Last night was quite the experience. I knew the big storm would be rolling through Montgomery overnight and it sure did—with a terrifying vengeance. There was tons of rain and a constant “strobe” effect in the sky from the lightning. At about 2:00am, I was awoken by my phone buzzing frantically with a tornado warning alert in the area until 3:00. Needless to say, I did not go back to sleep and just kind of waited nervously for it all to pass. Thankfully it did, but many areas throughout Alabama got hit pretty hard during the violent storm.
I may be in for more of the same tonight as some rough stuff will be hitting Auburn-Opelika. It may continue to rain pretty hard well into tomorrow with scattered thunder storms, so golf is in question yet again, but so far I’ve been lucky on that front as the days have been decent enough.
Such was the case today, when I finished off my visit to Capitol Hill. After pre-emptively facing the Judge the afternoon before, I played the other 36 holes this morning. There weren’t too many people out there, so I zipped around quickly by myself…
Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail – Capitol Hill (Legislator) • Prattville, AL • 4/29/14
I started here right at 7:00 and was the only one out there that early. Lots of tree debris was scattered around the course and a tree by the 18th got struck and split by lighting in the storm overnight. It looked a little like a war zone in places. The worst part was the bunkers, which were absolutely destroyed. They were pristine the day before on Judge, so it’s a shame how they looked and played today.
The course was cart path only, as well, which is perfectly understandable with soggy conditions. It just meant a lot more walking for me as a single rider. Oh well, a little extra exercise never hurt anyone!
The Legislator course was the one I knew least about and was originally to be played only if I had time/energy leftover after playing Judge and Senator in the unlimited golf deal I signed up for. Since I played Judge yesterday, I slotted Legislator in as the early round instead.
Legislator is a bit of a combination between Judge and Senator, but it has its own character in many places, as well. It starts with a links style hole more like Senator and then goes through a lightly wooded, creekside area throughout the front nine that is a more unique feel and style for Legislator.
The back nine is very different and goes along the marshy area next to Judge, so the early stretch is similar in style. It tightens up significantly on the back and there are some very narrow tee shots and tricky doglegs to contend with. At the end, the final few holes return to the links style on top of the hill alongside Senator. It’s a bit schizophrenic in nature, but overall it’s a very enjoyable course that kind of feels like a sampler platter for Capitol Hill.
One of the standout holes to me is the par-3 11th, which is similar to the 12th on Judge hitting over a stretch of swamp. The wooden bridge going across the murky swamp water and trees is kind of cool and definitely reminds you that you are in the deep south.
Another one that is cool is the par-4 15th, which has an extremely elevated tee box. The hole doglegs to the left at the bottom and then goes back up a hill to an elevated green.
The course was in similar overall condition to Judge yesterday. Obviously a bit soggier instead of so dry and the bunkers were a mess as mentioned, but good and playable throughout despite the overnight barrage of rain and wind.
Of the three courses at Capitol Hill, I would rank Legislator third. I liked it plenty, but it has some stiff competition. That said, if I were a regular here, I would probably play this course more often than Senator. I’ll expand on that later.
Some pictures from Capitol Hill (Legislator) (4/29/14):
I’m looking for Master Yoda…
I wasted no time in heading back out to play Senator around 9:40. They were able to get me out ahead of a big group of eight about to tee off. I had to play through a couple of foursomes along the way, but otherwise cruised through the round as I’m one to do…
Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail – Capitol Hill (Senator) • Prattville, AL • 4/29/14
I think the three names of the Capitol Hill courses are fitting. Judge is a true test of your golf game and puts you through many trials. Legislator is a bit more user-friendly and tries to make everyone happy. Senator is what I expect senators in Alabama to be—traditional and old-fashioned. That said, I wouldn’t describe it as “conservative” by any means.
Senator is a throwback links design with all sorts of hills, humps, pot bunkers and meandering fairways like you’ll find at many of these modern old-school layouts. It’s not a real pretty course and it doesn’t feature any interesting scenery like the other two at Capitol Hill, but it is a fun ride as you try to navigate your way around semi-blind shots and awkward sight lines. In those respects, it does exactly what any good links course should do.
If there is a knock or two on Senator, it’s that it doesn’t feel that different than some other links courses I’ve played and nothing about it really feels Alabama-esque like the other RTJ Trail tracks I’ve played so far. You can pick this layout up and install it just about anywhere and it will look and play exactly the same.
The other thing is that, though every hole is very interesting and each one presents a unique set of challenges, they all start to blend together after awhile. Again, this is true of many links courses. You might remember a specific green or bunker, but many of the holes are a blur in retrospect.
Still, I was enjoying the course plenty and I think it’s a great design. That last “complaint” was also vehemently thrown back in my face when I reached the par-5 17th. This one is a dandy! It features the only water on the course as you have a big pond running down the left of the first portion of fairway. The hole is relatively short, so it’s a risk/reward design all the way. The more you can bite off on the tee shot, the better chance you have of getting home in two.
If you play the more conservative three-shot route like I did, it’s still no easy task. The second shot is very uncomfortable as you hit over a big ravine. From where you are hitting from, it looks like there is little to no room on the other side to lay-up. I closed my eyes and hit a perfect shot, thinking I had found the tiniest sliver of fairway on the other side. When I arrived at my ball, though, I realized there was much more room there than expected. You just can’t see it and it’s beautifully designed that way to get in your head. Ultimately, I am proud to say I followed that up with a great third shot and walked away with a tap-in birdie, so sometimes it’s good to be conservative.
The course was also in good shape. This one drained even better because of the natural undulation and more exposed landscape. The sand traps here were also a big mess, though. However, they were already dumping loads of new sand in all the bunkers as I was playing, so kudos to the management for getting right on top of that issue, especially since the bunkers are such a vital part of Senator’s design.
In the grand scheme of Capitol Hill, I would firmly rank Senator second. Judge is the centerpiece and is a must-play. Senator is worth checking out because it’s such a great change of pace. As I mentioned before, I might choose to play Legislator more often than Senator if I was a regular, but that’s because I tend to prefer links courses as an “every once in a while” thing to switch it up rather than something I’d want to play day in and day out as a member.
Some pictures from Capitol Hill (Senator) (4/29/14):
I did end up playing another round today, but I’ll include that with the next review because it ties in directly with tomorrow’s destination here at Grand National in Auburn-Opelika.
On the food front, I just ate at a deli near Capitol Hill. I don’t even remember the name of it, but the food was okay and they had a big menu of sandwich and salad options. For dinner, I was surprised when I checked into my hotel (a little extended stay place I got a one-night deal for) and it turns out that they have a free community dinner every Tuesday night. They brought in spaghetti and salad from Olive Garden and some tasty bundt cakes, too. Heck, free is free, so I had to partake!
Day 3: Ross Bridge and Capitol Hill (Judge) [Alabama]
Day 5: Grand National (Lake, Links & Short) [Alabama]