DESTINATION: Gatlinburg, Tennessee
Updated: Jul 23, 2020
Smoky Mountains. Dolly Parton. They are inevitably the first two things that come to mind when I hear the two words, "Gatlinburg, Tennessee". There's more than country music and long-range vistas to keep you occupied, however. There is an endless supply of attractions ranging from go-karts and mini-golf to dinner shows and aquariums, with the plenty of olde-timey Western photo places or Myrtle Beach style T-shirt stores in between.
And while there isn't aren't a ton of golf courses here, there are few fun tracks that you can fit into your family vacation, and you don't even have to take the minivan over to the course. Most are within a short Uber ride.
So set your alarms early and get that round in one day before you head out for your daily family adventure!
We usually profile the area before the golf, but here we'll suggest a place to stay with each course. Without further ado, here are your closest golf choices:
Course | City | Architect | Year Opened
Gatlinburg | Pigeon Forge | William B. Langford |1955
Seiverville (36 holes) | Seiverville | D.J. DeVictor | River 1994 & Highlands 2011
Bent Creek | Gatlinburg | Gary Player | 1973
Island Pointe (formerly River Islands) | Kodak | Arthur Hills | 1991
Creekside Plantation (9) | Seymour | N/A | 2000
As you can see, golf is not necessarily native to the area. You won't find any classic courses here. In fact, up until about 30 years ago, there were only two courses available for play. Tourism became big business here for two reasons: the creation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park - the most visited national park in the United States annually - and the 1982 World's Fair in nearby Knoxville.
The oldest track you'll find is the geographically challenged Gatlinburg Golf Course in the city of Pigeon Forge. Located very close to Dollywood, it makes it an easy Uber from just about everywhere you'll stay 'commercially' in the area.
Normally, I'm a fan of staying in a B&B or a Vrbo rental, but man, the DreamMore Resort Hotel is a five-star stay! Dolly did it right! This place has it all; including the private shuttle with park entry to Dollywood/Splash Country, the AYCE meals, the spa, the pool(s), the family friendly accommodations (some guest rooms have a separate sleeping room - complete with bunk beds - for the kids! Best of all, the cinnamon bread sold at the park is baked fresh in the hotel!! If you don't know about the bread, you haven't lived!
Check out some of the excellence that is DreamMore!
Back on the course, the William B. Langford course rocks and rolls up and down the hills at the literal foot of the Smoky Mountains. This is a true mountain course if there ever was one, and you know it from the very first shot. Do yourself the favor and try to get the first tee time. The light is tremendous!
Langford is probably best known for his work in the upper midwest with his Theodore J. Moreau (Lawsonia Links). They are more Golden Age than modern since the equipment they used (steam shovel) would be out of date with today's measures - or that even of the 1960s.
You can see some of that in the land forms created below...
No true mountain course is complete without a fall off the world par-3 you say? We'd agree. You won't be disappointed to find what is waiting on the 12th hole...
The area is know for its hospitality - so don't be afraid to pair up with someone and make a new friend. I'm certainly glad I was grouped as a single with 3 other guys - all from Dayton, OH. Two of them were buddies, but the other guy being from there was purely coincidence. Wouldn't you know it, my boy Josh and I have become good friends and keep in touch to this day!
Bent Creek came along next and was built in quiet and secluded valley due east of Gatlinburg on US Hwy 321. Easily the highest course in feet above sea level in the area - in fact may now be the highest course in terms of elevation in the state of Tennessee (Wiki-style citation needed).
Diamond Resorts has many vacation rentals available for those looking for something out of town yet plush with amenities - a nice in between a secluded cabin and an in-town resort.
Three-time Masters Champion Gary Player crafted a front nine that hugs a creek in the low spots and a back nine that wind up and down the hills of the National Park. The views are huge in many places - certainly part of the charm and allure of playing golf up here!
The Sevierville Golf Club is all about options and convenience. The options aren't just on the course - which features two 18-hole layouts and a first-class practice range. However, the main attraction to the property though isn't even golf! The Wilderness at the Smokies Resort features an indoor water park for the kids. We haven't stayed there, but we also hope there is a fully-stocked bar with top shelf spirits for the parents for those brave enough to bring their kids here! My guess is, they'll need it.
Both courses give you some of the river valley and links golf, as well as some holes creeping up the hillside. Each course has one more than the other (the River holds true to the valley except about 3-4 holes with the opposite said for the Highlands loop). Here you can see a blend of both courses as they share a similar look & feel:
In what could be one of the most unique inland layouts you'll ever find, Island Pointe Golf Club (the course was formerly known as River Islands - which was about the most appropriately named course of all-time!). You play your first two and last two holes on the north bank of the French Broad River with nine holes on the south side of the river. That leaves five incredibly cool holes playing to & on literal islands in the middle of the river.
It's ownership has changed hands a few times, so you'll find mixed reviews out there online. However, if you're playing around here on vacation, you're probably just happy to be on the course, so don't worry too much about it. If you're looking for some shots to remember - this Arthur Hills layout is where you want to play!
Places to stay up on this end of the area aren't abundant, so refer back to the aforementioned places above or rent a cabin.
Lastly, if you're short on time, give Creekside Plantation a look. Its not your typical nine holer. It's a legit golf course design. It's also flat and very walkable if that's your thing. It's got a fun little links feel and as the second half of the course's true name details, a pretty good practice facility if you just want to work on your game. It's about 15 minutes from Sevierville Golf Club, so if its too crowded there, it's an easy drive over to Creekside.
In summary, are you going to schedule a golf trip here? Maybe... You certainly could get a good budget weekend out of it. For high-end resort play, you'd be better suited for that a number of different places, but there good rounds to be had here. Maybe the next time you load up that big SUV for the family vacay, fighting for the trunk space for the golf bag just might be worth it after all!
As always, if you need a recommendation on where to play - or you need a fourth - please let us know via the comment box at the bottom of the page!
Enjoy a few of the best of the rest from the area...
Gatlinburg Golf Course
Bent Creek Golf Village
Sevierville Golf Club
Island Pointe (formerly River Islands)
[winter photos - dormant Bermuda]