Happy trails

Since launching the revolutionary Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail in Alabama in 1992, others have followed in droves. 

The number of so-called golf trails promoted as destinations by local, state and regional tourism and travel entities now approaches 100 in 38 different states. They are named after golf course architects, fruits, liquors, national parks, Interstate highways — even explorers in the case of North Dakota’s Lewis & Clark Golf Trail. 

With so many choices for that dream golf experience, the Golf Travel Wire has attempted to narrow down options by picking five favorite golf trails in alphabetical order, considering weather, course architecture and variety, unique off-course adventures and food. 

Sequoyah National:: Photo: Blue Ridge Parkway Golf Trail

Blue Ridge Parkway Golf Trail, North Carolina
This trail in the golf-rich Tar Heel state features courses with waterfalls, crystal-clear streams and boulders larger than cars. Those who play Mount Mitchell in the valley often travel up the mountain to the highest peak east of the Mississippi River at 6,684 feet for a photo op. Sequoyah National near Cherokee is the gem on this mountain trip, offering stunning scenery just a few miles from the resort’s bustling casino. Best time of the year is the fall, when a car ride along the famous 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway — arguably America’s greatest scenic highway — displays vibrant leaf colors spanning miles upon miles. And don’t forget at least one meal of North Carolina BBQ around the fire pit before heading home.. 

Colorado Golf Trails, Colorado
OK, but which one? Colorful Colorado claims to have 10 separate golf trails spanning its magnificent scenery of mountains, rivers and plains. Denver International Airport is ranked as the sixth busiest airport in the world, so there are plenty of flight choices for golfers traveling here to tee it up. Only in Colorado can you play the highest course in the country at 9,863 feet (Copper Creek), North America’s longest course (RainDance National) at 8,475 yards and a course (Pelican Lakes) with 7½ miles of shoreline. Off-course hiking doesn’t get much better since Colorado contains 78 of the 100 highest peaks in the Rocky Mountain chain, including the 30 tallest. And try a Colorado bison steak while on your trip.

Palm Springs Golf Trail, California
If you want to play where the pros play, then this is your place. And the area features amazing golf resorts such as La Quinta, Westin Mission Hills, Indian Wells and Shadow Ridge. The desert golf experience is highlighted by the PGA West Stadium Course, regarded as one of the most difficult layouts in the world. Often described as a small city with the cultural amenities of an urban area, the shopping, entertainment, dining and recreational opportunities are first-class in and around Palm Springs. Outside of the searing heat of the summer months the weather is also hard to beat. If you’re into celebrity and star gazing, keep your head up as you walk around. Never know who you’ll run into in Hollywood’s playground. 

Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, Alabama
The granddaddy of golf trails, the RTJ Golf Trail now boasts 26 courses for a total of 468 holes at 11 locations across Alabama. Wow, that’s a lot of golf. It was the final project for legendary architect Robert Trent Jones and is believed to be the largest single undertaking in the history of golf course architecture. The project included simultaneously building golf complexes each with at least 36 holes at seven locations throughout the state. 

Since then, three additional facilities have been built and one existing club near the Gulf of Mexico has been added. Make sure to purchase a piece of clothing while on the trip as the RTJ Golf Trail displays one of the more iconic logos in destination golf lore. Home base should include a stay at Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel and Spa in coastal Mobile, ranked as the state’s No. 1 hotel. Alabama has its own unique white BBQ sauce. It’s also well-known for many other southern and soul food favorites like fried green tomatoes, collard greens, shrimp and grits, and tomato pie. 

Cooper Rock :: Photo: Brian Oar

The Red Rock Golf Trail, Utah
For starters, many playing this golf trail prefer a home base of Las Vegas — enough said when it comes to entertainment, food options and gambling. It’s just a 90-minute interstate drive to the St. George, Utah, area. Few areas can piece together such memorable playing experiences than Black Desert, Sand Hollow, The Ledges and Copper Rock with a backdrop of seemingly endless rugged red rock cliff scenery. The off-course adventure features stunning Zion National Park and the Grand Canyon’s Northern Rim is just 2½ hours away. With 14 courses within a 45-minute drive, golfers can’t beat the quality, variety and convenience.

Black Desert:: Photo: Brian Oar