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Pigeon Forge's Gatlinburg Municipal Golf Course will make you forget about Dollywood

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

Located in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, Gatlinburg Municipal Golf Course is one of those Smoky Mountain courses that is worth taking time off from Dollywood. Gatlinburg wows with views and tantalizes with a mixture of ease and difficulty.

Gatlinburg Municipal Golf Course
A view of Gatlinburg Municipal Golf Course's par-3 12th, nicknamed "Sky High."
Gatlinburg Municipal Golf CourseGatlinburg Municipal Golf CourseGatlinburg Municipal Golf Course

PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. - Gatlinburg Municipal Golf Course is actually located in Pigeon Forge, home of Dolly Parton's Dollywood, but it is owned by the city of Gatlinburg, home of Ripley's Believe It or Not and every other tourist attraction in the shadows of the Great Smoky Mountains.

Confused? Wait 'til you get on the golf course.

You can stand on most fairways on this public course and fall over, if you aren't careful. Most of the fairways could double as ski slopes in the winter - they bend, twist, rock and roll like Elvis on vodka.

Parts of the course feel like rural Tennessee: long, lonesome cart rides up and down through leafy, deciduous trees growing on the sides of mountains. Other sections are a mite too close to the heavy traffic whizzing by on Dollywood Lane, jam-packed with tourists hell-bent on their way to see their beloved Dolly and her great gifts, both natural and unnatural.

One thing isn't confusing: Gatlinburg is a terrific public course, one that both wows you with its views and tantalizes you with its mixture of ease and difficulty.

Those last two come in the form of the many hills and mountains, some of which line one or the other side of most fairways and sometimes both. Those high hills can funnel wayward tee shots back toward the fairway, but they can also obstruct your view from the tee and often become hazards themselves.

"The fairways seem to help you out, the way they funnel your ball off the hills, if you can take advantage of it," said Brian Palmer of Knoxville. "It's certainly challenging. I think the layout is great."

I would be remiss if I did not mention one hole right now that sort of sums up this course: No. 12, nicknamed "Sky High." It's a par 3 that starts high in the Smokies and ends somewhere down near China. It's a sheer, vertical drop that will make those prone to vertigo take their medication.

It's a spectacular as well as intimidating hole.

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."

Gatlinburg Municipal Golf Course: The verdict

Gatlinburg is an excellent public course, even now when a trailer serves as a temporary clubhouse while a new one is being built.

It's only 6,282 yards from the tips, but the elevation makes some holes, and the course overall, play much longer. 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. Those two holes will have you rummaging through your golf bag.

If you miss the No. 1 green to the right, you'll end up in Knoxville. No. 9 is a short par 5, but it features a blind landing area with hills on both sides directing your ball back to a fairway that keeps narrowing stubbornly to about 20 yards in width. It would be a great place for an ambush.

No. 17 is a 231-yard, uphill par-3 in which it isn't unusual to see some golfers pulling out driver. The only substantive water is on the closing hole, a dogleg left, where you hit off the tee uphill, then over a lake to the green.

The course is in great shape, both fairways and greens. The greens are large and undulating, some with some challenging slope, and the bentgrass rolls very true.

Gatlinburg is a must play for any golfer traveling though the area. Tell them Dolly sent you.

Stay and play

River Stone Resort in Pigeon Forge overlooks the Gatlinburg course, and is at the center of all the Pigeon Forge action, but with terrific views of the nearby Smokies.

Rental condos have one to four bedrooms, and you can choose the golf course, the Pigeon River or mountains to gaze at.

There is a full-service spa and meeting spaces with a four adjoining banquet rooms, each measuring 900 square feet.

They specialize in weddings, but best of all - it's right down the street from Dollywood!

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
  • its a nice course you say?

    ottomaddog wrote on: Oct 5, 2007

    i live 5 miles from it and i wouldn't know. i live and work here, and i can't even come close to affording the fees.
    the course is in pigeon forge, but if you live in pigeon forge, you don't get a local discount, only if you live in gatlinburg. and then its a 5 dollar discount. i suggest that when you play this course, you ask other people where they are from, almost all of them are tourists, the locals can't afford to play their own course. of course there are some professional people who can afford it, but it would be nice for people like me, who make all the money for the people who inherited it from their parents, to have a chance to play once in a while.