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Book details
  • Genre:TRAVEL
  • SubGenre:United States / South / General
  • Language:English
  • Pages:400
  • Hardcover ISBN:9798350956757

The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail

Its History and Economic Impact, Second Edition

by Mark Fagan

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The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail (The Trail) is the largest golf course construction project at one time in history. The Trail is a series of 11 public golf complexes (450 holes), 8 resort hotels (2,150 rooms), and 6 world-class spas in Alabama financed and developed by Alabama's public employee pension fund to increase jobs and tax revenue. This book is a comprehensive account on how this one-of-a-kind state-wide investment was conceived and has evolved. The Trail is presented as a vehicle for implementing Alabama's public pension fund's investment diversification, economic development strategy, and revenue generation for employer contributions for its members. It preserves the history of this massive development in Alabama for historians, economic developers, politicians, academicians, journalists, golfers, and the public. This detailed history of The Trail could not have been written without years of economic analysis by author Mark Fagan, dating to the earliest stages of the concept. Fagan's ongoing involvement with those working to develop The Trail for the last 35 years made the mammoth history presented in this book possible.


This book tells how a bold, imaginative investment from a public employee pension fund turned into a world-class tourist attraction that revitalized Alabama's image and economy. This was an "economically targeted investment" designed to diversify returns, create jobs, and increase tax revenue. Thirty-four years later, The Trail is known worldwide for the quality and beauty of its courses and the hospitality and elegance of its resorts. The Trail has significantly increased Alabama's infrastructure for tourism and conventions, provided billions of dollars in new tax revenue, spurred construction of thousands of units of adjacent housing, and helped persuade new businesses to locate to Alabama.

Development of golf courses, hotels, and spas on The Trail; the ancillary residential and commercial development; the unprecedented promotion of Alabama through RSA media companies; and the resulting free publicity has combined as the most significant economic event in Alabama since the development of railroads, electricity, and air transportation. The U.S. Defense Department and NASA, expansion of automotive and aerospace industries, maritime shipping development, and the cultivation of tourism on Alabama beaches have been important developments, but their impact has been concentrated in the areas where the activities were based.

Before this book, the story of The Trail was only documented in newspapers, magazines, television stories, marketing literature, media advertisements, newsletters, and annual reports. This significant component of modern Alabama's economy was doomed to being buried in microfilmed newspaper and magazine articles in public libraries. This book is an illustrated historical account of the financial, legal, political, and economic impact details of this mammoth economic development project. It explains the background research justifying its development as part of an economic development strategy. Information is presented on RSA and its investments. Financial information on the construction of The Trail is included as well as the major parties involved in its development. Information on the economic impact of The Trail is displayed. The unique development process at each site on The Trail is presented which includes a blend of public-private partnerships with participatory planning for local economic development. The chronology at each site on The Trail includes politicians; land donors; construction contractors; agreements; and development phases for the golf complex, hotels, and residential communities. Photos of sites in pre-construction, early-stage construction, and renovations are used to illustrate the development of The Trail.

This book captures The Trail's history for golfers, journalists, developers, historians, politicians, and anyone interested in the business of golf. The first edition of this book was published in 2016 with content that was 10 years old by 2024. This second edition is a significant change in style from the first edition and includes updated information on the last third of The Trail's history (not found in the first edition). The second edition includes updated information on RSA (including their media investments) and The Trail golf courses, hotels, spas, and residential communities for the last 10 years. Updates include golf course renovations, hotel refurbishments, residential expansion, and increased utilization and recognition at The Trail sites. This second edition has an expanded section of photos of The Trail under construction and an expanded history of RSA hotels and commercial buildings. This second edition's more current and succinct economic impact demonstrates The Trail's 34-year impact.

About the author

Mark Fagan earned a degree in psychology and economics at Jacksonville State University (JSU), then received his Master's and Doctoral degrees in social policy along with a doctoral minor in Human Resources Management at the University of Alabama. He retired from JSU as Professor Emeritus in 2012 with 32 years teaching and managing the Department of Sociology and Social Work. He has assisted in efforts for economic development in Alabama, and has written extensively about economic impacts, economic history, and retirement development for 39 years. His research on migrating retirees was used to establish the Alabama program to attract retirees. 

His work on attracting retirees was used as partial justification for developing The Trail. Beginning in 1991, his work on The Trail included: assisting negotiations for 3 of the golf complexes; completing projected economic impact studies for 5 of the golf complexes; providing justification for State funding for access roads for 4 of the golf complexes; assisting with housing development at 4 of the golf complexes; assisting JSU to launch the first website for The Trail in 1995; writing 35 articles, 17 encyclopedia entries, and making 11 presentations about The Trail; receiving publicity in 24 publications for work on The Trail; being interviewed by The Golf Channel with the story broadcast worldwide during of The Barbasol Championship in 2017 (at Grand National); and appearing on 16 television programs and four radio programs discussing The Trail.

Mark has now published 10 books and has been a consistent resource for national news media outlets concerning retirees and retirement strategies.