Golf at The Shoals Golf Club
Alabama's Awesome and Alluring Attraction
By Mike May
While Alabama's Robert Trent Jones (RTJ) Golf Trail features 11 different locations, 26 different golf courses and 468 golf holes, the one location that may be the best 36-hole championship golf venue on the Trail is the one in the most remote part of the state - The Shoals (990 Sunbelt Parkway, Muscle Shoals, AL; 256-446-5111), which is located in the northwest corner of Alabama. While each RTJ Golf Trail venue is wonderfully designed and a thrill to play, there's something about The Shoals which puts it in a class by itself. It's the combination of its rural proximity, gently rolling terrain, clever use of penal (but not punishing) lakes, spectacular greens, well-maintained fairways, raised tees, and stunning views of the Tennessee River. And, the genuine Southern hospitality inside the clubhouse at The Shoals is a bonus!
The names of the two courses at The Shoals -- The Fighting Joe (opened in 2004) and The Schoolmaster (opened in 2005) - are rooted in history.
The Fighting Joe is named after Joe Wheeler. He was a Confederate general in the Civil War who later served as a general in the U. S. Army. Wheeler is the only Confederate general to rise to a similar rank in the U.S. Army, after the Civil War.
The Fighting Joe starts with a par five which meanders from left to right. The opening shot is struck from a raised tee box. It's worth hitting this tee shot from the Orange tees, which improve your chances of admiring the 'hang time' of your opening salvo. The Fighting Joe concludes with a rather short par three which overlooks the Wilson Lake on the Tennessee River. When you arrive at the 18th tee, it's a jaw-dropping perspective. The 18th green is carved into the side of the hill adjacent to the clubhouse. At the 18th, aim left of the pin and enjoy the beauty of the view as you walk from tee and green. Very few courses give you a chance to finish with an ace. In between the first and the last, there are 16 holes which you will find entertaining, enthralling, and a joy to play.
The Schoolmaster was named after President Woodrow Wilson who was responsible for getting the Wilson Dam built on the Tennessee River. Presidential history buffs will remember that President Wilson was also known as The Schoolmaster.
The Schoolmaster opens with a straight-away par four - with a 'twist.' Your second shot is to an uphill green, which can make club selection tricky, especially if there's a back pin placement. The 'home' hole at the Schoolmaster is a left-to-right uphill par four which gives you another stunning view of the Tennessee River off to your left. In between the first and the last, there are 16 holes which will confirm why you play the great game of golf.
The locals at The Shoals will agree that The Schoolmaster is wooded, rolling, and spectacular, with an emphasis on the spectacular, beginning with the waterfall on the 2nd hole. If you want to succeed at The Schoolmaster, it's best to do your 'homework' on the course in advance of your visit.
After playing 36 holes at The Shoals, you deserve to spend the night in luxury. The Marriott Shoals Hotel & Spa (10 Hightower Place, Florence, AL; 256-246-3600), located just minutes away, is the luxury that you deserve. This property's major attractions are its stunning views from the balconies of all 200 guest rooms; its poolside (indoor and outdoor) appeal; the 6,000-square foot world renowned European-style spa; and the 360 Grille, which is Alabama's only revolving restaurant which sits atop the Renaissance tower at the hotel. Another dining option at the Marriott is Swampers Bar & Grill. The decor inside this restaurant honors Alabama's rich cultural heritage. The food is tasty and filling.
"I love The Shoals for many reasons," says Stewart Soto, director of sales & marketing at The Shoals. "However, I think the appeal is not just one thing. It's many. It's the beautiful landscape. There is no bad view at The Shoals -- anywhere. Whether you are setting up your shot on the 14th tee of Schoolmaster or having a beer on the veranda overlooking the Tennessee River, you will not be disappointed. The fact that we have two uniquely styled courses here at one location is another huge plus. The staff here is so welcoming and we want everyone to have fun! That's our goal. Besides golf, there are a ton of other cool things to do in our area such as eat at the Rattlesnake Saloon, tour the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, or visit the Helen Keller home. The list goes on and on. We may be off the beaten path, but it's well worth the extra drive."
If you happen to have a strong interest in music, you should be aware of this area's strong musical heritage. Muscle Shoals has many recording studios which have attracted a number of talented singers and musical groups over the years such as Cher, Etta James, Aretha Franklin, and the Rolling Stones. Those recording artists are still coming to Muscle Shoals and the music industry remains vibrant, as is the bass fishing industry, too. And, did I mention how good the fried green tomatoes and shrimp 'n grits are in northern Alabama?
It might be fair to say that golfers have 'FORE' reasons to visit The Shoals near Muscle Shoals: golf, music, bass fishing, and food. The first tee is awaiting your arrival. And, don't be tardy at The Schoolmaster.
Revised: 03/24/2016 - Article Viewed 19,555 Times - View Golf Course Profile
Written By: Mike May
Mike May is a Wellington, Florida-based freelance golf and sportswriter, who is also a 25+ year public relations and communications executive in the sporting goods industry. He is also a veteran high school soccer official, an experienced high school basketball coach, an avid athlete, a part-time personal trainer, and a passionate golfer who is forever in pursuit of Old Man Par. He is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America.
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