The venerable Holston Hills Country Club in Knoxville has jumped three spots to Tennessee’s Number Four in Golf Digest’s 2017 “Best in State” rankings. Located near the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains in East Knoxville on 180 acres of open rolling farmland, Holston Hills Country Club features a well preserved 1927 Donald Ross designed golf course that has remained true to form through the years. Founded by members of Knoxville’s Cherokee Country Club, a 1907 Ross design, where over crowding had become a problem. Holston Hills immediately became recognized as the finest course in the state when it opened and started hosting important regional tournaments including a PGA Tour event.
Ross’s layout remains arrayed in a broad fan-shaped formation, with both nines returning to the Tudor style clubhouse that sits on an upslope along the north side of the property. The 6932 yard course features more than 100 grass-faced bunkers scattered across the property, with few houses or other visual distractions taking away from the links-style playing experience, with a 73.4/ 134 rating. The low key and little known Holston Hills Country Club is so well respected that it has been ranked among the country’s greatest classical (pre-1960) golf designs in the country. Co-Founder of the Donald Ross Society and noted golf architecture critic Michael J. Fay has said that he would rather play Holston Hills over any other golf course in the South on a consistent basis.
Cary Middlecoff was only 19 years old in 1940 when he won his first Tennessee Amateur at Holston Hills- the first of four consecutive Amateurs in the state. Byron Nelson won the Knoxville Open at Holston Hills during his magical run in 1945-his 15th of 18 PGA Tour victories that season. The previous week, Nelson had lost to Fred Haas in Memphis, ending his streak of 11 consecutive wins.
The World Fair was hosted by Knoxville in 1982. As part of the fair’s sporting activities, the PGA Cup Matches were played at Holston Hills. This international event matches the nine best PGA Club Professional’s against their counterparts from Great Britain and Ireland. The winning USA team handily won.
In 1997, Tom Doak was engaged to make some improvements. Tom’s Renaissance Design Company restored some of the greens, convinced the club’s board to thin some trees, helped determine mowing lines including perimeters of the USGA greens. They made no changes to the routing or moving tee boxes to accommodate new equipment.
“The golf course is an old, classic design that has remained virtually the same through the years,” says Director of Golf Chris Dibble. “Holston Hills is neat because every hole is right in front of you. It’s very fair. There are no tricks or hidden hazards. Architect Doak says Holsten Hills is the closest golf course around to what Ross originally designed.” Ross chose to defend par at the greens site.
The Holsten Hills clubhouse, perched on a hill with breathtaking views of the Great Smoky Mountains, overlooks the golf course and showcases bay windows, elegant arched doors and a central ballroom with large cathedral ceilings and exposed wood trusses. An outdoor terrace on the south side of ballroom offers members a space to relax and take in the view, while a magnificent centerpiece terrace surrounds the clubhouse, with its comfortable Tudor architecture. www.HolstonHills.com.
Raleigh based McConnell Golf purchased Holsten Hills in 2015 and has invested $1.4 million in capital improvements including a new fitness center, locker room upgrades and a banquet and dining room renovation. McConnell owns a dozen, 18-hole, private golf courses plus one nine hole course throughout the Carolina and Tennessee. McConnell memberships include privileges at all their private facilities. McConnell Golf also operates the 27-hole public Raleigh Golf Association and manages the Grande Dunes Members Club and Ocean Club in Myrtle Beach for LStar Ventures. Check it out at McConnellGolf.com