Great courses a short drive (3-iron?) away

Friday, February 15, 2013, Vol. 37, No. 7
By Brad Schmitt

Bear Trace at Cumberland Mountain is one of 20 courses in and around Crossville.

-- Photo Courtesy Of The Tennessee Golf Trail

So you really like to play golf, but – as much as you love ’em – you need a break from The Hermitage’s Presidential course and Gaylord Springs.

Where do Nashville folks go when they want to get in their cars and get away for a day or two to play golf outside Music City?

We contacted avid golfers, a couple of golf pros past and present, some local golf course managers and even a golf vacation planner or two. The nearly unanimous first answer: Crossville, the self-proclaimed “Golf Capital of Tennessee,” about two hours east toward Knoxville.

“They’ve got a million golf courses to play on,” says Murfreesboro commercial real estate appraiser Johnny Sullivan, 59, who has been playing for 40 years.

Other favorite nearby destinations:

“The courses are good,” Hermitage golf director Jim Vernon says of Tunica, “but most golfers like to partake in food and beverage and gambling.

“Those things run together for lots of golfers, so that’s why it’s a popular spot,” Vernon says, adding with a laugh, “not that I’ve ever participated in that.”

Golden Bear’s course

In Crossville, there are about 20 golf courses in and around the city, including one, Bear Trace, designed by golf legend Jack Nicklaus.

On a weekend visit, “you can play a different course each day, heck, play three or four different courses a day,” Sullivan says.

And you won’t spend a ton of time getting from one course to the other.

“The Crossville area is really good because the golf courses are close together and they’re nice,” said Nashville John Deere executive Rob Fogg, who played on the pro circuit for a few years after starring on the University of Oklahoma’s golf team.

“And they’re all good golf courses,” said Fogg, who spoke with “Nashville Ledger,’’ on the way to tee off at a course in Orlando, Fla.

Says Lissa Bradford, a Belmont golf coach: “For most people, Crossville’s the place to go.”

All-you-can-golf trips

Scott Burdette, an avid golfer himself, owns and runs a golf vacations company that runs and, and he says Crossville is the second most popular weekend trip he books.

And Crossville’s courses are plenty challenging, Burdette says.

“It’s mostly shorter courses, so you’ve got to be pretty accurate there,” he says.

Most weekend packages include three rounds of golf, and they are booked with four golfers sharing accommodations for two nights. The cost per golfer runs anywhere from $179 to $339.

And then there’s a place outside Birmingham that combines all-you-can-golf with all-you-can-eat.

Farmlinks at Pursell Farms, in Sylacauga, Ala., charges $100 to $135 a day, and that includes three meals, all non-alcoholic drinks and as many holes as you can squeeze in.

It’s a research and demonstration course, which means you’ll see different grasses on different fairways, all very well maintained.

“It’s phenomenal,” said Fogg. “You can’t believe how immaculate this place is.”

Home sweet golf course

So there are all these golfing adventures nearby, but do you know what the No. 1 golf destination in Tennessee is for

It’s Nashville.

And local golfers aren’t surprised.

“The Hermitage has got two good golf courses, and there’s Old Fort in Murfreesboro, that whole area,” Bradford said.

Williamson County offers a variety of experiences, the private Vanderbilt Legends Club, has hosted the LPGA and is home to the men’s and women’s golf teams.

Adds Fogg: “It’s hard to beat Opryland for fun … and The Hermitage has 36 holes of golf, and the two courses are completely different from each other. You don’t have to leave town.”

And Hermitage golf director Vernon proudly adds that the Presidential course has just been named to “Golf Digest’s’’ top ten courses in Tennessee list. And he notes that the Presidential is the only public course on that list.