Baneberry Golf & Resort's remote location in Tennessee's stunning Great Smoky Mountains makes it an excellent destination for a laidback golf/fishing getaway. It's close - but not too close - to Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.
BANEBERRY, Tenn. - Baneberry - both the town and the golf resort - isn't really close to anything, yet not too far from some things.
And that's sort of the idea.
Baneberry Golf & Resort is out in the sticks of Jefferson County, down the road a piece from Dandridge, which is not exactly a booming metropolis itself.
It's well away from the congestion of the Smoky Mountain tourist hotbeds of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, a pleasant, pastoral setting with rolling hills and nice views of the mountains when the haze clears.
But a fairly short drive will take you into those places - and you know the kids will want to go - as well as into the heart of the Great Smokies themselves. The resort is also only seven miles from two interstate highways and 40 miles from Knoxville.
It's a growing area, but sparsely populated as of now, and the golf course survives nicely by putting together golf packages for northerners looking to extend their golf seasons.
With Lake Douglas, and its stripers, nearby, it's an ideal spot for a laidback golf/fishing getaway with the option of taking in Dollywood in Pigeon Forge or, for the more nature-oriented, hikes in the dazzling mountains.
"If we had to depend on local play only, we'd be in a difficult position," said Dick Kammann, one of four brothers who own and manage the operation. "The groups that come seem to come back every year."
It's easy to see why. Golfers can stay at either the small hotel or golf villas alongside the fairway. They can drive their carts to their villas and even take their coolers with them out on the course. How many resorts allow that? Answer: Not many.
The course itself was built back in the 70s and has been through several changes of ownership, being once owned by the notorious Butcher family, who eventually ended up in trouble with the law due to some financial shenanigans unrelated to the golf course.
The Kammann brothers took it over in the mid-80s, and conditions have steadily improved to the point where it is now one of the more popular golf courses in the area.
The course itself is located on a peninsula that extends out in the Lake Douglas portion of the French Broad River, though there are no spectacular water views. It is well-treed, though, with white pines and Norwegian firs, and even some weeping willows, lining most of the fairways.
Deer and turkey are commonly sighted. In fact, golfers are sometimes held up by a family of grazing deer that lives in the neighborhood. The course has very good elevation in spots, while other holes are relatively flat. Most of the tee boxes have a variety of flowers, a nice touch.
"The course is beautiful in the spring, when everything blooms together," Phil Kammann said.
Baneberry is definitely a resort course, not overly taxing, though its version of "Amen Corner," Nos. 11, 12 and 13, will make even the best golfers focus.
No. 11 is a 428-yard par-4 dogleg where you either hit over a deep valley up to a small landing area on a hill, or try to carry the corner, if you're a boomer. Your approach is over another valley up to a small, elevated green that falls off hard to the left.
After a tough par 3, No. 13 is a difficult par-4 dogleg right with two ponds, the last of which must be carried to get into the green.
Baneberry has excellent bentgrass greens, though they were a tad on the slow side the day I played due to recent rains.
It's a good play for the resort set, who don't want to get beat up, but there are some holes that can send your scorecard soaring. Bunkers are few, with a couple of exceptions, and water comes into play on several holes, but doesn't dominate the layout.
The course has a nice driving range - which can't always be taken for granted here in east Tennessee. And the folks are friendly as all get-out.
Baneberry Golf & Resort is one of the more laidback golf resorts you're likely to find, even for Tennessee.
"This is not Myrtle Beach," said Phil Kammann.
The hotel is small, but the rooms are roomy and comfortable and the villas are large, with two bedrooms, two baths, outdoor patios and barbecue grills.
The resort has tennis courts and a large swimming pool, and there is a boat ramp with access to the big lake.
There's an excellent restaurant on the grounds, Angelo's Tavern on the Green, and an inviting dark wood-paneled bar.
Also, an attractive option for the ladies is the Fairway Facials, with massages available.
December 6, 2007