The Takeaway: One of the most pure Donald Ross courses in the country, the virtually untouched layout features exceptional greens, compelling par fives, and a driveable volcano hole that is one of Ross’ best holes ever. Grade B+
Designer: Donald Ross 1927
Phone Number: 865-525-0626
Course Website: Official Website - Visit Holston Hills Country Club's official website by clicking on the link provided.
Directions: Get here! - 5200 Holston Hills Road, Knoxville, Tennessee 37914 – UNITED STATES
What to Expect: One of the most pure Donald Ross courses that can be found in the country. Holston Hills was built on the less affluent side of Knoxville which created a financial scenario that prevented the club from hiring architects over the years to do any renovation work on the course during the previous century when it was so popular to do so. As a result, Holston Hills is blessed with a virtually untouched Ross design which in hindsight is the best thing that could have happened to them. What you’ll find is a course boasting excellent greens which is often Ross’ trademark feature. But they aren’t the domed greens so many people think of with Ross’ work at Pinehurst, they are pure surfaces with multiple pin positions that develop intrigue in the layout and can vary the difficulty of the course. The terrain features gentle movement but nothing too crazy which makes it a great course to walk, although carts are available. Other than the driveable volcano 16th hole, which is one of the best Ross holes I've ever played, there is nothing too crazy at Holston Hills. It is mostly a course of subtleties that gain greater appreciation each loop around as you learn the speed slots, where to miss on the greens, and how best to tackle this Ross gem. By Tennessee and historic architectural standards, Holston Hills is a must play although it isn’t quite Top 100 level in America.
By the Numbers
Individual Hole Analysis
Signature Hole: 16th Hole – 304 Yard Par 4 – My all time favorite Donald Ross designed hole, the 16th at Holston Hills is a perfect risk/reward driveable par four that plays to a volcano green and occurs late in the round to create drama in a match right when you want it. Tipping out just over 300 yards, the right to left sloping fairway features a trio of bunkers on the right side that can come into play for players taking a conservative club off the tee and fearing the tree line on the left. The more aggressive, and certainly more fun, play is taking a rip with a driver in hopes of sneaking a tee shot between the two bunkers fronting the green and rolling one up on the putting surface. When the hole is playing downwind and shots are skipping further than usual, a bunker in the rear awaits shots scooting off the putting surface and presents a sand save opportunity to a strong back to front sloping green. Driveable par fours are always a ton of fun, and this volcano template is a masterful way to enjoy it.
Best Par 3: 4th Hole – 165 Yards – An attractive one-shotter over water to a green fronted by a bunker, the 4th can be a birdie opportunity as quick as it can turn into a bogey scenario. Players that leak one to the right will likely tumble into the water while players bailing to the left will have to get up and down with a green sloping away from them. Unless the flag is right in the middle, this can quickly become a risk/reward situation.
Best Par 4: 6th Hole – 355 Yards – A quality shorter par four, the 6th presents an interesting decision off the tee. Hitting driver means playing to a fairway that tightens up the further you carry it while laying back too far with an iron can bring bunkers into play. The left to right sloping fairway kicks balls to the side of the short grass where the angle into the green gets worse, so the further left you can keep it the better opportunity you'll have to wedge a shot close. Strategy and accuracy are a premium here, so be sure to execute on both accounts.
Best Par 5: 7th Hole – 517 Yards – One of Ross' more unique offerings, the 7th plays to a split fairway that is divided by a ridge with bunkers on it. The safe play is to the right where a wider landing area is offered and trees are less threatening. Players challenging the left side will be rewarded with a fairway that kicks balls forward so long as they miss the heavy grass where lost balls are commonplace. The left side also takes the series of bunkers down the right side of the fairway out of play and yields the most welcoming entrance into the green. The mounding left of the putting surface can create some challenging lies to get up and down from, so like many golf holes, if you can keep it in the middle you will be rewarded.
Birdie Time: 17th Hole – 520 Yard Par 5 – Few courses finish with three consecutive holes that are quite as opportunist as Holston Hills offers, and the 17th stands as the easiest birdie of them all. Tipping out at 520 yards, the hole is often reachable with an iron on the second shot given that it plays downhill the entire way home. The slightly raised green and pin position should be considered when deciding how aggressive to be when attacking the flag, but if in doubt lay up just short of the putting surface and give yourself a great chance to get up and down for birdie.
Bogey Beware: 12th Hole – 475 Yard Par 4 – You won't find many holes more difficult in East Tennessee than the 12th at Holston Hills. With yardage creeping up on 500 and a tee shot that requires a big carry to get beyond the rise in the fairway, you'll need all the length you can muster up along with a small prayer when tackling this beast. The approach shot is the toughest on the course with a green that tilts severely from left to right, but with a bunker hugging the left side of the putting surface there are no opportunities to cheat your ball up that side in hopes of tumbling one down onto the green. An approach shot from the right side of the fairway provides the best angle into the green and hope of staving off a bogey, but shots not perfectly executed can quickly put a big number on this hole.