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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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Club Junkie

Club Junkie: Cobra King Tech hybrid and Baddazz Driver Shaft Review

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Cobra’s new King Tech hybrid is a great option for just about any player. The adjustable hosel and weights should make this a great club for slicers or players who fight the hook. Baddazz shafts is a new company that is offering aftermarket performance for smaller budgets. The 70x is mid/low launch and very consistent.

 

 

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Learning from the (LPGA) pros

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I’ve written recently about how you can learn from watching the pro game on TV on weekends, but that the lessons are mostly about the importance of the short game. It’s just a fact that these best male players in the world are simply magical around and on the greens, and they have to be to shoot those scores. Tour stats prove that they really do not take these golf courses apart from tee to green if given a tough track.

But apart from that, I believe it’s pretty difficult for the typical recreational golfer – especially those in their 50s or older – to learn much about the golf swing from these finely-tuned athletes who go at it as hard as they do.

As a complete contrast to the men’s professional game, I hope many of you tuned in to watch the amazing play of the LPGA stars at this past weekend’s Women’s PGA Championship. Particularly impressive was the play of both Lizette Salas and Nelly Korda as they distanced themselves from the field the last two days. They went pretty much head-to-head and shot-to-shot until Miss Korda eagled two par 5s to pull away on Sunday with spectacular shotmaking.

What was most impressive to me — and a great contrast to the show the guys on PGA Tour present each week — was the absolute precision of these ladies’ shotmaking with every club through the bag. Overall, their misses tend to be much smaller than the men’s, and their best shots are every bit as good. If you watched, you witnessed drive after drive in the fairway, approach after approach on the green, and many shots – not only with wedges – that just covered the hole. These ladies are really THAT good, trust me.

I’ve always believed that most of us guys can learn a lot more from watching the ladies than the men. They swing with precision and grace, perfect timing and sequencing, in order to get the most out of their physical size and strength, which is a fraction of the typical PGA professional. Lizette Salas, for example was averaging about 230-235 off the tee, usually leaving her 20-30 yards or more behind Korda, but she continually put her hybrid and mid-iron approaches on the green. And she obviously hit a bunch of them close, as she finished 16 under par on a challenging Atlanta Athletic Club course that has also hosted the men on the PGA Tour.

I’m sure Lizette Salas’ distances through her bag are much closer to most of ours than even the shortest hitters on the PGA Tour. And that just proves that precision shotmaking can still allow you to score any golf course. Of course, these ladies also show us time and again that their short games and putting are not inferior to the men at all.

One of the other things that struck me about watching the ladies play the game is how often the cameras catch so many of them smiling – even after shots or holes when the outcome is not to their liking. In other words, they appear to be having fun. And isn’t that what golf is supposed to be about?

An interesting side story to this LPGA major was the fact that PGA Tour player Bubba Watson had reached out to Nelly Korda to encourage her to keep golf in perspective, even offering to be her mental coach. Bubba’s struggles with the mental side of golf are well-documented, and it was super-generous and kind for him to offer to help. Even when you play the game for a living, Bubba extolled, golf still IS NOT LIFE. It’s not nearly as important as faith and family, Bubba coached. And what happens on the course does not determine WHO you are, or your REAL WORTH as a person.

That’s a lesson we can all take to heart.

Yes, I think we all can learn from watching golf on TV, but please don’t discount the quality of talent and skill on the LPGA Tour — these ladies put on a helluva show.

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Golf's Perfect Imperfections

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: When the competition level raises around you…opportunity knocks!

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In this episode, we analyze the two types of swingers in golf which are hitters and swingers. We also reflect how good competitors learn to raise their performance when they are in the presence of someone who exemplifies excellence in the practice or their execution.

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