There is considerable history to be discussed when examining the Nashville Golf & Athletic Association, namely that relations of famed pioneer Davy Crockett once called the property home. Members are equally excited to tell visitors, however, about a more recent bit of history:
Not long after the Bruce Devlin and Robert von Hagge-designed course opened during 1971, Sports Illustrated chose to feature the par three 6th as one of its “Great 18 Holes in America” feature. The butterfly-shaped green is surrounded on all sides by large bunkers. Although a special short hole, players will notice a similar theme across the course, which features 76 sand hazards, very few of them small.
When stretched out to its full length, nearly 7,500 yards, the Nashville Golf will require quite an athletic performance to conquer.
Nashville Athletic Club is a golfer’s golf course. Under the best circumstances it is difficult. The Nashville Open used to be held there, but the molly coddled pros complained that it was too difficult. As another example, at our Member-Guest if our opponent’s guest is from NAC, we know we have to employ our best strategy which is hoping our opponent mucks up.
The first hole is one of the toughest opening holes I have ever played. A long par four that bends right and then straightens out. Part of the challenge is the water hazard straight ahead and then left of the fairway and green. Depending what tees you are playing the water is reachable. The green is long, narrow and slopes to the water hazard left. For your added pleasure there is also a greenside bunker right. I would estimate that more than half the time that I have played there I have raised the hazards water level. The 2nd seems like a respite, an even longer par four with a green protected by three bunkers, left front and right. The 3rd is a 660 yard par 5 from the tips. Thank goodness I am too lazy to wander all the way back to those tees. No, it is not downhill. The 4th is an uphill par four that leans right. Anything right is bad as there is a dropoff to a wooded area. On your approach, you MUST be on the left third of the green, even then it may not stay. This green tilts hard right. I have seen people putt it off the green and have a 20 foot uphill pitch coming back. The fifth is a completely different hole depending upon what tees you are playing. From the back it is a valley dogleg left par four. You must keep your ball right to ensure that you are not blocked out, which of course creates a longer approach. From the mortal tees it is a pretty straight and uphill. The green is carved into the hillside, you probably want to take an extra club. The 6th is a short downhill par 3 to a butterfly shaped green surrounded by four bunkers, fun hole. The 7th is a long downhill par 5. There is a stream running down the left side and is treelined both sides and the fairway does pinch in just where you would expect it to increase difficulty. The green slopes left and has three bunkers, two front right and one back right. The 8th is a long uphill par three with bunkers in front and behind the green. The 9th is a straight away downhill par 4 with a large bunker in front and one behind the green.
The back starts with a long Florida par three. The green is tucked right behind the water hazard and has two bunkers behind it. As a testament to its difficulty, it is the number 6 handicap hole. The 11th is a long left leaning par four. Tee shot up the slope with greenside bunker front right and rear. The uphill long dogleg right 12th is a doozy. There is a bunker on the inside elbow, but if you anywhere near it you are already screwed as you will have all kind of tree trouble. Need to left of center off the tee to have a chance. This a deep green with three bunkers front, left short and left. You will then have about a ¼ of a mile uphill stroll to the 13th tee. The good news is the dogleg right par five is mostly downhill. Big hitters can clear the triplet bunkers on the inside corner and can then definitely get home in two. For the rest of us, we need to be wary of the cross bunkers as well as the 7 bunkers surrounding the green. Another uphill walk to the short par 3 14th. The tee shot is over a small puddle to a green with bunkers front left and back right. The 15th is a grab and go par five. Pretty straight slightly downhill, favor the right off the tee as there is OB left. The green has bunkers front right, left and right rear. The 16th is a long par four dogleg left. While there appears to be one water hazard left, there are two. Do not let your eyes get bigger than your stomach. Been there and done that…more than once. Aim right of the tree on the left corner, yes you will still have a long approach over fronting bunkers, but a dry ball is a happy ball. The mid-length par 3 17th is probably the most forgettable hole. The 18th, however, is not. This is the 2nd longest par five at 655 yards. Favor the left off the tee. The hole hourglasses at about 190 yards out, trees right and water hazard thru the green left. The green is shaped like a chubby L, with a bunker in front and one above the leg. The green lists left, towards the water hazard. Par is a good score .
This is an extremely difficult and extraordinarily underappreciated course. My advice, play it.