Grand National, Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail

Grand National Golf Course in Opelika The Grand National in Opelika, Lee County, is a 54-hole golf complex opened in August 1992 as the fourth site on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. It was developed by the Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA) and is operated by SunBelt Golf.

There are two championship 18-hole courses, Lake Course and Links Course, and one 18-hole par-3 Short Course with tree-lined fairways and gently sloped terrain. The existing topography was preserved, and four bridges were constructed across Lake Saugahatchee as part of the courses. The Short Course has scenic waterfront holes, with two-thirds of them flanked by water. The facility’s 35,000-square-foot clubhouse is located on a knoll overlooking the lake with water visible on three sides of the building. It has a golf shop, dining room, grill, meeting rooms, and a 15-acre practice range.

Robert Trent Jones Grand National is the home course for Auburn University golf teams. Major tournaments played there have included the Nike Tour Championship, Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Tournament of Champions, National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I Championship, and the Professional Golf Association (PGA) Barbasol Championship (2015-2017). These tournaments were broadcast by television and showcased Opelika and Auburn to millions of national and international viewers, furthering RSA’s goal to promote the state of Alabama.

Located on former farmland and secondary-growth forest near Auburn University and I-85, the complex is situated on 1,300 acres of woodlands. Much of the course surrounds 600-acre Lake Saugahatchee, the primary drinking-water source for Opelika and Lee County. The Opelika Water Board leases 650 acres to RSA at no cost for the golf complex and the city of Opelika constructed the two-mile-long entrance road and extended utilities to the clubhouse. Opelika annexed the property into city limits. The lake is largely unaffected by the course and maintains its primary purpose as a reservoir. It also remains open for boating and fishing with golf holes connected by bridges high enough for boats to pass underneath.

Grand National In 2002, RSA partnered with the city of Opelika and opened the Auburn Marriott Opelika Resort and Conference Center and later expanded it with additional rooms and spa facilities. The resort has 214 guest rooms and 15 suites overlooking the lake and golf course, 15,000 square feet of event space, and a 96-seat amphitheater. The facility features a renovated 4,200-square-foot pool complex with three saltwater pools, a splash pad, a bar, five cabanas, whirlpools, two waterfalls, and fire pits. The hotel complex features an indoor pool, hot tub, fitness center, restaurant, sports bar, outdoor eating area, and tennis and pickle ball courts.

Auburn Marriott Opelika Resort and Conference Center In 2009, Marriott International recognized this resort as the Number One Franchise Marriott Hotel in North America. Of Marriott’s 634 classic premium hotels in North America, the company designated six as Hotels of the Year in 2017, including the Grand National. The Hotel of the Year Award is selected based on the hotel’s guest satisfaction, market share, employee opinion surveys, and financial performance. This hotel also was named and Editors’ Choice Golf Resort by Golf Digest. In 2012, the newly renovated pool was recognized by Convention South as one of their “Best New or Renovated Facilities” awards. The spa was named “Number 53 on the List of the 100 Best Spas in North America in 2018” by the Spas of America travel site and U.S. News & World Report (2021) ranked it number 14 of the top 25 hotels in Alabama.

RSA bought 700 acres of land along the access road to Grand National for developing its National Village recreational/retirement community. In 2006, the Opelika City Council approved plans for 1,400 homes and condominiums divided into seven neighborhoods, a village center with retail shops, restaurants, loft condos, and green space with lakes and trails. RSA contracted with local builder Conner Brothers Construction to build the houses. Residents have access to the recreational amenities at the adjacent Marriott resort.

Additional Resources

Fagan, Mark. The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail: Its History and Economic Impact. Montgomery, Ala.: NewSouth Books, 2016.

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