RTJ Golf Trail at Capitol Hill: Judge Course (Prattville, AL on 04/29/16)

We got going about 3pm, paired with a nice couple from Tennessee. Because of the fog delay that morning, we knew we might not complete our round on the Judge Course. From what I had seen online, the course didn’t seem like one that you could speed around even on a quiet day.

The Judge is located on the other side of the clubhouse from the Senator Course. The clubhouse actually sits on a bluff and just a few yards out the back door is a large downslope towards the Alabama River. I don’t think Capitol Hill’s property line makes it out to the river, but the Judge does play through a marshy area adjacent to it. If you search online you can actually find some pictures of how flooding affected the course earlier this year! To me, much of the course has a Myrtle Beach feel because of the scenery and because water is in play on well over half of the holes. There is even a stretch of holes that ring around a lake with an island green! The water holes are stunning to look at, but the interior holes aren’t too shabby either. There is a nice mix of pine trees, hardwoods, and even a few covered in moss. The Judge is as scenic as you are going to find in the Southeast! It turned out to be one of the prettiest courses that I’ve played! There isn’t much elevation change, expect two holes by the clubhouse.

One of those holes that has the elevation change is the 1st! And, without question, it is one of the best opening holes that I’ve ever played! It is a mid-length par 4 with multiple hazards in play and it drops ~200 feet down to the fairway! The skyline of Montgomery, the state’s capital, can be seen off in the distance. If you aren’t careful you could lose a sleeve of balls without blinking an eye. It is 379 yards from the Orange tees where we played and it requires accurate tee and approach shots. The fairway narrows with marsh on the left and water on the right. The green sits on the edge of the water so there aren’t many places to bail out! I hit a 3 wood and a 7 iron onto the green and was able to walk away with a par!

Even without the 1st hole, which is probably the signature hole for the whole RTJ Trail, there plenty of memorable holes. The par 3’s on the Judge were another highlight for me! There are four par 3’s and you’ll be able to remember all but one for quite some time. The 6th (148 yards) plays to an island green and offers some nice views of the surrounding holes, especially from the green which has an incredible 360 degree view! It wasn’t that difficult with an 8 iron for me, but it can play up to 229 yards! I’d love to see some scratch golfers play a few shots into that green with a long iron. The 12th is the longest par 3, playing 179 yards, and is tucked in a corner of the course, near the interstate. It is all carry over Gun Island Chute which feeds into the Alabama River, so make sure not to come up short! The green is too wacky for my liking with humps and bumps that I think would better be found on a 100ish yard par 3, but it still was my one of my favorite holes. The ride to the green went through heavy vegetation, it almost felt like a scene from Jurassic Park! The 16th is similar to the 12th, as it needs another carry over part of Gun Island Chute.

The par 3’s and 1st hole are going to be the ones that “wow” you, but that doesn’t mean that the rest of the course is boring. There is a split fairway on one par 4, an almost 600 yard par 5, and one hole had me feeling like I was in Florida! We played the Orange tees which are 6517/71.7/131 and I had my hands full even though the yardage is a bit shorter than I prefer. The water holes are the main challenge, but there are hazards lurking all over. Slopes feed shots towards the hazards so there could be some costly mistakes, especially off the tee. There is a mix of tighter and more open tee shots and plenty of risk/reward lines throughout the course. If you are into good driving courses, then you’ll probably like the Judge. The greens are larger and have a lot of slope so it will be important to get the irons close. I’ll add here, that the Judge will not be the most friendly towards those who play a ground game. Much of the course has forced carries and it requires a lot of high shots through the air.

I’m sure the focus for the maintenance crew at Capitol Hill is going be on the Senator with the upcoming tournament. But, conditions on the Judge were good, consistent with the other courses that we played on the trail and worth the green fee. Considering the course is located in a low area, I would have expected any moisture to linger for weeks. I was surprised that carts were 90 degrees and that there weren’t any squishy spots! The fairways were full and cut short. The greens were not as fast as the Senator, but they rolled well and were sneaky fast downhill. The tees were a bit furry and could have used a mow.

For the most part, we caught a break with the weather. The fog delay had us racing the setting sun and some thunderstorms popped up nearby while we on the 16th. They closed in quickly and after hitting the tee shots on the 18th, we decided to head for the car with lightning nearby. It was a long round, taking us almost 4 hours 45 minutes to play what we did. Sadly, I’d guess that isn’t too much off the normal pace on popular days as the course is scenic and not the most player-friendly. Those things aren’t conducive to a speedy round.

I’m sure if you poll those golfers who have played all of the trail courses, the Judge stands a good chance to be their favorite. From the reading that I’ve done, it seems to get a lot of love and be held in high regards! For the most part, I agree and the Judge was one of my favorite courses on the trip. However, I enjoyed our morning round on the Senator a bit more. Part of that is probably the upcoming tournament and the other part is that the open layout is unique in this area of the country.

#1 (379 yard par 4):

1-1 1-2

#2 (379 yard par 4):

2-1 2-2

#3 (155 yard par 3):


#4 (548 yard par 5):

4-1 4-2

#5 (342 yard par 4):

5-1 5-2

#6 (148 yard par 3):


#7 (589 yard par 5):


#8 (425 yard par 4):

8-1 8-2

#9 (362 yard par 4):

9-1 9-2

#10 (543 yard par 5):


#11 (370 yard par 4):

11-1 11-2

#12 (179 yard par 3):

12-1 12-4

#13 (358 yard par 4):


#14 (385 yard par 4):


#15 (500 yard par 5):

15-1 15-2

#16 (170 yard par 3):


#17 (364 yard par 4):


#18 (321 yard par 4):




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