RISING FAWN, Ga. — Thirty minutes south of Chattanooga, you will find McLemore, a private, master-planned, mountaintop community where life is lived “above the clouds”. With a base elevation of 2,200 feet above sea level, The McLemore Golf Course winds its way through dense woods, rocky outcrops, native stream beds and the occasional open meadow.
The course is a redesign of the former Canyon Ridge Golf Club. In 2017, Scenic Land Company, the developers, hired legendary golf architects Bill Bergin and Rees Jones to redesign the course. The objective was to match the natural beauty of the surroundings and improve playability for average golfers while maintaining interest and challenge for lower handicap golfers.
The course is a redesign of the former Canyon Ridge Golf Club. In 2017, Scenic Land Company, the developers, hired legendary golf architects Bill Bergin and Rees Jones to redesign the course. The objective was to match the natural beauty of the surroundings and improve playability for golfers of all abilities. Yardages were adjusted to create more variety and provide a world-class test for the game’s best players.
Development firm Scenic Land Company did a complete redesign and rebrand of the former Canyon Ridge club, bringing in legendary golf architects Bill Bergin and Rees Jones for the once in a lifetime project. The objective was to match the natural beauty of the surroundings and improve playability for golfers of all abilities. Yardages were adjusted to create more variety and provide a world-class test for the game’s best players without penalizing the high handicappers.
Creative minds collaborated on a plan for a new club house which resulted in moving the 18th hole down the side of the mountain and carving out a place for the green on the cliff ledge. The space where the 18th green had been would become the home of the new club house and the old fairway repurposed into a 6-hole short course.
This decision resulted in what Rees Jones believes is “one of the best finishing holes in golf”, a hole that is virtually suspended on a ledge with an infinity edge. The view from the green is truly breath-taking making this one of the most photographed holes in the southeast.
The 18th at McLemore is truly special but when Rees Jones was asked at a press conference if it was the signature hole for the course, he refused to commit and instead stated “there are so many holes at McLemore that could be signature holes on other courses, I want the players to decide for themself.”
You’ve got to admire, that humble comment, but I’d say 18 is the signature hole, with a lot of other holes as runner up. The 18th is certainly the one that will be remembered the most by all who play here (being the last hole also, keeps it fresh in your mind).
With the exclusive Stay and Play packages, you’ll have the opportunity to experience an unforgettable Highlands course while staying in one of the houses within the McLemore community. The completely furnished houses can accommodate anywhere from two to eight guests in a single home.
The clubhouse Sitting atop Lookout Mountain with views of the McLemore Cove and Pigeon Mountain, let the McLemore Clubhouse be your retreat above the clouds. It’s your sanctuary to think, to relax…to live. The Clubhouse is where to leave life’s raging chaos behind and bask where nature’s beauty shines brightest.
With scenic views of McLemore Cove and Pigeon Mountain and the warmth of a stunning dual-sided fireplace formed from carved stone, The McLemore Clubhouse was designed with vaulted beam ceilings, natural wood & stone finishes – built for you to experience nature at every turn, no matter where you are.
Dine in elegance at the Creag, located in the clubhouse. It’s the perfect place to unwind with a drink at the bar or a gourmet meal served in the dining room or outside on the patio for one more look at McLemore Cove.
Executive Chef Anthony Hooper offers a menu that he describes as American with a blend of Scottish, French and Italian influences that changes with the seasons. The food that our party had was absolutely delicious and memorable!
McLemore is a destination that attracts both resort guests and second-home owners. The Club at McLemore is open to members, their guests and overnight guests of the club-managed stay and play program. https://www.themclemore.com
If you’ve read some of my other course articles, you know I always find one or two holes that I call come-back holes. Holes that are usually challenging with some type of unique characteristic that add to the challenge of the hole. These are the holes that make me want to come back and play the course again. Sometimes it is because I played the hole well and want to do it again and sometimes it is because I didn’t play the hole well and want to come back for a do-over. Either way, these come-back holes become etched into my memory forever.
Playing McLemore can best be described as a series of the most incredible holes I’ve ever played – the ooohs and ahhhs just don’t stop. Throughout your round you are treated to a variety of holes through varied terrain – rugged canyon, highland meadow and cliffside.
Hole Number 1, Par 5
A great beginning hole – few courses establish a more dramatic start than McLemore’s 1st. Just getting to the tee box is an adventure like riding the Incline Railway Train down from the top of Lookout Mountain. You get a sense of the landforms from what can only be referred to as a launch pad tee. Before teeing off, be sure to take a minute to take in the beauty right in front of you (and to catch your breath!). Play down the right side to get you within striking distance of the green. Like most holes here, don’t go long, you never know just how far your ball will go if you roll off the back side of the green. Many are elevated and have steep drop-offs behind the green.
Hole Number 3, Par 3
This is one of those short par threes that you can score on. Don’t let the forced carry to reach the green distract you. Play the club for the distance and enjoy this relatively easy hole while you can – you might not find another hole as easy as this on the course.
Hole Number 6, Par 5
The Front 9 hole that you can’t forget (one way or the other you will remember this hole). A slight dogleg right requires a solid tee shot down the left side where you will be able to see the green 150 feet below and have a 210+ yard shot. However, that 210-yard shot will play about 170 yards making this par-5 reachable in 2. Once you zig-zag down to the green be sure and look back up the cliff to see just how high you were. This is without a doubt a come-back hole!
Hole Number 12, Par 5
Called The Beast – Uphill, long, and narrow, perhaps the most difficult hole on the mountain. Most of us will remember this for the wrong reason, but it will be remembered. The tee shot requires a forced carry to a large landing zone, where you will have another forced carry to the bend of the dog leg. From here you will have a good look at the green which should be reachable. Bogey here is nothing to be ashamed of.
Hole Number 15, Par 4
A downhill par 4 requires a solid tee shot to reach the landing zone but makes for a fun drive over the junk. The flat green is protected by bunkers on both sides but leaves the front of the green wide open. This is a feel-good hole – it looks a lot harder than it plays.
Hole 17, Par 5
Get ready, the end is coming. The 17th plays downhill and is a long-ball hitter’s dream. A wide fairway shouts to let the Big Dog hunt. Players will have to carefully consider positioning for angle and distance when traversing this hole. A long narrow green will slide right and elevate. A fine shot will be necessary and rewarded. Hole location will dictate the optimal position from which to attack this final birdie hole.
Hole 18, Par 4
McLemore Club’s hole no. 18 was named the best finishing hole in America since 2000. Golf Digest writes in part, “the strong par 4 plays along the edge of a sheer precipice that drops more than 350 feet down to the floor of McLemore Cove, the fairway rising to meet a green that seems to hover in midair.”
This hole is etched in my memory forever, I cannot think of a more memorable hole that I have ever played.
This IS the hole dreams are made of. The setting is breathtaking, and golf doesn’t get any more exciting than this. You will feel as if you are playing on the edge of the world and definitely above the clouds. Keep your tee shot right but not too far right or the exposed rock outcroppings will send your ball careening across the 40-yard-wide fairway to roll off the cliff. As you walk down the left side of this fairway, the view is simply awe inspiring. If you’ve got game, your final approach shot can be over the gorge in the side of the mountain. If you miss, there is no telling how far your ball will bounce down the side of the mountain. This hole is rated as the Best Finishing Hole since 2000 – I think it is the best finishing hole of all time. If this hole doesn’t make you want to come-back, there isn’t a hole that will!
McLemore is a very challenging course and could beat you up if you let it. However, if you quit worrying about your score and enjoy the natural beauty you will find this to be one of the most enjoyable courses you will ever play.
The only disappointment for me was when it was time to leave. You never know what memories you’re going to make here, but know they’ll be ones you won’t soon forget!