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Opinion & Analysis

Peyton Manning, Andy Roddick, all-star team enter partnership with Sweetens Cove

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New partners of Sweetens Cove. Left to right: Tom Nolan, Andy Roddick, Rob Collins, Mark Rivers, and Peyton Manning. Skip Bronson not pictured.

If you’ve been living under a rock with no access to any golf-related social media outlets and are asking yourself what Sweetens Cove Golf Club is, I would suggest starting with this piece, written last year by yours truly.

Now that we have that part out of the way, some big news is coming from South Pittsburg, TN in the form of a new partnership. Mark Rivers, a real estate developer by trade, was looking for endeavors in the golf course industry that were different from the traditional 18-hole golf course with an oversized clubhouse and condos lining the fairways. That search led him to find Sweetens Cove Golf Club on social media and it also led him to cold call co-designer Rob Collins in 2018. While Mark’s original plan was to enlist King Collins Golf in designing a new golf course, the conversation quickly became about partnering with the existing ownership of Sweetens Cove to help take it to new heights.

Mark has assembled a top-notch team which started by engaging his business partner, Skip Bronson, a long-time member of Bel Air Country Club who also worked with Steve Wynn in the development of Shadow Creek. The next phone call was to Andy Roddick, the former tennis star who has since become a prolific golfer in his own right. After that, Tom Nolan, who is the former president of Ralph Lauren Golf and a Pine Valley member, joined the team. Then, through a couple degrees of separation, Tom brought Peyton Manning to the table, who is the undisputed king of anything that goes on in Tennessee. While this first-rate crew has the chops and the resources to help Sweetens Cove make some big strides, expect them to not stray far from what’s brought them this far. In Mark’s words:

“The place is Tin Cup meets Field of Dreams. From tee to green, the course is 1,000% pure. There’s a wonder and an innocence and a purity to what Rob and the crew have created there. We see our role as preserving and protecting that first and then enhancing it second. When people ask me what our plans are, I jokingly say, ‘Well, we might start with plumbing.’ We don’t want to change the core of what Sweetens Cove is by building an elaborate clubhouse because that wouldn’t be true to what it stands for. The shed is part of what made Sweetens Cove the darling of the golfing community, so let’s not mess with it too much. Restrooms, seriously, are part of the plan, but apart from that, the plan is ultimately just to encourage people to stay there longer, play more golf, and enjoy the place. Rob has some design dreams we’d like to help fulfill that will allow Sweetens Cove be all it can be without becoming something entirely different in the process.”

View of the fifth fairway and green (left), second fairway (beyond fifth green), and third fairway (right) at Sweetens Cove

Ultimately, that means the team is looking to put more golf on the property. With roughly 15-20 acres available to them within the current footprint, that will likely mean a putting green complex of some kind and possibly a par-3 or pitch-and-putt course. Mark goes on to say:

“Obviously, it’s a 9-hole course, but 80% of the people that come there play 18 holes or more. The majority of the people that come there don’t limit it to a 9-hole golf course, so we’re just going to try to build on that and keep people there playing golf longer. We’re also going to make some immediate investments to help with the infrastructure of the existing course when it comes to drainage and additional resources for the grounds crew. They’ve already seen an increase in play over last year, which is certainly a good problem to have, so we want to give the grounds crew as much support as we can to stay on top of things in the midst of that increase in traffic. We’re also committed to keeping the course open to the public, affordable, and we want to try to encourage young golfers and families to join us as much as possible because everybody wins when that happens.”

Sweetens Cove hasn’t become the social media sweetheart that it is for no reason. No one would argue that it’s easy to get to or that it has lavish accommodations, but the quality of golf they’ve condensed into a mere 9 holes is what keeps its disciples flocking to rural Tennessee in droves. Now that this kind of backing has been put in place, who knows? Could it actually get better? I suppose the only way to find out is to keep coming back.

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Peter Schmitt is an avid golfer trying to get better every day, the definition of which changes relatively frequently. He believes that first and foremost, golf should be an enjoyable experience. Always. Peter is a former Marine and a full-time mechanical engineer (outside of the golf industry). He lives in Lexington, KY with his wife and two young kids. "What other people may find in poetry or art museums, I find in the flight of a good drive." -Arnold Palmer

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Jared

    May 20, 2019 at 9:04 am

    A nice addition to this place would definitely be plumbing, but then again it is not really sweeten’s until you have to use the porta-potty down by #1 tee box.

    First and foremost this place needs some flooding controls. It was flooded many times in the last 6 months. I can only imagine how difficult this makes it on the grounds crew with limited resources.

    Second, a putting/chipping green would be nice and maybe a net to take a few full swings.

    Don’t touch the shed though or the course!

  2. Glenn E Makin

    May 17, 2019 at 10:14 pm

    If Peyton is involved its a winner.

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Opinion & Analysis

Slow players: step aside! A reflection on pace of play by a fed-up golfer

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I’m just gonna say it: You are more than likely, in my opinion, a slow player.

This has nothing to do with handicap, riding vs. walking, or (most likely) the course—it’s about attitude and habits.

Where does this blanket statement come from, you might ask. Well, I consider myself a quick player. Alone and walking on a normal-length (6,500-6,800 yard) course, I can get around in about two hours with nobody in front of me—easily. I don’t run, I walk at a normal pace with intent to get to my ball see what needs to be done, and I hit the shot. When playing alone in a cart, I make it around in under an hour-and-a-half regularly, which makes for either an early day or 36 holes before 10 a.m.

Now before going any further, I need to make a few things clear

  • I’m not an anti-social curmudgeon who gets no pleasure from playing golf with others. I actually prefer to play with other people and talk about golf and whatever else is going on.
  • I’m NOT a golf snob. I mean in some ways I can be, but on the other hand, I’ll take a cart, drink beers, blast music, have fun, pick up short ones, and pay little attention to score. It all depends on the situation.
  • I’m still there to play well. Playing fast and playing well are NOT mutually exclusive. The two can be easily achieved during the same round of golf. Too many people going over too many things is only creating more problems…but I’ll get to that.

So where does this all begin? Like many things, on the putting green before an early round of golf. It is my personal belief that if you are one of the first groups off for the day, you should play in around 3-3.5 hours max. Regardless of handicap, it should be one of those “unwritten” rules of golf—like not randomly yelling in someone’s backswing or walking through someone’s line. I have no problem with a round taking more than four hours at 2 p.m. on a busy Saturday afternoon in July when the course is packed—because the chance of me being out then is pretty close to zero anyway. It’s about the golf course setting expectations with the players especially early in the day and making sure that players understand there are expectations. A marshal tip-toeing around a slow group instead of just asking then to let faster groups play through is the bane of my golfing existence.

Based on previous life experience, it’s actually very similar (but in a weird way opposite) to the restaurant business. A group at a table should never just sit around on a Friday or Saturday night at prime time when there is a lineup, and they have already finished their meal and paid the check. That table is real estate, and if you want to occupy that space, you better keep paying, it’s inconsiderate to the next guests waiting and to the servers that make money from the people they seat—it’s called the restaurant business for a reason. If you want to go on a quiet lunch date and sit and chat with a friend when there are plenty of empty tables, by all means, take your sweet time (and hopefully tip generously), but at the end of the day, it’s about being aware of the situation.

On a wide-open course with everyone behind you, as a golfer, you should be mindful that you should play quickly. If its 7 a.m. and the group behind has been waiting in the fairway for five minutes while you plumbob that six-footer for triple with nothing on the line, maybe it’s time to move to the next tee, or be mindful and let the group behind play through. Don’t think for a second I’m just playing with a bunch of scratch golfers either. I play with golfers of all skill levels, and when I play with beginners I always make sure to politely explain any etiquette in a nice way, and if we “fall behind” to let anyone waiting to play through—it’s common courtesy. Usually, these rounds are played later in the day when we can take our time but if a group comes up we let them on their way as soon as possible.

With so much talk about golf in the UK thanks to The Open Championship, it’s crazy to me how the culture of golf is so different in North America where golf is meant to be social, enjoy the day, take your time, a place to do business (please just pull my hair out now), etc. While in the UK, it’s about playing for score and socializing after: that’s the reason for the 19th hole in the first place. They often employ match play to keep pace up vs. putting everything out too. Golf was never meant to be a full-day event. It’s a game to be played and then one with your day.

I realize we have a problem and instead of just complaining about it, I want to make some simple suggestions for helping things move along a little faster

  • If you are going to use a distance-measuring device have it ready.
  • If you for sure lost a ball, don’t waste time: just drop one—on that note if you are on the other side of the hole, don’t walk across to help your friend look in three inches of grass, play up to the green.
  • Place your bag, or drive your cart to where you will be walking after you finish the hole. It was one of the first things I was taught as a junior and it still amazes me how many people leave their clubs at the front of the green or opposite side of where they will be walking next.
  • Play from the proper tees!!!! I shouldn’t have to explain this.
  • If you are playing with a friend, try match play or Stableford—it’s amazing how this can speed up play.

Golf should never be an all-day activity! If you choose to play early, be mindful of the fact that you hold the power to keep the course on time for the rest of the day. Be respectful of the other players on the course who might want to play quicker—let them through. If you want to be slower and you know it’s going to be a social outing, try to pick a more appropriate time of day to play—like late afternoon.

We all play golf for different reasons but be honest with yourself about your reasons and hopefully, we can all get along out there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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On Spec

On Spec: Talking about slow play

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Ryan has guest Rob Miller, from the Two Guys Talking Golf podcast, to talk about slow play. They debate on how fast is fast, how much time should 18 holes take, and the type of players who can play fast and slow.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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Opinion & Analysis

If Jurassic Park had a golf course, this would be it

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I have had the good fortune of playing some unbelievably awesome tracks in my time—places like Cypress Point, Olympic, Sahalee, LACC, Riviera, and a bunch of others.

However, the Bad Little 9 is the most fun golf course I have ever played…period.

Imagine standing on the first tee of a 975-yard track and praying to God almighty you finish with all your golf balls, your confidence, and more importantly, your soul. Imagine, again, for example, standing on a 75-yard par 3 with NOWHERE to hit it beyond an eight-foot circle around the flag, where any miss buries you in a pot bunker or down into a gully of TIGHTLY mown grass.

Sound fun?

I have played the BL9 twice at this point, with the first time being on a Challenge Day in November. It was cold, windy and playing as tough as it can. My playing partners Chris N., Tony C., and I barely made it out alive. I made four pars that day—shot 40—and played well. Do the math, that’s 13 over in five holes on a course where the longest hole is 140 yards.

It’s a golf course that makes zero sense: it’s punishing, it’s unfair, it’s crazy private, and on “Challenge Day,” it’s un-gettable even for the best players in the world. Rumor has it that there is an outstanding bet on Challenge Day for $1,000 cash to the individual that breaks par. That money is still yet to be paid to anyone…keep in mind Scottsdale National has PXG staff playing and practicing there allllll the time. To my knowledge, James Hahn has the lowest score ever at one over. That round apparently had multiple 20-foot par putts.

The Jackson/Kahn team which is responsible for the two big courses at Scottsdale National (Land Mine and The Other Course) were tasked with a challenge by Mr. Parsons: create a 9-hole course with ZERO rules. Take all conventional wisdom out of it and create an experience for the members that they will NEVER forget.

In this video, you will get a little context as to how it came together straight from the horse’s mouth, so I won’t get into that here.

I will end with this before you get into the video.

The Bad Little 9 sits in a very exclusive club in North Scottsdale, most will never see it. HOWEVER, what the idea of it represents is a potential way into bringing more people into the game, making it more accessible, saving real estate, playing in less time and having an experience. Hell, YouTube made short-form content a necessity in our culture. Perhaps the idea behind the Bad Little 9 will inspire short form golf?

I’m in.

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19th Hole

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