Among the 11 sites on The Robert Trent Jones Trail, Magnolia Grove offers 54 holes of golf, 2 amazing full-length Par 72 beauties and an equally rewarding 18-hole course of all Par 3’s aptly called The Short Course.
After playing the outstanding Dogwood Course at Lakewood Golf Club on Monday, we headed back to Magnolia Grove in Mobile, AL, to play The Falls course having played its sister course The Crossings 2 days before. There are obvious similarities between the two, the trees, the quality of fairway turf and consistency on the greens. Both have countless large bunkers some of the green side ones with very high lips to carry, but with the beautiful, fluffy sand contained within them a joy to splash out of.
For the third consecutive day we bumped into Head Professional Matthew Williams this time out at the bag drop and enjoyed sharing some personal insight of his 6 years at Magnolia Grove. His skills as a teacher were very evident when I witnessed him giving a client a short game lesson. After a few minutes the man was playing flop shots like a PGA Tour pro, smiling after successfully popping ball after ball high and softly onto the practice green. The Falls course has a quite a dramatic difference in its layout. It possesses a far more undulating and rolling challenge from tee to green and also when attacking the hole while on the greens. That is apparent right from the first tee shot. Amazingly with the flag positioned on a side hill, I negotiated a 175-yard approach shot to 20 feet and rolled in the birdie.
Another birdie, a devilish 15-foot downhiller on the Par 4 4th, had me poised to attack the Par 5 5th hole. The 5th is a sensational hole; one of the best on the entire course. The hole requires a straight drive and then an equally well positioned second shot short of the water hazard setting up a wedge to the green. With perfect, sunny, windless conditions, I left myself with a 20-foot putt straight uphill and almost had a dream start for a 10 handicapper, 3 birdies in 5 holes. Par was a very satisfying settlement.
Meanwhile, after a bit of a rocky start, Myra rattled off 3 great bogies and was a few feet short of going for par on the 5th herself only to have a little breeze knock the ball down enough to find a watery grave. Ever the optimist she shook it off with the aplomb of a seasoned pro and proceeded to play the short Par 3 6th near perfection. Perfection obviously being a hole in one. “Near” would therefore be the exceptional score of 2 which was achieved by Myra’s beautiful lofted 7 hybrid stopping some 30 feet short and her putt rolling swiftly up to the hole and in for birdie.
Recent heavy rains didn’t dampen our spirits on this gorgeous day but they did have a noticeably detrimental effect to the bunkers on the course, rendering most of them unplayable. A very dedicated crew were rectifying that with amazing results as you can see by the before and after pictures. The finished products exquisitely manicured. Amazing work by a group of Hispanic workers who some 6 weeks ago were involved in a tragic car accident on their journey home from a hard day at work, sadly taking the life of one of their co-workers who was a relative.
I hope in some appropriate way the golf course memorializes the man with a plaque to honor him and his fellow workers. It was a sobering moment and certainly put into perspective that 3 putting is really insignificant in the big picture. To lighten the mood, we stopped the friendly cart girl Bailey who took the picture you can see in front of the amazing falls of the Par 5 10th. As we got to the great Par 3 11th with the sun glistening off the lake Myra suggested we play match play for the remaining holes, dinner was now on the line.
It sparked us both and we went back and forth like a matador dueling with a bull. We stood on the Par 5 18th all square and I watched as my 2 stroke a hole offer was not needed by Myra. She dissected this beautiful Par 5 with 4 consecutive well hit shots and 2 putts for a very commendable bogey and the victory. Our round completed I sought out Director of Golf Paul Martino to thank him for both days out at Magnolia Grove, simply put any amount of time talking with him was as rewarding as all three of those birdies Myra and I recorded . What a truly great man and mentor to many of the staff under him.
Rarely do we see the farewell extended right to our car door but that’s what Paul honored us with, a warm farewell and invite to come back anytime. I hope he knows it might be within a year. Next time maybe we will start by reviewing what I remember from my first trip here some 27 years ago the amazing short course, after all I’ve got to try and win that dinner bet back.