Out of all the reviews that I’ll hopefully write this year, this one could be my favorite to type! I’m actually typing it up while watching some coverage of the LPGA Tour event at the Capitol Hill Senator Course. It sure was a bit of luck that we ended up playing the Senator Course only a week before the pro’s get here! Apparently, the tournament has been held here in past years during the fall. I’m extra interested because the ladies typically hit their clubs about the same distance as I do so I can relate to more aspects of their game than the PGA Tour players.
My friend and I got stuck in some accident traffic through Montgomery and were worried about missing our tee time. We called from the car, but it didn’t matter as the fog was just lifting at the course and we were told that there would be an hour and a half delay. We got there and it was utter chaos! The place was packed and the staff was scrambling. We killed some time on the range before eventually heading over to the 1st tee. There we got an up close look at the grandstands! Grandstands were also behind the 9th and 18th greens.
Out of the courses that we were scheduled to play on the RTJ Trail, the Senator Course was the one that I thought had the potential to be the most unique. Like most states that are east of the Mississippi River, Alabama is heavily wooded. What makes the Senator course unique is that it is a heathland style layout, with trees only on the perimeter of the course. There is very little water in play, just on a couple of the closing holes. That’s probably to create some drama though! I would have called a “links” style course, but I think heathland describes it best. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure of the difference. If you know, I’d love for you to share!
As you’ll see from the pictures, the course is open and inviting! The holes are close to each other, but separated by large mounds which block views of the rest of the course. It is a nice way to create the isolated feeling that a modern course has, but it still allows you to walk if you’d like. The greens that are tucked against the mounds offer a nice look, although you could end up with some difficult chips from below green level. There is some gentle elevation change on the course, no more than half a club. The more compact layout is probably part of the reason why the LPGA plays on the Senator Course and not on the Legislator or the Judge. It wouldn’t be too hard to change the group that you are following or for the TV crews to haul around the cameras. You can still knock a shot into another fairway, but our foursome didn’t run into that on a busy day.
The mounds not only add to the aesthetics of the course, they heavily influence play. They create all sorts of odd bounces, stances, and blind shots if you are in the wrong spot. I ended up behind a couple of them after missing the fairway and had to walk to the top to pick the correct line. The fairways weren’t as wide as I expected, but you can get some nice kicks towards the fairways so that makes them playable. The mounds are covered in fescue so be sure to pay attention to the line that you went in if you want a chance to find the ball. I was able to find and hack a couple shots out of the fescue and I saw the LPGA players doing the same. Just make sure not to get greedy trying to advance it too far.
We played the Purple tees which are 6941/74.1/125. A couple tees were up and back, but I’d say it played about that yardage on the scorecard. If you manage to land drives in the fairways, you can get some big bounces forward with a lot of roll so it can play shorter. I was amazed to see the ladies hitting it so far, but the fairways seem to have firmed up since we played. In case you were curious, we played the course ~400 yards longer compared to where the LPGA players played from. I believe the course was set up for them ~6500 yards.
Besides all the mounding on the course, the greens are going to be the biggest challenge at the Senator Course. Along with maybe some pot-like bunkers. The greens are large and have a bunch of undulation! There are some very tall ridges which almost create multiple mini greens on each green. The 3rd and 7th actually share a massive green which is a novelty that I always like! You can end up with some extra long putts if you aren’t careful with your irons. If you know where the slopes are, you can fire 20 feet away and the ball will come back towards the hole. On an average day, you probably could take this approach on a third of the holes to get the ball close. I love being able to get creative and the greens allow you to do that! Unfortunately, I didn’t make many putts as the greens seemed tricky to read, for whatever reason. I was fooled all day when picking out the line and speed for my putts.
Sometimes on flatter courses many of the holes blend together. That’s the case on the Senator course as there aren’t too many holes that standout from the rest. Many holes are straight and the majority of the par 4’s are ~400 yards. Even with that the collection of holes is strong, just nothing flashy. The 17th hole is going to be the most memorable hole on the Senator course, and maybe not in the best way. It has water in play and wasn’t my favorite even though I made a par. It is a 515 yard par 5 with a large water hazard guarding the left side on the drive and a fairway that runs out for the bigger hitters. If you hit a good drive you can go for the green in two, but you’ll have a long carry over the hazard which cuts across the hole to the right of the green. It isn’t an easy layup though because of the angle and you might end up with a longer third shot than you’d expect. Even though it is the shortest par 5 on the course it’s one you should be careful playing. While listening to the telecast, the announcers didn’t seem to like this hole very much either!
As you’d expect with a professional tournament in less than a week, the course was in very good shape. The staff took extra care of the course and it showed. The fairways and tees were beautiful, as good as it gets! We were asked not to fill our divots as I guess the maintenance crew goes around and fills the divots with a green sand. That way the course is prettier for TV! The greens rolled well and were smooth, but they had a fine layer of sand on them. It appears that was removed for tournament play, but it just looked a little funny even though it didn’t affect play. If you got above the hole, the greens were very quick.
Out of the eight RTJ Trail courses that we played on the trip, the Senator Course was my favorite. I loved its uniqueness considering the area of the country where it located! Because of the slow pace of play (4.5 hours) and all the prep work going on for the tournament I felt rushed and distracted so I didn’t fully get to enjoy the experience. However, the Senator is worth a stop!
#1 (395 yard par 4):
#2 (204 yard par 3):
#3 (385 yard par 4):
#4 (390 yard par 4):
#5 (563 yard par 5):
#6 (385 yard par 4):
#7 (195 yard par 3):
#8 (530 yard par 5):
#9 (402 yard par 4):
#10 (543 yard par 5):
#11 (400 yard par 4):
#12 (434 yard par 4):
#13 (169 yard par 3):
#14 (426 yard par 4):
#15 (416 yard par 4):
#16 (181 yard par 3):
#17 (515 yard par 5):
#18 (408 yard par 4):