Sevierville, Tennessee, emerges as strong golf destination with opening of Highlands and River Courses
Sevierville (severe-ville), Tennessee – the hometown of Dolly Parton, moonshine and zipping upside down or right side up through the tree tops at Foxfire Mountain – is not only a hot family destination, it’s recently emerged as a sound golf destination with the opening of Sevierville Golf Club’s Highlands Course and River Course.
A single 18-hole track built in 1994 along with additional land were incorporated into two new layouts that opened this past July. On Highlands, the only remaining holes of the original layout are nos. 6-9 while on River, no. 1 is the old no. 16 and five other holes remain from the old layout.
Both courses share blow-out views of the Great Smoky Mountains plus a new clubhouse with a restaurant, pro shop, patio and locker rooms. Courses are within walking distance of the 600-room Wilderness Resort which contains an expansive indoor and outdoor waterpark and conference center.
The courses feature fast-running bentgrass greens and fairways and a combination of meadows, wetlands, forests and hills while the Little Pigeon River also weaves through the landscape. There are some twisting, crazy quilt kind of routings from greens to tees like between holes 6 and 7 on Highlands and between 5 and 6 on River, but for the most part, the new holes are well integrated into the old.
Teeing up on the first hole of Highlands, the shortest of the tracks at 6,200 yards, Mark Wallace, director of golf said, “If you get by the first five holes with just a bogie or two, you are likely to have a good round.”
Indeed the first hole, a par 5, requires a careful placement on your drive between bunkers on the right and water all along the left to set up your second shot. Long hitters will have a chance at the green while shorter hitters may find an uneven lie amidst mounds.
On Highlands you don’t see a par 3 until the 6th and 8th holes, both 200 yard carries from the back tees which the back nine had four par 3s, the longest no. 16 at 235 yards.
Although short, there is enough water, elevations and tricky greens to make Highlands a challenging and fun play. And with five tees and forwards set at 4,185 yards, it’s a good choice for shorter hitters and family play.
Lower handicappers may prefer the River Course which plays at 7,120 yards from the tips (4,967 forward). Holes #3, 4, and 5 are beauties set on an island bisected by a creek. The River remains links-like until you start climbing into the hills on hole no. 11 where you are dealing with elevations, and carries for the next few holes.
The finishing hole a par 5 downhill with the green tucked behind a pond, is especially strong. With water on the left and bunkers on the right. the safe landing area requires a precision second shot to position yourself to reach the green in regulation.
The price is right too. Green fees with a cart at Highlands and River Islands are but $59 including a cart.
After golf, you are in for a treat. Chef Aaron Ward is one of the better golf clubhouse chefs we’ve come across. From the homemade potato chips – I dare you to stop at just one – to the chocolate gooey cake and just perfect steaks, Ward’s talents are ever evolving with new dishes made from fresh local ingredients. No same old, same old, no tomatoes that taste like cardboard.
Hefty log headboards, burnt orange and brown decor along with thick comfortable mattresses and plasma screen TVs mark the rooms at the Wilderness at the Smokies resort. Check into the Stone Hill Lodge on the crest of a hill adjacent to the Salamander Springs outdoor waterpark where some rooms can accommodate eight people or stay in the multi-bedroom condo-style units at River Lodge next to the Wild Water Dome indoor water park and Lake Wilderness outdoor extravaganza. For more info, see wildernessatthesmokies.com.
Off Course: Although the closest you may get to Dolly Parton is a photo opp in front of her bronze statue on the lawn of the County Courthouse, you’ll find other things quite accessible like gospel music, finger-lickin’ fried chicken and BBQ along with good golf at affordable prices at not only the two Sevierville courses but other tracks like River Islands Golf Club, Gatlinburg Country Club and Bent Creek Golf Course.
This is a place you can come not only to tee it up, but to bring your family even if they don’t play the game. The Wilderness Resort’s indoor and outdoor waterparks are for anyone who likes to plummet down the winding Storm Chaser tunnel or surf on a five-foot ocean wave in the indoor Water Park.
“Off-camps” the Smokey Mountains are smokin’ with off-course things to do in the Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg area: Dollywood theme park with the giant roller coasters, old mining buildings and Craftsman Valley; zipline adventures on Foxfire Mountain; fly fishing with the Smoky Mountain Angler in local rivers and world class shows like the Chinese acrobats in Cirque de Chine.
Shoppers track down bargains at the upscale Tanger Outlet Mall where you can find heavily discounted items in Calvin Klein, Brooks Brothers, Coach and other stores – would you believe Polo shirts for 18.95? And along Rt. 66, you pass the Sexy Stuff Stuff store next to a gas station next to a fireworks outlet and just down the road, the Christian Outlet Center.
Tony Gore’s Smoky Mountain BBQ & Grill is a gotta-go spot for food. Tony, a well known gospel singer as well as cook and concert promoter, throws big parties under a tent in his “Dinner on the Ground Concert Series” where many performers as well as Tony himself entertain.
But even when there is no music, people come here to chow down on Tony’s legendary smoked pork, hand-breaded chicken tenders, hushpuppies and his homemade cakes and pies he bakes himself from his grandmother’s recipes. The coconut cake we had was gooey, fluffy and still warm from the oven. “I baked three of them today,” he said.
Another fun place for Southern-fried food is Clint’s BBQ & Country Cookin’ where there is often live music and you are surrounded by a vast collection of signs and memorabilia including a huge Texaco sign.
A smart place to start your discovery of this area is a stop at the new Sevierville Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center on Highway 66. Click here for more information on Sevierville.
(Below: Dollywood and Sevierville Golf Club at sunrise.)
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