no different as I hit the green and two putted again for par, what a rush! Myra pured her own tee shot on 15 with the ball dancing past the hole and up to the top of the green. She just about made a very difficult downhill two putt for par, but a bogey here is still a good score.
Looking back over the 18th green towards the tee and the lake
As a loving gesture Myra insisted on buying me one of the flags that had the logo of every course on The Trail emblazoned upon it. Of the 11 sites there is only three now that I haven’t visited and those will be the three we come back to review in a couple of years.
David in the pro shop was very helpful in securing our clubs for the night. We didn’t have to pack them back to the resort and they will be loaded up and ready for us as we complete our seven days with a round at the much anticipated 18-hole Short Course at the Grand National.
I do remember during that trip back in 92 that we never had one rainy day. However, we didn’t have a day like today , it was 72°, very warm and not a cloud in the sky or a breath of wind.
Sensational course and a great day to remember hopefully for another 25 years.