The Schoolmaster works its way through the topography of the Tennessee Valley.
Stewart Cink left the shoals of North Alabama for Georgia Tech in the 1990s and never moved back, making his home in Atlanta and raising his family at the TPC Sugarloaf in Duluth, Ga. That doesn't mean the 2009 British Open champion forgot where he came from -- or what to do when he returns.
With fond memories of his youth, the 37-year-old recalls the area's rustic atmosphere while serving as tour guide for a homecoming that includes two 8,000-yard courses on the Tennessee River, the best barbeque in the South, a music festival and a historic dam, along with a day trip to Huntsville for a fascinating look at traveling to space.
There are two courses that recently opened that are affordable and the newest members of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail
-- The Shoals. One's called Fighting Joe, named after Joseph Wheeler, the only Confederate general to attain the same rank in the post-war U.S. army. It's more of a links-style layout compared to the other course, the Schoolmaster, which was the nickname for President Woodrow Wilson, who helped get the nearby Wilson Dam built. The Schoolmaster works its way through the topography of the Tennessee Valley. Both are big courses, although the yardages from the tips (8,092 and 7,971 yards, respectively) are a little bit of a gimmick. Still, both are very nice.
I grew up playing Florence G&CC, which closed after 83 years last Dec. 31. Now, the best private club to play is Turtle Point Yacht and CC in Killen. It's where I have my charity tournament, the Healing Place Charity Championship. If you're around in June, you can sign up. It sells out a month in advance, but if you enter as a single early enough, we’ll make room.
WHERE TO STAY
It's hard to beat the Marriott Shoals Hotel & Spa in Florence. It was built in the last 10 years and ranks among the top 10 Marriott spas in North America. Plus there's lots for kids to do.
Right beside the Marriott is the Wilson Dam, which is an old TVA project. They have a tour that gives the history of hydroelectric power...About a 90-minute drive away in Huntsville is the National Space and Rocket Center. Kids take field trips there; even the Atlanta kids go. We lived there through kindergarten, and I could see the rockets from my backyard. It's cool for kids to go and experience anti-gravity and see the old Saturn rockets and how massive they were.
Big Bob Gibson's (left, courtesy of restaurant) in Decatur is legendary in Alabama. Marriott Shoals Hotel + Spa (right, courtesy of hotel) in Florence ranks among the top 10 Marriott spas in North America.