EDGE Sweetens Cove among best 9-hole golf courses in America

EDGE Sweetens Cove among best 9-hole golf courses in America

April 1st, 2018 by Jay Greeson in EDGE

Course designer and builder Rob Collins tees off at Sweetens Cove Golf Course near South Pittsburg, Tenn.

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.

About Sweetens Cove Golf Course

Owner: King-Collins Golf

Address: 2040 Sweetens Cove Rd., South Pittsburg, Tennessee

Website: sweetenscovegolfclub.com

Phone number: 423-280-9692


Rob Collins laughed at the question, but he understood it.

"We knew when we were going through it, that this was going to be special," says Collins, the architect and one of the partners in charge of the relatively young and universally praised nine-hole Sweetens Cove Golf Course in South Pittsburg, Tennessee. "But we did not have any idea it would get this kind of response."

Collins had just done a golf podcast in Australia. The high praise for the nine-hole gem 25 minutes west of Chattanooga has been local, regional, national and, thanks to his interview Down Under, global.

The New York Times called Sweetens Cove "the course that could."

Golfweek rated it the No. 59 golf course in America built since 1960. That ranking is above more-renowned places such as Quail Hollow, Shoal Creek, Crooked Stick, Valhalla and Hazeltine.

It has been called the best course anyone can play in the state by multiple publications.

And that praise has reached a golfing fandom that is willing to travel to play highly regarded tracks.

Collins said their rounds were up 50 percent in 2017 compared to the previous year and more than 90 percent compared to 2015. And those numbers show the reach the spreading praise has.

"I would say that a couple of years ago, we had players that were 75 percent Chattanooga, and 25 percent everywhere else," Collins says. "Now, it's 75 percent everywhere else and 25 percent Chattanooga."

It's fair to wonder with all the acclaim and the rankings ahead of some courses that have hosted major championships, whether Collins and his crew thought about the possibility of being a full 18 holes.

"We have never regretted it. Truly," Collins says of the decision to make it a nine-hole destination.

For Collins, the architect of Sweetens Cove and a partner of King-Collins Golf, which owns and operates the facility, the honors keep coming in.

In fact, in a recent book by Anthony Pioppi, Sweetens Cove was ranked as the second-best nine-hole course in North America, behind only Whitinsville Golf Club in Massachusetts. Pioppi is a long-time golf writer and historian who has written three books and contributed to Superinendetent Magazine, the USGA website and a slew of other magazines as well as being a member of the famed St. Andrews Golf Club in Scotland.

"Without a doubt, Sweetens Cove Golf Club is the finest 9-hole golf course built in the Modern Era (post-1959) and the second best 9-hole course in North America," Pioppi wrote.

Pioppi said Sweetens Cove "harkens back to one of the most influential golf courses ever built in the United States" — Augusta National.

"Collins and his partner, [Tad] King, have embraced the original MacKenzie-Jones tenets with gusto," he says.

For some background, Whitinsville was designed by Donald Ross, who is the same guy that worked on courses such as East Lake in Atlanta, Oak Hill and Pinehurst No. 2.

The Best of the best

Collins thinks the best hole at Sweetens Cove has always been No. 5, the 293-yard drivable par-4 that offers the chance for tap-in birdies or the need to make a 20-footer to save double.

"Reachable par-5s and drivable par-4s are such a great part of the game because of the options and the risks and the rewards," Collins says. "And No. 5 is a great example of that."

While a lot of the holes at Sweetens Cove were designed with some of the best holes around the world in mind, Collins said No. 5 was a hole unto itself.

And if you are the best of the best, well, that makes sense.