Knoxville, Tennessee - A Par 3 Course Paradise
Updated: Mar 2
Abraham Lincoln famously stated in the Gettysburg Address that our great country was dedicated to the proposition that ALL men are created equal.
Sadly, the equality proposition does not apply to Par 3 Courses. In fact, implying that Par 3 Courses can be a mixed bag is the understatement of the millennia and might as well be added to the Ten Commandments of Golf (if they exist).
Turns out Forrest Gump's mother was right about those damn chocolates, too.
Some Par 3 or Short Courses have the ability to open minds and help us remember how fun the game can be. We mean, has anyone said anything bad about The Cradle lately? Or ever?
On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are some you just shake your head at and wonder why what you just experienced is even considered a golf course.
Well, we've found a place where you can experience the highs and lows, the fun and the frustration, all in one town - or better yet all in one day!
Welcome to Rocky Top, a.k.a Knoxville, Tennessee! (enter joke explaining that the previous sentence also applies to the local college football team at your own peril)
Knoxville is a cool town if you've not been. In addition to the Vols, it has a vibrant downtown core, rivers, nearby mountains and lakes, and quite a few places to tee it up. Among the golf courses are four par 3 or short courses on which became of focus of a recent day on the links.
And yes, you can do them all in one day if you're a golf nerd like me.
Before we get to the courses, let's break down the numbers a minute, because a town of just 187,000 having four short courses may not seem like an awfully robust supply, but the numbers say otherwise...
Sure, there are probably holes you can shoot in this data and its not apples to apples, but it's just meant to show that Knoxville has more Par 3 Courses per capita that you'd expect from a mid-size city - especially compared to some of its brawnier southern brethren.
Now we can get into the courses. Since Knoxvegas is right at a 100 mile drive from home, you've got to make it worth the trip! Quarantine had certainly strained our pace of new course play in 2020, yielding just two new courses between the two of us (both BMAC's) up until May. Not acceptable when you're trying to average one new course per month per man!
Here's how you make up ground in a hurry (or if you're in town without a lot of time to play, this will help you pick your pleasure)...
8:30am | WILLIAMS CREEK GOLF CLUB | 18 holes Knoxville's East Side | Designed by Tom Fazio | $20-$25
A bold claim awaits as you walk down around the old schoolhouse of a clubhouse to the pro shop.
"Best Par 3 in Tennessee" is quite the welcome mat, but if you know the course was designed by Tom Fazio, then you just got really excited.
Remembering that not all Par 3 Courses are created equal, also understand they're not all to be assumed to be walkable. This place feels so spread out that if the terrain were a bit more gentle, it could have had enough room for a more traditional course. Luckily, the prices are low ($25 includes cart) and rates drop later in the day.
As the first one off the box and the solitary nature that each hole provides in its own setting, you feel as though you own the place! The wall-to-wall concrete cart paths and electric carts make for a ride as smooth as the putting surfaces.
As for the course, it is very nice, but don't expect 18 Fazio signature holes though. If you expect great conditions, varying distances to give you the ability to use most of your bag, some resistance to scoring, smooth putting surfaces and a few bunkers, then you'll be extremely pleased. This course has all of that in spades.
But does Williams Creek measure up to being the "Best Par 3 in Tennessee"?
It's the best one we've played so far is all we can say about that. Keeping in mind that Williams Creek is also home base for The First Tee of Greater Knoxville and that the course should not have a whole lot of forced carries, thus providing an incredible place to grow the game, then Williams Creek checks all the boxes! Breezing through in under two hours for all 18 was nice too!
Enjoy some of the best views from Williams Creek:
11:00am | "The Loop" at Fairways & Greens | 9 holes (sort of)
Knoxville's West Side | $20 day pass
This. Place. Is. Awesome! Fairways & Greens Golf Center is a membership based facility and is a practice Mecca for all things golf. Multiple areas for putting, full swing, lessons, VIP lounges/Swing Suites, covered hitting bays, sand, short game, etc. And that's just the outside! Inside you have all the latest tech aides, plus a huge putting green and fitness center.
If you live in Knoxville and you're a serious golfer, you have to seriously consider joining. It was named a Top 50 Stand Alone Range by Golf Digest. It is legit.
All of that is before we even get to thelit short course, dubbed “The Loop”!
After calling and inquiring about their 'day pass', I was thinking the $20 fee was going to be an overpay just to play 'The Loop', the imaginative short course located near the main entrance of the property, yet furthest from the clubhouse.
Boy was I wrong.
First, the layout. It's pretty ingenious really. The footprint cannot be much larger than two football fields side x side, but It also has a pretty large pond in the middle. There are only three greens, but each has three separate tees that play to them, yielding the nine hole Loop. However, each green has two flags (one short and one long), so in reality you can play eighteen different hole combinations.
That doesn't even take into account any cross-country options should play be light. Add the links feel to it and you've got a brick of C-4 explosive compacted into an Altoids can!
Depending on foot traffic on The Loop, you can drop a ball on each tee and fire three shots in succession, thus playing 'three holes' at once on your card. If traffic is heavier, they have a sign asking golfers to play only one ball at a time.
I played the 3 tee shot at a time, 9 hole loop in about 20 minutes. If I didn't have the day planned out to play all four courses and still be home for dinner, I could have spent a lot more time here exploring not just the loop, but spending some much needed time on practice. Check that, we talkin' about practice, man?! Back to the game!
Oh and by the way, the whole place has lights, including The Loop!
This will be a tough course to beat in our Alternative Golf Facility year-end fake awards lists! Check out some more of the greatness at The Loop and the rest of Fairways & Greens!
12:30pm | Concord Park Par 3 | 9 holes
Southwest Knoxville | $8 walking
Next up was Concord Park Par 3. For $8, I didn't expect much. Turns out that was a wise expectation. This city owned facility sits on the gentle slopes of a hill overlooking Fort Loudoun Lake. The staff was very friendly and the little house/pro shop was set up well for social distancing.
[Photo note: all flag sticks were removed for social distancing purposes - but course provided more than enough detail on where the locations were!]
Going back to the edict of Par 3 Courses not being created equal, CPP3 would be down towards the lower end of the spectrum. We aren't hear to run any courses down - it's just not what we do. It's hard work running a golf course and we have no idea what kind of resources are given to a certain property to make it what most golfers would call 'good'.
If you're looking for a place to introduce a youngster to the game, or just get out for some exercise, Concord Park would be a great option. However, after about five holes, I felt I experienced all the course had to offer and hopped over to the 9th tee to turn inward. It is there I found perhaps one of the more puzzling things I've ever seen on a golf course.
It didn't appear to be left to neglect, but the course's real 9th hole was abandoned. It's too bad because the hole certainly appeared to be in good shape and EASILY the best hole on the course. Puzzling? Yes. Losing sleep over it? No. Onward we must go!
2:00pm | Beverly Park Junior Golf Course | 9 holes
Northeast Knoxville | $8 walking
Also a city owned course of similar size, stature and resources (it appeared) to Concord Park, I really wasn't expecting much out of Beverly Park having just played Concord Park. While the greens were the same fairway grass at both courses (even if groomed better at Beverly), they feel world's apart on the Par 3 Course Pantheon of Goodness (trademark pending).
Immediately as you pull onto the drive leading down to the parking lot, you are greeted by a giant old silo (major points!). Then you see the beautiful old red barn and the authentic log cabin clubhouse before you start get the feels running through your arms down to your fingers. It's the itch you just have to scratch and you don't even care what the course plays like. [Photo note: all flag sticks were removed for social distancing purposes]
We aren't saying that Beverly Park should be awarded a PGA Tour stop. Far from it. What it is - as well as all of those who enjoy this game like we are kids ourselves - is what junior golf should strive to be. Sure its a little rough around the edges, but the course setup is darn near perfect. The only thing its really missing are real greens.
If someone would like to donate $100K to this course to build some real greens, we'd be happy to introduce you to some folks out in Knoxville.
The best part about the barn and silo is that they're integral parts of the golf course. Even the cabin is too, as you step off its front porch and onto a tee box (just not the first tee). If we were running the course, we'd make the 7th the 1st hole so the 6th - which plays right at the silo - becomes the finisher. Either way, we're just happy to have played it and wish well to those charged with stewarding this property.
Take in a few extra views of Beverly Park Junior Golf Course!
There you have it. Four Courses in a day. A Course Collector's dream. If in town for a day with the sticks but short on time, take a drive or an Uber out to one of these facilities. You won't regret it! Thanks to all the staff we encountered for promoting social distancing and maintaining excellent customer service standards.
Golf Course numbers 454, 455, 456 & 457 on The Golf Crusade!