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Reynolds provides update on local, state RTJ projects

Most everyone is familiar with the local Robert Trent Jones golf course at Cambrian Ridge.

But do you know the rest of the story?

“How many total holes are on the trail?” That was the query of Cambrian Ridge’s director Brian Reynolds when he visited with members of the Greenville Lions Club Monday.

A flurry of responses came, but no one was close to the actual total: 4,200 holes, maintained on 26 courses on 11 different sites along the RTJ Trail (and the golf course at the Grand Hotel Point Clear, which is managed by RTJ).

This leisure time activity is big business in the state.

“Golf tourism brought in revenue totaling $7.5 billion to Alabama in 2007,” Reynolds told his audience.

“We are definitely talking big numbers.”

The two newest facilities to join the Trail are Muscle Shoals, and Ross Bridge near Birmingham.

“Resort” is the watchword for the latest trend along the Trail, Reynolds said.

“We are seeing multimillion dollar hotels in Prattville, Muscle Shoals, Birmingham and Auburn. The new Renaissance Hotel in Montgomery is really something to see – a 10,000- square-foot spa, 100,000 square feet of meeting space, a performing arts center,” Reynolds said.

According to Reynolds, the luxurious spas found at several hotels along the Trail have helped Alabama earn a #4 ranking by Spa USA magazine for “Best Spas in the U.S.”

Plenty of meeting and entertainment space along with such amenities as the spas “are key to drawing people for conferences and tournaments.”

Birmingham’s Ross Bridge, which sits several miles off Interstate 65 in a newly annexed portion of Hoover, is truly a sight to behold, said Reynolds.

“It’s a castle-like structure of gray stone, modeled after a famous Canadian resort. They laid over 140 acres of sod on that golf course. It has rolling hills and big greens – it was really made for tournament play.”

The Ross Bridge course also features a 100-foot waterfall and a 2,500 square foot lighted putting green for some nighttime practice.

Dr. David Bronner, head of the Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA), which had its pension funds invested to create the RTJ Trail, “is really looking to the Mobile area now,” Reynolds said.

With the steel mill (Thyssenkrupp) being built and the possibility of Airbus coming in, (Mobile) seems to be an area Dr. Bronner really wants to revitalize and get back on track, back to where it should be.”

Reynolds pointed to the purchase of the Battlehouse Hotel and Tower (currently the tallest building in Alabama and the tallest on the Gulf Coast) as a sign of Bronner’s interest in Alabama’s port city.

Inside the Trail, Reynolds said the future would see more upscale housing developments adjoining courses.

At Greenville’s own RTJ Trail site, Cambrian Ridge, bunkers have been completely re-done over the past two years.

“We’ve dug them out and put in new drain lines where needed. We’ve also removed bunkers that made the course too difficult for mid- to high-handicap golfers.

“This was a decision made with input from our corporate office and Golf Digest,” Reynolds said. “Some say the changes have made it a better course.”

Reynolds said Cambrian Ridge currently employs 30 full-time employees and 40 additional part-time workers. It has a payroll of approximately $1.5 million.