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Our post yesterday regarding the narrow par 3 at Sewanee Golf Club reminded us of another rather bizarre hole we played last year in Tennessee. Red Tail Mountain, a fledgling golf community in the mountains about a half-hour north of Boone, NC, and the same distance from I-81, includes a fun course with significant elevation changes and nicely contoured fairways. The developers of the community had done a nice job of sprucing up the public-access Dan Maples-designed course in preparation for selling their first home sites late last year.
The front nine is a pleasant routing, with a fair amount of water and contoured greens to keep things interesting. But nothing prepares you for the roller coaster ride and mind-boggling approach shot on the par 5 12th hole. From the highest elevation on the course, which is to say about 100 feet above the fairway, the tee box sits in a chute of trees. A well struck tee ball is framed by the mountains beyond; that is the last you see of your ball off the tee, because the front of the tee box obscures the fairway below. I hit my best drive of the day straight through the chute and looked forward to maybe having a go at the green, since the hole was just under 500 yards.
But Moby Dick was buried in the middle of the fairway, and my "perfectly" centered drive must have bounced off the hump. It had rolled into the rough on the right edge of the fairway. But given the elevation, it was way out there, about 300 yards, leaving a short distance to the green. But where was the green? I drove up 160 yards to find that the fairway ended abruptly and took a more than 90-degree turn to the right. Since the tallest trees in Tennessee lined the right side of the fairway, I had no option but to place my approach shot to the elbow of the fairway, which I did successfully.
Then the fun really began. I had stopped my ball just short of a fairway bunker at the elbow, mere yards from the end of the fairway. Facing me for an approach shot was a most unusual tableau, as you will see in the photos below. A sheer rock cliff formed the entire area behind the green, and guarding the front right side was a significant rock outcropping. I was lucky I had hit the ball far enough because the pin was on the right side, behind the outcropping, and a shot to the middle of the fairway or shorter would have meant an approach over the granite. I went for the heart of the green, took my two putts and par, and walked off the green feeling lucky indeed.
After the round, I asked Red Mountain Assistant Golf Pro Josh McWhorter if those who play the course regularly use the cliff face as a safe way to play the ball onto the green.
“I’ve taken a bunch of balls out there and played them off the wall,” he said. “They never bounce straight back.”
If you find yourself anywhere near Mountain City, TN, stop at Red Mountain even if you have time to play only one hole. You won't forget it. Greens fees run between just $29 and $44. The golf course can be reached at 423-727-7931. If you would like real estate information about Red Mountain, contact Sales Executive Stephen Trent at 877-488-4646, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A placement shot short of the elbow at the par 5 12th at Red Mountain leaves little or no chance of getting near the pin behind the outcropping that guards the front of the right side of the green...
...but even a ball in the trap at the end of the fairway leaves a more reasonable approach.
Have you played an unusual hole recently? Or do you have a favorite course you want to brag about? Please share it with other readers of GolfCommunityReviews.com by posting a comment at the end of this article.
Yesterday, we reported on our round at the quirky Sewanee Golf Club, a nine holer in the town of the same name in Tennessee. The par 3 4th hole might have the slimmest green in America. We were fortunate the pin was up front. University of the South at Sewanee golf coach Carter Cardwell told us that when the pin is back and you miss the green, "Count on a four at the best." We can't argue.
Until recently, I had never heard of the University of the South at Sewanee in Tennessee, let alone that it had a well-regarded nine hole golf course. But the prodigal son was granted admission to the school after the recommendation to apply by his college counselor, and so we thought we should take a look, He insisted on bringing his clubs, albeit for one day. He had read that the university owned Sewanee Golf Club was a quirky classic.
The course is about 50 years old, a nine hole track featured in the new book "To the Nines" by Anthony Prioppi that features the best half courses in the land. Sewanee Golf Club is proof positive that a course does not need an abundance of hazards -- water or sand -- to make it challenging and fun. We counted a half dozen or so traps and a lake that was more window dressing than hazard. The land is the thing at Sewanee, whose terrain swoops and swerves; and although the uncut greens were reading somewhere around 20 on the stimpmeter, we still needed to be careful when we were above the hole, such was the severe sloping. Short yardage holes were more than compensated by quirky green complexes. Our favorite, in a perverse way, was the 159 yard par 3 4th (which also played to 164 as the 13th; Sewanee moves the tees around on the second nine); it had easily the smallest width to length ratio of any green we have played. At its widest, the green measured about 25 feet, with a sand bunker guarding the first half of the left side. The green ran front to back at least 100 feet, and behind it was a neat view of the Cumberland Valley below. (I'll post a photo of the green when I return home).
Sewanee Golf Club is minimalist in more than its number of holes. The pro shop is spare and multi-purpose; the same person who sells you a hat or sleeve of golf balls will also fetch you a hot dog. I had decided to leave my clubs at home in a not-so-coy attempt to duck a round of golf in 40-degree weather. I asked benignly about rental clubs, and the young lady behind the counter told me,"Sir, we don't rent clubs, we loan them" at no charge. She sent me around the corner to take my pick of the dozen available sets, a collection so motley that it made my few hairs hurt. I chose a bag quickly -- too quickly -- and learned later that I had two pitching wedges, two nine irons -- one left handed -- and a five wood with a head smaller than the hybrid I left at home. I had no sand wedge, no six or eight irons. This was also the first time I hit a wooden club, the driver, in more than 20 years. I guess this is known as golf the way it is meant to be played, old clubs on an old style course. I was pleased I broke 90, with an 88. Tim mixed a few double bogies with a few birdies and scored a nice 75. His length off the tee helped a lot on the 6,100 layout. A modern, matched set of clubs didn't hurt either.
You won't find any houses on Sewanee Golf Club, but prices in the area bespeak the town's distance from any city of consequence (90 minutes from Nashville, 60 from Chattanooga). We smiled to see an almost 1,000 square foot house near the college listed at under $100,000. We didn't think any of those were left anywhere in the land. The town is all university; that is, the university owns all 10,000 acres in the town, the second largest "campus" in the nation. Professors attend classes in robes (the academic kind, not terry cloth) and most students still adhere to the tradition of natty attire in class (coat and tie for men, dresses for the young ladies). Some might say college the way it was meant to be played.