Sweetens Cove is a 9 hole golf course nestled in a valley near South Pittsburg, Tennessee. When I first visited the course back in 2012, I was extremely excited to see what my good friend Rob Collins had been working on. Little did I know that what I was about to see was going to blow me away and change my opinion on golf course architecture.
I remember walking up to the first tee at Sweetens Cove and being overwhelmed by the golf landscape. At this elevation I had a great view of the neighboring greens, bunkers and sandy waste areas, as well as the surrounding hills. The preservation of the towering trees was especially pleasing and in my mind the perfect tie-in of golf and natural landscape.
As we walked the site I was impressed with the undulating fairways and how the bold contours promote a ground game to the green, while providing a variety of stances and shot making decisions. The tightly mown fairway cut and the absence of rough are a great facilitator for fast and firm playing conditions and it starts to set the theme.
Throughout the course, I could not help but notice the individualized detail given to each bunker. In this day and age it’s rare to see so much attention given to bunker detailing. These hazards have a very natural style and character, taking the fullest advantage of all that the local landscape has to offer. I enjoyed the timber bunker shoring that adds variety and gives the bunkers that rugged and classic look, reminiscent of the old courses of the British Isles. I couldn’t help but notice the thoroughly thought out placement of each bunker, serving a strategic purpose in the play of each hole.
As I approached each greensite, I was captivated by the contours of the green surfaces. The greens have many pinable areas that provide enjoyable putting challenges and are perfectly receptive to a variety of shot types. They reminded me of greens designed by Donald Ross and Alister MacKenzie, which is a feat in itself. The chipping areas surrounding the greens give a multitude of short game options, as I wouldn’t hesitate to use my putter out of these areas in certain situations. I was also intrigued by the number of different classic style greens, especially the Biarritz #8 and the Redan #9. The par three 4th hole with its massive 20,000 sqft green protected by savior bunkers and its amphitheater tee complex is the epitome of infinite variety, something that every golf course architect strives for.
Sweetens Cove has solid strategy infused within its core. Rob and his partner Tad King have given the golfer several alternate routes to the green, while creating lines of charm for the bold golfer. Sweetens attains an optimum balance by avoiding a repetitive string of holes, following a similar pattern. They have created a course that is enjoyable for all ages and skill levels, while at the same time challenging any level of play. This course with keep the individual challenged and wanting to come back to uncover its hidden subtleties. When it comes down to it, this course will charm you.
So, from Dan, Riley and I, we wish Rob and Tad all the best leading up to the grand opening of Sweetens Cove Golf Club on October 17th!