From what once was pretty much a 9-hole cow pasture called Sequatchie Valley golf course just above the Alabama border and less thanan hour west of Chattanooga, Sweetens Cove Golf Club was born in 2014. Still nine holes but now considered the one of the best nines in the country, Sweetens Cove was the first design by owner Rob Collins, who previously worked with Gary Player Design, and partner Thad King in South Pittsburg, Tennessee. Some big news is coming from this little burg with about 3,000 residents in the form of a new sweet partnership.
Mark Rivers, a real estate developer by trade was looking for an endeavor in the golf course industry that was different from the traditional 18-hole golf course with an oversized clubhouse and condos or homes lining the fairways. The search led him to find Sweetens Cove on social media and to cold-call Collins in 2018. While Mark’s original plan was to enlist King and Collins in designing a new golf course in New York, the conversation quickly became about partnering with the existing ownership to help take Sweetens Cove to new heights.
Rivers assembled a top-notch team which started by engaging his business partner, Skip Bronson, a longtime member at Bel Air Country Club who also worked with Steve Wynn at Shadow Creek. The next call was to Andy Roddick, the former tennis star turned prolific golfer. After that, Tom Nolan, former President of Ralph Lauren Golf, and Pine Valley member joined. Then Tom brought Peyton Manning to the table, who is the undisputed king of anything that goes on in Tennessee. While this first-rate group has the chops and resources to help Sweetens Cove make huge strides, expect them not to 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 1000% pure. There is a wonder, an innocence and a purity to what Rob has created here. 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. There is a job johnny currently as a toilet. We don’t want to change the core of what Sweetens Cove is by building an elaborate clubhouse because that would not be true to what it stands for. The current shed is part of what made it 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 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.”
Ultimately, that means the team is looking to put more golf on the property. Rob plans a Himalyas putting green at the top of the hill near the first tee, and possibly a par-3 or pitch and putt course.
Mark goes on, “it’s a 9-hole course, but 80% of the golfers that come, actually play 18 holes or more, so that is what we’re going to build on and keep people playing golf longer. We’re going to make immediate investments to help with the infrastructure of the existing course when it comes to drainage and additional resources for the grounds crew. There has already been an increase in play over last year, and we want to keep the course affordable to families and young golfers.”
Sweetens Cove has not 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 facilities, but the quality of golf Collins has condensed into a mere 9 holes is what keeps its disciples flocking to rural Tennessee in droves. Now that this backing has been put in place go find out “How Sweet it is.”