Ross Bridge is not accepting tee times due to an herbicide mix-up that has deteriorated 14 of the course's 18 greens. They do not yet know when they will reopen the golf course.

Ross Bridge in Hoover is one of 11 sites on the Robert Trent Jones (RTJ) Golf Trail in Alabama, operated by Sunbelt Golf Corporation and owned by the Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA).

John Cannon, chairman of the Sunbelt Golf Corporation, told the RSA's Alabama Teachers Retirement Board of Control at its meeting Tuesday morning that "our team has mismanaged an asset in the last couple of weeks."

"We had an accident, a misapplication," Cannon said. "A team of our maintenance people at Ross Bridge did a misapplication of a herbicide and fertilizer on highly-stressed bent grass greens two weeks ago. We've been dealing with this for over a week now. Those greens are slowly deteriorating … 14 out of 18 of them because that's where they changed out the spreader and what went in it. That will have an impact on some of the numbers that you see later."

Cannon said the mistake would "have almost a negligible impact on this end of the fiscal year," but next fiscal year is "yet to be determined." The current fiscal year for state government in Alabama ends on September 30. The next fiscal year begins on October 1.

"We've had to lose one person because of this," Cannon said. "That personally hurts me because that was a dedicated employee who was with us for 24 years right out of college. To lose a man like that because he made a mistake ... it was a mistake that we have systems in place to make sure that never happens. It's never happened before. Those systems we reinforce. I've got to believe … this will never happen again. We take full responsibility for that. You'll see that it will have almost a negligible impact on this end of the fiscal year. Next fiscal year is yet to be determined. We're still going to forecast some not only great results but record results as we have had last year, this year, and we're going to forecast record results for next year as well."

Dr. David Bronner, chief executive officer of the RSA, said concerning the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail that what "hurt us over the years in different years is basically Mother Nature."

"The problem he told you about this year was the first human one we really screwed up," Bronner said.

Cannon told WBRC yesterday that the maintenance staff mistook a one-ton bag of herbicide for green sand and then spread it on almost every green on the property, effectively poisoning the sensitive bent grass.

"That is exactly what happened. Whether we can flush that poison out of the system and regrow the grass to accommodate this fall and next spring's play, that is what we are trying to determine in the next few weeks," Cannon told WRBC. "If that has no progress in the next couple of weeks, we are going to have to start thinking about what our long-term options are." 

According to Sunbelt Golf Corporation, 565,000 rounds have been played in the current fiscal year on the RTJ Trail, and their estimated total for the next fiscal year is 639,000 if the damage to Ross Bridge is easily fixable. If Ross Bridge is under renovation next fiscal year and unplayable, that total number of rounds played would drop to 604,000. 

According to its 2021 annual report, the RSA manages retirement investments for 380,635 retired and active Alabama public employees.

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