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Great Smoky Mountains boast excellent golf courses that'll go easy on your wallet

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

Golfers will find plenty to explore the Great Smoky Mountains. With courses such as Sevierville Golf Club, Lost Creek, Gatlinburg Municipal Golf Course and Patriot Hills, the Smoky Mountains boast excellent, affordable golf.

Great Smoky Mountains
A playground to Davy Crockett, the Great Smoky Mountains and their environs boast excellent golf courses.
Great Smoky MountainsGatlinburg Municipal Golf Course

MORRISTOWN, Tenn. - Let's see, there's the Davy Crockett Car Wash, the Davy Crockett Tavern and the Davy Crockett Hoot 'n Holler Bar and Grill.

And not one coonskin cap. For that, you have to go to the Cherokee Indian Reservation.

Yo, Davy: Morristown, where you grew up killing bears when you were three, isn't the wild frontier any more. You can buy Doc Martens at the mall.

I'm still waiting for the Davy Crockett Golf and Country Club.

The golf businesses in this part of the country has yet to cash in on the legendary name of the frontiersman and politician, though there is the 36-hol Sevierville Golf Club and Lost Creek G.C., which is getting pretty close.

But they do cash in on another great tourist attraction: the Great Smoky Mountains, where Crockett roamed and did whatever there was to do back in the 19th century. Skin b'ars, I guess.

Pretty much every golf course in the area is either in the Smokies or has views of them. I visited these mountains when I was only a few years older than the child-bear-killer, and they've stuck with me all these years.

They haven't changed. The mist still clings to the hollows in the early mornings and rolls across the peaks during the days. Klingman's Dome is still magnificent, and bears still roam the woods, evidenced by the small mountains of scat I saw on a brutal and slightly creepy hike through the mountains.

There is some very good mountain golf up here. If you're a mountain golf fan who lives in the East, you don't have to go to Phoenix or Nevada to get your fix.

The Smokies aren't that far away from almost anywhere in the East, and I can guarantee you your wallet will be a lot lighter. Besides, can you see Dolly Parton in Las Vegas? Okay, well, probably.

But, you have to see Dolly in her native habitat to appreciate her. Actually, Dolly only does a couple of shows a year at Dollywood, in Pigeon Forge. She only makes a small percentage, lending her name to the spectacle.

But back to the golf. The city of Gatlinburg built Gatlinburg Municipal Golf Course years ago, before Pigeon Forge exploded into that tasteful and dignified tourist attraction it is today. Gatlinburg still owns the course, though it's in the heart of Pigeon Forge.

It is an excellent course that plays longer than its 6,282 yards from the tips, and some of the greens have serious elevation, like No. 11, in which you have to club up on your approach - right before you club down on the No. 12 tee.

No. 12, nicknamed "Sky High," is a par-3 that has a sheer vertical drop. A sign advises you to use your 165-yard club if you're hitting from the 195-yard back tees. Tee shots are lost in the clouds before plummeting almost straight down to earth from what seems like hundreds of feet in the sky. Balls regularly plug in the green, half-buried, for those fortunate few who manage to hit it.

"It's crazy," said Farah Griffith, playing with her husband, Scott, both of Tennessee. "But, it's cool."

Green fees: $57 weekends and $47 weekdays. Compare that to, say, We Ko Pa, outside of Phoenix, which has green fees approaching $200.

Then there is Patriot Hills, a gorgeous golf course on terrain that is close to spectacular, with views of English Mountain and, further away, the Smokies.

It has the sort of elevation you look for in a mountain course; you'll be hitting up and down all day, traversing the dramatic hills and mounds, and you'll get dizzy trying to figure out how much to club up or down. The elevated tees and greens are nice vantage points to enjoy the scenery.

The fairways wriggle like garter snakes, and the tees show you awkward and tricky angles. If you're a veteran of the course, you can use those slopes and angles to your advantage; if not - hit it and go find it.

Green fees: $33 weekdays and $40 weekends. Compare that to, say, Pete Dye's Wolf course at the Paiute Golf Resort outside Las Vegas, where a round will run you well over $200.

Now, you may not get the service or fancy clubhouses, and I'm not saying these courses are on a par with the famous desert courses out West, but this is quality mountain golf, and they're closer to home for us Easterners.

Plus, discounts for those wearing coonskin caps.

Tim McDonaldTim McDonald, Contributor

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Smoky Mountain Chalets

    Dave Dusel wrote on: Nov 14, 2007

    When going to the Smokies for golf, bring additional couples and rent one of the many chalets. There are many golf courses in the area and many outlet malls, the wives won't mind if you play 36 holes each day. Almost all chalets have hot tubes, pool tables, gas grills, separate bedrooms with baths and a peaceful setting. With full kitchens, the only meals out could be at one of the many great restaurants in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville. (With golf and dining so reasonable, even the damages at the outlet malls won't bankrupt you)


  • Smoky Mountain Golf

    Dave Dusel wrote on: Nov 14, 2007

    You can find many other courses in the Smokies like the quirky Bent Creek Golf Resort, designed by Gary Player, located in Cobly Nob, East of Gatlinburg, further up the road in Newport, TN is the Smoky Mountain Country Club.
    Dandridge Golf and Country Club in Danridge TN,is close to its sister course Patriot Hills and boasts 27 holes with views of Douglas Lake and the Smokies.
    The quiet side of the Smokies, Townsend,TN, has Laurel Valley, Beware-one of the holes- you must hit from a tee box over the road to the fairway beyond. Allow cars the right of way. Closer in to Knoxville-Three Ridges and Ruggles Ferry and River Islands(Arthur Hill's design)offer many challenges. There are many others, but the fun is finding them and experiencing mountain golf for yourself.


  • Pigeon Forge area golf

    Kiel Christianson wrote on: Jul 31, 2007

    I reviewed Eagle's Landing several years ago, and was impressed:
    The BEST course in the area, though, is Arthur Hills's River Islands in Kodak:
    And finally: Is the description of Pigeon Forge as "tasteful" just a teensy bit ironic?