I love national parks… who doesn't?… but a golf course next to a national park is maybe just a notch up the scale on my happy meter. So when Hidden Fairways member, Garrett Roberson, nominated Laurel Valley as a potential Hidden Fairway I was eager to check it out.
Laurel Valley Golf Course nestles up against Great Smoky Mountain National Park, just outside Townsend, Tennessee in a beautiful valley called, oddly enough, Laurel Valley! The course has been in place since the 1980's, when the first nine holes were completed. The second nine was added 1992, and is now a short (6070 yards) but challenging track that is well worth a visit. If you're looking for a "stay and play" golf trip, the Laurel Valley community has a "sister company", Dogwood Cabins (http://www.dogwoodcabins.com), that offers cabins and homes in the area at very reasonable rates for stays as brief at 2 nights.
From the back tees, the course's short length is defended by narrow fairways and small greens, so even if you're a low handicapper, you'll find plenty of challenge here. I played the course very early on a foggy morning, so I didn't really see the first 3 holes until I did my photo shoot. I'm kind of glad, because the narrow 1st fairway might have been a bit scary. Patty Barnes, the lovely woman who greeted me in the golf shop when I arrived, said the folks with the 8 o'clock tee time had not shown up so I could tee off immediately if I wished. I wished. I play a lot of golf in the dark, because I'm a committed early bird! Patty was careful to explain to me that everything rolls right on the 1st fairway and told me I should hit my tee shot over the edge of "the hill on the left" to keep it in the fairway. Nice theory. With the early hour and thick fog, I could hardly see "the hill" from the first tee! As the saying goes, "even a blind dog finds a bone every now and then" so shockingly, my tee shot found the center of the fairway. Same with my second shot. What was going on? My real game showed up at the tiny first green, though, which I missed to the right. I ended up bogeying the hole. My game.
The course really bares its teeth on the 10th hole, a 240 yard downhill par 3 over a fairly large pond. This hole is a challenging beauty, and the good news is that there is plenty of bailout space right, left and short of the green, so it isn't a disaster if you miss… or can't reach… the green. For a mountain course, there are very few holes with significant elevation changes. The second is a downhill par 3 that drops so significantly that the green is out of sight from all but the red tees. The 12th hole climbs a large hill as it turns left toward the green, so it plays much longer than its 351 yards. Most of the rest of the course, though, winds comfortably around the valley floor and if you have any ball control at all, you'll have a very enjoyable round of golf.
|Number of Holes:||18|
|Length - Slope / Rating
|From Blue Tees:||6070 - 125 / 69.7
|From White Tees:||5585 - 117 / 68.4
|From Red Tees:||4555 - 114 / 68.0
|Hours of Operation:||9 am - 5:30 pm|
|Designer:||Edmund B. Ault
|Golf Shop Manager:||Janet Latham|
|General Manager:||David Latham
|Address:||702 Country Club Drive, Townsend, Tennessee 37882
|Best Feature:||Laurel Valley is a beautiful of East Tennessee, backing up to Great Smoky Mountain National Park. It's peaceful. The course is very well maintained by David Latham and his crew and the folks will go out of their way to make you feel right at home.
|Rates, Weekdays:||Winter Rates: $22 for 18 - $13 for 9
|Rates, Weekends:||Winter Rates: $22 for 18 - $13 for 9|