Southern Finery

written by | Posted on March 1st, 2011

The Spa at Colonial Williamsburg image

The Spa at Colonial Williamsburg

Alabama started attracting national groups with the birth of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. Namesake golf course design guru Robert Trent Jones envisioned the Trail as his version of a Michelangelo masterpiece. The owners, PCH Hotels & Resorts, saw the 1992 opening of the first courses as a precursor to attracting corporate business. Both dreams came true. Today, the collection of links numbers 26 courses with 468 holes at 11 locations across Alabama, including eight full-service Marriott and Renaissance hotels located either directly on the Trail or just minutes away.

The PCH hotels range from 90 to over 400 guestrooms; they offer a variety of meeting space and fine dining restaurants; and most offer European-style spas. But as is common throughout the South, it’s the spectacular and affordable golf product that lures many a meeting professional.

Golf pro and events planner Pete Malphrus, owner of Industry Solutions, brought a group to the 4-diamond, 259-room Renaissance Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa for just that combination of excellence. Consistently ranked high among guests for its world’s 4th longest golf course, upscale spa and amenities, the Renaissance Ross Bridge melds 1920’s styling with modern conveniences and 20,000 sf of meeting space.

“Over time, my groups have evolved to concentrate less on just golf to being at facilities that also have excellent accommodations, food and beverage, well-stocked pro shops for our shopping spree prize programs, and people willing to work with a non-traditional sized group for shotgun start events—64-72 instead of 96-144 players,” says Malphrus. He and his corporate partner for the past 20 years produce four regional golf events a year. “Ross Bridge has good meeting space, quality food service and the staff is as warm and friendly as any I’ve dealt with.”

His groups are typically 95% male owners of multiple convenience and grocery stores, tobacco shops and distribution chains; and, they’re golfers of every skill level. He first used Ross Bridge in May and it was the first time 100% of invitees attended. He believes the easy transfer from Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport 20 minutes away and the fact that the annual PGA Senior Tour was held at Ross Bridge the week before were likely the impetus. “We think the average golfer wants to say he played on the same Robert Trent Jones course he’d just seen the pros play on TV,” says Malphrus.

Was it really all that?

“Every person I met there, from catering to registration to the golf staff who set up the event, I’d give them A’s across the board. It’s rare for us to return to a facility immediately, but we’ll be back in May.”

Golf was not on the agenda for the home décor/entertaining company, Willow House, and their direct sales group of 275 at Ross Bridge for an annual training session. Pam Scott, Director of Sales, said her group of 98% women wanted a “warm, hospitable resort feel and lots of time spent relaxing at the spa.”

They found it in the “lobby’s inviting fireplace, expansive terrace, and cut stone walls that make you feel like you’re in a Scottish castle,” she says. “There’s even a bagpiper who plays nightly.”

Did they enjoy the 12,000-sf spa with 14 softly lit treatment rooms lade in bamboo flooring? How about the unique Ross Bridge Combination Steam Table/Vichy Shower for the Mud Body Wrap and Seaweed Mineral treatments?

Let’s just say her “Aah!” means yes. She adds that a meeting planner needs “a staff who aids an event’s success. Willow House is about hospitality and the staff offered that. Chef’s food was phenomenal; Southern down-home wonderful. Not typical banquet fare. We’re definitely returning.”

PCH’s Grand Hotel Marriott Resort, Golf Club & Spa in Point Clear, also along the RTJ Trail, has been known throughout the South as The Queen of Southern Resorts since 1847. The hotel salutes its history as a confederate hospital in the Civil War by maintaining a cemetery for 300 soldiers near the 18th tee of The Grand’s Azalea course, as well as a daily patriotic military salute and cannon firing. Golfers can also opt for the 7,620 yard, 72-par Dogwood course.

Within the 550 acres of the 4-diamond property, there are 405 guestrooms in five buildings, 37,000 sf of meeting space that includes 23 meeting rooms, and the 20,000-sf spa, ranked one of Marriott’s top spas for guest satisfaction in the country. For a tantalizing treatment, we like the Ahshiatsu Barefoot Massage.

“Aah,” is right.