Highlands Nine Course Highland Oaks is a 36-hole golf course in west Dothan, Houston County, that opened in July 1993 as the fifth site on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail (The Trail). It was developed by the Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA) and is operated by SunBelt Golf.
Located on U.S. Highway 84 near U.S. Highway 231 and one hour north of Interstate 10, Highland Oaks has three nine-hole courses, Highlands, Magnolia, and Marshwood, and one nine-hole Short Course. They meander through rolling hills, streams, and forests and around 20-acre Wheelless Lake. The Highlands Nine features rolling terrain and two lakes and water hazards on five holes. The Marshwood Nine has wetlands on five holes and four tee shots requiring players to hit over marsh areas. The Magnolia Nine travels from low-lying wetlands to higher ground and through a hardwood forest with clusters of magnolia trees. There is a 1,000-foot-long wooden bridge that spans a marsh filled with lichen-draped trees. The Short Course Nine has three holes near water. The driving range has an area to practice a variety of golf shots and two large putting greens. A 22,000-square-foot clubhouse features a golf shop, dining room, meeting rooms, and cart storage underneath. The wrap-around veranda has dining and bar areas and provides views of the lake at the rear. There is no RSA hotel affiliated with this complex.
Marshwood Course In October 1990, RSA chief executive officer David G. Bronner expressed an interest in a site in Dothan on The Trail. Discussions soon followed with Dothan mayor Mark Saliba about possible sites. Local developer and landowner Hugh Wheelless Jr. donated 425 acres for the golf complex, and the city of Dothan constructed the access road and utilities to the clubhouse. The Wheelless property, then used for farming, also had a 3,500-foot paved air strip, Wheelless Airfield, for flight training, crop dusting, and contract work. It was in operation from 1965 until 1992 and the land was redeveloped for residential use, sitting adjacent to the golf course on its eastern edge.
In 1992, Wheelless began developing housing on 775 acres adjacent to the golf complex. More than four miles of roads were built, including the mile-long entrance road to the clubhouse. This housing component includes almost 1,400 houses and apartments. Wheelless also donated property near Highlands Oaks for a 600-student elementary school and two public parks. The golf complex and housing prompted demand for motels and restaurants that have been developed nearby.
Fagan, Mark. The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail: Its History and Economic Impact. Montgomery, Ala.: NewSouth Books, 2016.