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The best courses you can play in Tennessee

September 09, 2022

More than ever, Tennessee is on the radar for golf travelers, thanks in large part to the almost-cult-like following of Sweetens Cove, the King-Collins-designed nine-holer outside Chattanooga. But the public golf in Tennessee is about much more than Sweetens Cove.

Just a year before Sweetens opened, another nine-holer, the Course at Sewanee, reopened after an extensive Gil Hanse redesign on the campus of the University of the South, located on the Cumberland plateau between Nashville and Chattanooga. If not for Sweetens, Sewanee might be golf’s buzzy nine-hole wonder. Regardless, the two nine-holers are just about 30 minutes from each other—making for one of the most unique 18-hole days you can find.

This is not even to mention the plethora of other great golf in the Volunteer State. Elevation changes against the mountains and a plethora of natural wildlife features make the rest of the public golf in Tennessee worth seeking out. We’ve captured the best of the best public golf, according to our course-ranking panelists as part of our newly relaunched Places to Play franchise. Explore our new, searchable Places to Play hub, complete with course reviews from our panelists.

Sweetens Cove Golf Club
Public
Sweetens Cove Golf Club
South Pittsburg
The nine-holer just 30 miles west of Chattanooga is probably the buzziest nine-hole course in the U.S. Designed by King-Collins and now with financial backing by prominent golfers such as Peyton Manning, Sweetens Cove offers numerous alternative routings, allowing the course to be played several ways. The laidback atmosphere defies country-club tradition and encourages players to wear whatever they want—even allowing golfers to bring their dog along for the round. The course itself features generous fairways and massive, undulating greens that reward imagination and creativity.
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The Course At Sewanee
Public
The Course At Sewanee
Sewanee
It doesn't quite get the buzz as another nine-holer just 30 minutes away, but golf's hottest architect, Gil Hanse, did an extensive redesign of this nine-hole track in 2013. Though Hanse kept Sewanee’s original routing, he redesigned all nine greens, added new bunkers and created a new set of tees. The impressively rugged-yet-refined bunkering, prominent undulations and stunning vistas—most notably on the third and fifth holes—all give this layout character.
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Mirimichi Golf Course
Public
Mirimichi Golf Course
Millington
19 Panelists
This challenging layout less than 15 miles north of Memphis was once owned by Justin Timberlake. A relatively flat course, Mirimichi can play over 7,400 yards from the tips and not only defends itself with its length, but uses meandering streams, deep-faced bunkers and numerous lakes to challenge the better player. Though the course might be unrelenting for some, the natural setting among tall native grasses guarantees a peaceful, enjoyable walk.
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Stonehenge Golf Course
Public
Stonehenge Golf Course
Crossville
Named for the natural rock outcroppings that come into play on several holes, Stonehenge features numerous doglegs working in both directions. Not a particularly long layout, the course rewards strategic shot placement to navigate the many doglegs. The signature 14th hole plays dramatically downhill to a relatively small green set in front of a lake, guarded by an impressive 15-foot-tall rock wall. The course offers beautiful views of the surrounding lakes, streams and mountains throughout.
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Hermitage Golf Course: President's Reserve
Just outside Nashville, President’s Reserve at Hermitage Golf Course offers wide and forgiving fairways with few doglegs, allowing players to hit a variety of shot shapes. There are plenty of risk-reward opportunities, including at the reachable par-5 18th—hug the water on the left to have a chance to get home in two or play safely out to the right, likely making it a three-shot hole. Many holes play along the scenic Cumberland River.
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Bear Trace at Cumberland Mountain
Part of the Tennessee Golf Trail, this Jack Nicklaus design at Cumberland Mountain State Park meanders through valleys and features plenty of elevation changes. Several holes require forced carries over creeks and barrancas to undulating greens, many of which are set into hillsides. Several of the par 5s are reachable with two well-struck shots, offering exciting risk-reward opportunities.
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Greystone Golf Club
Public
Greystone Golf Club
Dickson
Less than 40 miles west of Nashville, Greystone was designed by 10-time PGA Tour winner Mark McCumber. A past host of PGA Tour Q-school and numerous Tennessee State Opens, Greystone features plenty of elevation changes and plays among numerous mounds, which often leave players with uneven lies. Natural tall grass frames many of the holes, lurking to penalize wayward shots.
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Tennessee Grasslands Golf and Country Club: Foxland Links
The Foxland Links course is one of two Bill Bergin designs at Tennessee Grasslands Golf and Country Club, about 30 minutes northeast of Nashville. The front nine is relatively open with holes moving in both directions, offering a variety of shot options. Most holes on the back nine play downhill off the tee to large, elevated greens. The tee shots on holes 12 through 14 are particularly scenic, with significant drops from tee to fairway.
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Tennessee Grasslands Golf and Country Club: Fairvue Lakes
The sibling course to the Foxland Links layout, Fairvue Lakes opens with several holes with wide, generous landing areas—but eventually gets more challenging. Starting with the par-4 ninth, water comes into play on the next five holes. In each case, the water is on the left side, allowing players the option to bail out to the right. Compared to the Foxland Links course with its elevated tees, Fairvue Lakes is relatively flat.
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Island Pointe Golf Club: River Islands
This Arthur Hills design is situated on 175 acres along the banks of the French Broad River, less than 20 miles east of Knoxville. The river plays a central role throughout, bisecting the layout and providing a uniquely natural setting. The Zoysia fairways are often regarded as some of the best in the area, giving golfers great lies as they look to attack the small, subtly undulating greens. With weekday rates under $50, Island Pointe is a great, affordable public option.
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Bear Trace at Harrison Bay
Public
Bear Trace at Harrison Bay
Harrison
About 30 minutes north of Chattanooga, this Jack Nicklaus layout plays out on a peninsula on Chickamauga Lake, which surrounds the property on three sides. Despite the lake setting, water does not come into play on many holes—instead the defense comes from tall stately pines. With few forced carries, wide fairways, and the ability to run the ball up onto most greens, the course is playable for all golfers. In the warmer months, it’s common to see boats populating the surrounding lake.
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Gaylord Springs Golf Links
Public
Gaylord Springs Golf Links
Nashville
Three-time major champion Larry Nelson designed this Nashville links course that plays along the Cumberland River. Nearly every hole runs in a north-south direction, allowing golfers to get a sense of the wind direction, which is key to navigating this exposed layout. Golfers are greeted with a straightforward par-5 opener, but water lurks on 10 of the remaining 17 holes. Despite the water, there is generally ample room to bail out, leaving players to choose how much trouble to take on.
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Bear Trace at Tims Ford
Public
Bear Trace at Tims Ford
Winchester
Perched on a peninsula surrounded by Tims Ford Lake, this Jack Nicklaus design opens with several links-style holes before transitioning to tree-lined fairways guarded by imposing oak trees. Despite the lake surrounds, water only comes into play on a handful of holes, making this a playable course for all golfers. At just over 6,700 yards from the tips, the layout is not overly long and offers generous landing areas off the tee.
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Harpeth Hills Golf Course
Public
Harpeth Hills Golf Course
Nashville
This Nashville municipal course was originally designed in 1965 and underwent an extensive renovation in 1991. Often considered one of the best public options in Nashville, Harpeth Hills features numerous domed greens that require precise iron play and deft short-game touch. The greens, which were resurfaced in 2017, often play firm and fast, placing further emphasis on short-game finesse. With rates on weekdays under $30 and under $40 on weekends, it’s hard to find a better value.
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The Legacy
Public
The Legacy
Springfield
Four-time major champion Raymond Floyd designed this northern Tennessee layout, which plays along rolling hills and woodlands. At under 6,800 yards from the tips, the course—a certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary—is not overly long but is tight and demanding off the tee with water, trees and tall grass all lurking to capture errant shots. There are numerous elevation changes prompting some blind shots to greens that are undulating and often fast.
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