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Opinion & Analysis

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



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



  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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Golf's Perfect Imperfections

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: Responsible speed training for sustainable personal bests



It is truly awesome what is happening with Bryson DeChambeau and Kyle Berkshire and more of their young friends who are in shape are joining the bandwagon. But at an all-out slash fest trying to get 160mph ball speed with a 7-iron for a two-hour session would send 90% of us to the hospital. It’s safe to say it is not for everyone. To increase your clubhead speed responsibly long term really starts with us.

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Opinion & Analysis

The 23 players who can win the Masters



Each year for the Masters, I create a filtering process to help determine the players who are most likely to win the green jacket based on criteria that have strongly predicted outcomes at Augusta. I usually get the list down to roughly 20-25 players.

Last year, Dustin Johnson was one of my 21 players who could win the Masters. Dustin was at 9/1 odds. The other top finishers, like Cameron Smith and Sung Jae Im, were filtered out unlike previous years where players that were in contention were typically shortlisted. My theory on that is that due to the tournament being played in November, the course was not playing as firm and as fast as it normally does, and that allowed players who typically do not get through my filter to get into contention.

Before I discuss my picks for this year’s Masters, I want to go over what I call the “critical holes” for Augusta National. The critical holes in any tournament are the ones where the top finishers typically gain the most strokes on the field, as well as where the greatest deviation in scores exist. One of the interesting aspects about critical holes is that they often change over time due to changes in the course conditions, course design or a change in player strategy, which can create a smaller deviation in scores.

This year, the projected critical holes are No. 8, 13, 14, and 15.

The 15th hole, Firethorn, should be considered the most pivotal hole on the course as over the last five Masters the top finishers in the event have gained 0.391 strokes per round on the hole.

Moving on to the tournament, I filtered out the amateurs and all first-time professional attendees. The Masters has only been won once by a first-time attendee: Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979 and Gene Sarazen in the inaugural event

  • Joe Long (a)
  • Robert MacIntyre
  • Carlos Ortiz
  • Charles Osborne (a)
  • Tyler Strafaci (a)
  • Will Zalatoris

Despite being first-time invitees, the data likes both Ortiz and Zalatoris as they would have gotten through all of the other filters to be selected as players that could win the Masters.

I also filtered out eight past champions I do not believe can contend at Augusta National anymore

  • Fred Couples
  • Bernhard Langer
  • Sandy Lyle
  • Larry Mize
  • Jose Maria Olazabal
  • Vijay Singh
  • Mike Weir
  • Ian Woosnam

The Zach Johnson debate

Every year I do my Masters picks, it’s always pointed out that I do not pick former Masters Champion Zach Johnson due to his lack of length off the tee. Augusta National greatly favors long-ball hitters. They can play the par 5s more like par 4s, and typically the longer hitters can also hit the ball higher so they can get their long approach shots to hold the green more easily.

When Johnson won the Masters in 2007, the event featured record-low temperatures in the mid-40s and wind gusts of 33 mph. This made it very hard for any player to reach the par 5s in two shots and allowed Johnson to get into a wedge contest on the par 5s, his strength.

This week the forecast is calling for high 70’s to low 80’s with winds topping out at only 10 mph. There are some scattered showers in the forecast that may soften up the greens and give shorter hitters more of a chance to win.

But I believe that it will not be enough to take the advantage away from the longer hitters.

Therefore I filtered out the following players.

  • Abraham Ancer
  • Brian Gay
  • Brian Harman
  • Mackenzie Hughes
  • Zach Johnson
  • Kevin Kisner
  • Matt Kuchar
  • Francesco Molinari
  • Kevin Na
  • C.T. Pan
  • Ian Poulter
  • Patrick Reed
  • Webb Simpson
  • Henrik Stenson
  • Robert Streb
  • Michael Thompson
  • Brendon Todd

A part of the game that is just as critical as distance is the trajectory height a player can create. Last year, I filtered out four players for hitting the ball too low. Out of those four players, the best finish was Patrick Reed at T10. I use a combination of max height, carry distance, and launch angle to determine if the following players hit the ball too low to win at Augusta.

  • Daniel Berger
  • Christian Bezuidenhout
  • Patrick Cantlay
  • Cameron Champ
  • Harris English
  • Matthew Fitzpatrick
  • Lanto Griffin
  • Jim Herman
  • Matt Jones
  • Sebastian Munoz
  • Victor Perez
  • Xander Schauffele
  • Bernd Wiesberger
  • Lee Westwood

Since the inauguration of the event, there have only been two winners of the Masters that have previously never made the cut: Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979 and Gene Sarazen in 1936. Let’s filter them out as well.

  • Max Homa
  • Jason Kokrak
  • Joaquin Niemann
  • Hudson Swafford
  • Matthew Wolff

I will also filter out the players who missed the cut at San Antonio. Historically, players that miss the cut the week prior have a substantially lower likelihood of winning the following week compared to the players that made the cut in the previous week or did not play at all.

  • Tony Finau
  • Phil Mickelson
  • Danny Willett

Lastly, I have filtered out the weak performers from the “Red Zone,” approach shots from 175-225 yards. While Augusta is known for its greens, the winners are determined mostly by the quality of their approach shots throughout the event. In fact, 11 of the last 12 champions have hit at least 49 greens in regulation during the week.

  • Jason Day
  • Tommy Fleetwood
  • Dylan Frittelli
  • Billy Horschel
  • Brooks Koepka
  • Martin Laird
  • Scottie Scheffler
  • Charl Schwartzel
  • Adam Scott
  • Cameron Smith
  • Jimmy Walker
  • Matt Wallace

That leaves the following 23 players who can win the Masters:

  • Paul Casey (45/1)
  • Stewart Cink (450/1)
  • Corey Conners (80/1)
  • Bryson DeChambeau (11/1)
  • Sergio Garcia (50/1)
  • Tyrrell Hatton (45/1)
  • Viktor Hovland (33/1)
  • Sungjae Im (40/1)
  • Dustin Johnson (9/1)
  • Si Woo Kim (125/1)
  • Marc Leishman (110/1)
  • Shane Lowry (110/1)
  • Hideki Matsuyama (45/1)
  • Rory McIlroy (18/1)
  • Collin Morikawa (30/1)
  • Louis Oosthuizen (75/1)
  • Ryan Palmer (150/1)
  • Jon Rahm (12/1)
  • Justin Rose (80/1)
  • Jordan Spieth (11/1)
  • Justin Thomas (12/1)
  • Bubba Watson (55/1)
  • Gary Woodland (150/1)

Here are my personal top-10 picks

  • Paul Casey (45/1)
  • Corey Conners (80/1)
  • Bryson Dechambeau (11/1)
  • Sergio Garcia (50/1)
  • Viktor Hovland (33/1)
  • Dustin Johnson (9/1)
  • Rory McIlroy (18/1)
  • Collin Morikawa (30/1)
  • Jon Rahm (12/1)
  • Jordan Spieth (11/1)
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On Spec

On Spec: The unexpected lesson from Jordan Spieth’s win | Plus ANWA & ANA Inspiration coverage



In what can only be called the busiest week in golf so far in 2021, host Ryan breaks down the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, the ANA Inspiration on the LPGA Tour, the Drive, Chip, and Putt, and of course Jordan Spieth’s comeback win in Texas.

All of this is leading into the Masters, and Jordan’s win comes with a very important lesson for those golfers who might be struggling with their own game.


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