You’ll never find the Honors Course without specific directions – go past the third light, and when you see the large propane tank on the right, quickly look left and you’ll see the entrance road – but I found it just as the head pro described it to me: a small road leading to a wooden split-rail gate with a speaker box on it. The Honors Course sign was so small you had to look twice to see it. Why didn’t they just put up a big “Go away!” sign? I pressed the button, and someone in the pro shop acknowledged me and buzzed me in. Late, shamte. There are no tee times at the Honors Course. A big day is 10 foursomes (the typical public course can host that number in less than two hours), so it’s just show up and play.
No one can play the Honors Course without a member or at least someone from the pro shop. I was paired with an assistant pro named Dave for the first 12 holes. He had a hot date that night and had to leave, so on the 13th tee box, a female pro came out to complete the round with me. The course was designed by Pete “golfers love torture, that’s where I come in” Dye in 1983. It is 7,000 yards from the tips and has a rating of 75.4 and a slope of 151. To the best of my knowledge, 151 is the highest slope that the USGA has given out, and this course is as challenging as it gets. This little hideaway, which sits in a valley at the foot of White Oak Mountain, was the brainchild of Coca-Cola magnate Jack Lupton, who wanted to honor the amateur golfer and create an indelible impression on each and every player; I would say he succeeded. The only thing missing from the course is railroad ties, one of Pete Dye’s “trademarks,” because Lupton didn’t want any, but even that omission doesn’t make it any easier. Among all this difficulty I did find one rather fun element; the “echo bunker.” If you speak into the bunker behind the 6th green, it echoes back to you, which is not such a good thing if you are swearing a blue streak after a bad sand shot. I had a lovely afternoon with my two pros as we wound our way through the 18 holes set in 400 acres of the Tennessee hills. Larry Berle.
Date: October 13, 2014