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Get your thrills cheap at exceptional Patriot Hills Golf Club in east Tennessee

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

Patriot Hills Golf Club, 30 miles northeast of Knoxville, is a Smoky Mountain golf course that offers large, bentgrass greens, a great layout and cheap green fees.

Patriot Hills Golf Club
Patriot Hills Golf Club is the newest course in the Jefferson County area.
Patriot Hills Golf ClubPatriot Hills in TennesseePatriot Hills in Jefferson City

JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. - Patriot Hills is the newest course in the Jefferson County area and many will tell you it's the best.

There can be little argument about the greens, at least, which have routinely been voted by area golfers as the best around, ever since the golf course opened in the spring of 1997.

The greens are bentgrass, the Cadillac of putting surfaces, and slick and fast as a fat man on a water slide. On top of that, they are large, undulating and have more slope than Klingman's Dome, just a ways south up in the Great Smoky Mountains.

No. 13, a 195-yard par-3, in particular, is a doozy. On the day I visited the course, the group I played with - those who were unfortunate enough to hit above the hole - could do nothing but laugh as putt after putt said hello and goodbye as they sailed by the hole like they were shot out of cannons.

This was only hours after a hard rain, which a reasonable man might think would slow down the greens. Not this course. The greens only seemed to get faster.

"It's about the toughest I've seen it play," said Erik Hutchins, a local high school football coach, who has played the course numerous times.

In fact, this is one of those courses where the old axiom "stay below the hole" is essential. Otherwise, you'll all be comparing notes on your three- and even four-putts.

The rest of the course isn't exactly a walk in the park. Well, actually it is, if you want to consider only the aesthetics of the layout. It's a beautiful course on terrain that is close to spectacular, with views of English Mountain and, further away, the Smokies, when the haze clears.

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 quite a few 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.

Some of the landing areas are blind, when you're hitting uphill, and it is a rare moment when you find yourself with a flat lie.

"It can eat your lunch, especially if you're not used to the greens," said Jim Hutchins, Erik's father. "It can leave you with some mighty big scores. Still, overall, I think it's a fair course."

Patriot Hills Golf Club: The verdict

Patriot Hills is an upscale, public course with green fees of $33 weekdays and $40 weekends, $32 after 2 p.m.

That has to be one of the better bargains anywhere. For a course of this quality, those green fees are outstanding.

The conditioning is first-rate - you could putt off some of the tee boxes - and the service is good. The clubhouse has a wraparound porch with rocking chairs to enjoy the view.

The course isn't located in the most pristine of environments - it sits amidst the largest development in the county - but the homes are rarely intrusive, with a few exceptions.

Patriot Hills is 6,710 yards from the back tees, and it plays longer because of the elevation.

The course is 25 minutes from Knoxville and 35 minutes from Pigeon Forge. Its sister course is the Dandridge Golf and Country Club.

Stay and play

The Point Resort is a sunny, open resort that has a restaurant and marina with suites on a bluff overlooking 23-mile long Lake Douglas.

The lake, surrounded by four counties, is an impressive one, formed in 1943 by damming up the French Broad River.

It has more than 500 miles of shoreline and a surface area of more than 30,000 acres, though it's less now because of the recent drought that's lingered in most of the Southeast.

The lake has all sorts of fish, like largemouth bass, crappie, stripers, walleye and catfish. The marina at the resort rents boats.

The restaurant is a good one, known for its exceptional prime rib. It's mostly glass so the views of the lake are expansive, and it has a big outdoor patio popular at cocktail hour.

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.

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