Good Alabama golf can be found outside of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail

The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail dominates the Alabama golf landscape.

The trail, comprised of an astounding 468 golf holes spread across 11 sites, has created a windfall of tourism development and synergy that never existed in Alabama before its creation in the 1990s.

Did you know there's plenty of great golf off the trail as well?

Almost all of the best non-trail courses form a ring around Birmingham, many designed by former 1976 U.S. Open winner Jerry Pate, a former University of Alabama golfer who used his "Roll Tide" connections to land some key golf construction projects in the state.

Here are the five best Alabama golf courses not on the well traveled RTJ Trail:

Farmlinks, located 50 miles southeast of Birmingham in rural Alabama, has blossomed into one of the more unique golf destinations in the Southeast over the past decade.

This former bull farm is no bull. It's quite good actually. The 7,444-yard golf course, designed by Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry in 2003, is not only beautiful but a living laboratory for the country's superintendents, who come to study the multiple grasses grown on the course.

FarmLinks, ranked no. 1 among public courses by Golfweek in 2013, charges a flat rate for all the golf you can play, all you can drink (non-alcoholic beverages) and lunch. Buddies who want to bond over fishing, hunting, clay shooting or golf can stay in the luxury cottages.

Kiva Dunes , Gulf Shores

When it opened in 1995 to national acclaim, Kiva Dunes launched Pate's design career. This 7,092-yard layout, at one time ranked among the top 100 public courses in the country by Golf Digest, combines scenery with strategic shot-making.

Going low is difficult on a wind-swept site close to the shore. Six holes hug a canal, including a rousing two-hole finish. No. 17, a long par 3, tends to play into the wind with the canal up the left side. The tough par-4 finishing hole turns back around playing downwind.

Guests of the West-Indian-themed resort can unwind at multiple pools, a restaurant or in their vacation rentals, some right on the pristine beach.

Pate added another ace with his Limestone Springs that opened in 1999. The 6,987-yard course rides ridges and runs through valleys across 225 acres 25 miles northeast of Birmingham.

Dramatic elevations provide some picturesque moments. Outcroppings of limestone, man-made ponds and streams keep things interesting during the round. Limestone Springs can easily be combined with golf at the RTJ Trail's Oxmoor Valley in Birmingham.

Sensing a theme here? Yep, Pate designed this 6,745-yard semiprivate course 34 miles south of Birmingham in 2002.

Its rolling land doesn't quite move the soul like Limestone Springs, but its hills and mounds do enhance a solid routing. Timberline is almost directly west of Farmlinks, although there's no way to cross the long and winding Coosa River, so it's a good hour's drive between the two rural golf clubs.

The Capstone Club, located 45 miles southwest of Birmingham, features a fine round of golf. Just be aware of two caveats. It closes in winter, so check the website for reopening dates. Most important to golfers: It won't serve alcohol on Sundays.

Golfers don't need liquor to enjoy its tranquil setting. Combine an affordable round on the 7,032-yard, par-71 course with a splurge stay-and-play at the nearby Renaissance Birmingham Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa in Hoover for a wonderful weekend of golf.

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 700 courses and golf destinations for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Twitter at @WorldGolfer.
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Good Alabama golf can be found outside of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail
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