Mountain Golfing In East Tennessee
…the w
ay real mountain golf should be

Story & Photos by: Ed Stone

Golfing in East Tennessee usually means mountain golf. This designates changing elevations, beautiful scenery and challenging courses.

Playing mountain golf in East Tennessee offers challenging courses and scenic beauty. L-R: 18th & 16th greens at Avalon Golf & Country Club. Sevierville's Highland Course 12th hole and #4 of the River Course.

A favorite course is Avalon Golf and Country Club which opened in 1997.  The unheralded course designer, Joe Lee created one of his usual masterpieces.  Before his death in 2003, Lee created or renovated over 200 courses mostly in Georgia, Florida and Tennessee.  He never sought publicity, just wanted to be known for creating great golf courses…i.e. three of Walt Disney World’s courses, Stonehenge at Fairfield Glade (home to Statewide PGA events), Fall Creek Falls, Callaway Garden’s Mountain View (home of the PGA Buick Open for 10 years) and several others where major PGA events are staged.

In the mid 90’s, Knoxville developers created this large resort-style community just west of Knoxville in Louden County and Lenoir City.

In the mid 90’s Paul Gillenwater and David Burleson, Knoxville developers, were the creators of this large resort-style community just west of Knoxville in Louden County and Lenoir City where interstates I-75 and I-40 merge from the south and west. In previous years, Avalon has received a four star rating from Golf Digest magazine. Recently, Golf Advisor placed it in the top 25 most improved courses in the nation and in the top 15 courses in Tennessee.  With new improvements, restoring the course back to original design and focused maintenance, it should be receiving many more accolades from all the rating organizations.

Avalon golf course and its operations were sold in late 2015 and is currently being managed by Jon Ferrie with Clint Sugg, the PGA Professional.  Both of these gents have impressive credentials for the challenges they have undertaken.  The new owners have big plans for today and the future.  On a recent visit, the restoration and improvement of sand traps and bunkers were being completed. In some cases, original sand traps had been converted to grass bunkers, but plans are to return them to their original design. The Bermuda greens and fairways were in reasonably good shape.  The thick and deep Bermuda roughs really play havoc with shots outside the fairway. When we visited Avalon, the greens had been aeriated about a week before. Aside from the punching of the greens, they are excellent with broad, subtle undulations and nice putting surfaces.

ABOVE: Photos showing the different holes and terrain of Avalon Golf & Country Club.

The Avalon Golf & Country Club has hosted several area charity golf tournaments including the ALS Charity Golf Classic, Tennessee Children’s Home charity, K.A.R.M. and the UT Medical Center, Tee it up for Trauma and several others.

Avalon's clubhouse, dining, bar and golf shop.

It is adjacent to the 430-acre community of Avalon conveniently located near upscale shopping in Farragut’s Turkey Creek Shopping complex.  There are large traditional homes, villas and condominiums surrounding the golf course. Views of the Cumberland and Great Smoky Mountains provide a beautiful and breathtaking backdrop for the homes and golf course.

The 18-hole, par 72 course stretches to some 6,764 yards with a slope of 131 and a rating of 72.2.  The course elevations range from near 800 up to 1,100 feet above sea level. These elevations certainly allow the golfer to not only enjoy exigent and beautiful golf holes, but also gorgeous views of the Cumberland and Great Smoky Mountain ranges. In addition to golf, the Club offers the public fine dining, complete bar and hosting of private events. 

The fairways are broad and barbered smooth but keeping the ball out of the second cut rough will make for a better score. The Bermuda rough can be challenging to your shot as it is long and deep. Joe Lee did an outstanding job of creating those subtle undulations making the greens difficult to read.

High handicap holes on the front nine are close to I-75 and in lower elevations. They are numbers 4 (#3 hcp) and 9 (#1 hcp). Number four is a par-4, 435-yards with a dogleg left and requiring a blind shot to an elevated green. The number one handicap hole is the ninth playing downhill with a slight dogleg left, crossing a small stream and pond on the right of the green.  This par-5, 560 yard hole requires a perfect drive, a layup second shot and keeping your approach shot to the left, away from the water.

On the back nine, the two hardest holes are numbers 12 (#4 hcp) and 18 (#2 hcp).  Twelve is a long 423 yard, par-4 with a dogleg left and elevated green. This is about the highest point on the course at close to 1,100 ft.  Number 18 is handicap #2 and could be one of the best finishing holes you’ll play. This par-5, 554 yard layout has an elevated tee playing slightly left, but keep your drive right of center. Your second shot is going to be a layup due to the left side of fairway has a small stream feeding a small pond in front of the green. Make sure your approach is positioned for your most confident club to reach the large green. This is one of Joe Lee’s best use of natural terrain!

Overall, playing the new Avalon Golf Course was most enjoyable, challenging and deserving for high ratings as the new owners take it to upgraded conditions. With the new improvements, this will become an even more popular course in East Tennessee.

The Sevierville Golf Clubhouse serves two beautiful mountain courses...the Highland and the River.

Knoxville is home to the University of Tennessee where many sports fans and graduates visit during the fall for football and foliage. For those visiting the area and looking for other golf courses, we suggest you consider a visit to the Sevierville Golf Club less than an hour away. The Sevierville Golf Club offers two beautiful and challenging 18-hole courses…the River and Highland.  Both play differently in that the River plays along the Little Pigeon River and the Highland offers more elevations.

The Highlands Course meanders through the valley where the Little Pigeon River flows.  After the fifth hole, the routing crosses a road through a tunnel to a more elevated terrain beginning with the sixth hole into dense forest, blooming wildflowers and streams enhancing the surroundings and enjoyment of play.  The course offers five sets of tees ranging from 6,200 to 4,186, playing to a par 70.

Golfing on the River and Highland courses at the Sevierville Golf Club near Knoxville, Tennessee

The River Course makes good use of its name by having three holes situated on islands in the Little Pigeon River.  It too offers five sets of tees with yardages from 7,120 to 4,967 and plays to a par of 72.

Great Smoky Mountain National Park

While in the Sevierville area, both Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg are popular destinations for family visitors to the State. Dollywood is one of the most visited attractions, along with the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.  This area offers many points of interests worth considering.

Playing golf, enjoying the many attractions and fall foliage in East Tennessee can be spectacular…and, the people are very friendly.

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For more information:

Avalon Golf & Country Club
1299 Oak Chase Blvd
Lenoir City, TN 37772-6968
Phone: (865) 986-4653

Sevierville Golf Club
1444 Old Knoxville Hwy
Sevierville, TN
Phone: (865) 429-4223

Watch our YouTube Videos:

Avalon Golf & Country Club Video Sevierville Golf Club Video