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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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