Golf Life: Sweetens Cove team foresees a breakthrough

Sweetens Cove

Golf Life: Sweetens Cove team foresees a breakthrough

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Golf Life: Sweetens Cove team foresees a breakthrough

It’s been four years since Sweetens Cove opened in South Pittsburg, Tenn., just west of Chattanooga.

The course has received an extraordinary amount of praise, especially for a nine-holer from a design team that was making their debut. Aside from Golfweek, it has been the subject of fawning critiques in The New York Times and various architectural blogs. It’s currently No. 1 on Golfweek’s list of public-access courses in Tennessee and No. 50 on the list of Golfweek’s Best Modern Courses.

Yet Sweetens Cove remains the lone significant design credit for King-Collins Design, the partnership between Tad King and Rob Collins, who worked on Gary Player’s design team prior to the 2008 financial crash. (The pair also did minor renovation work on two holes at another Chattanooga-area course.)

Even in the current environment, in which few new courses are being built and architects are more focused on renovations and restorations, one would have thought King and Collins already would have parlayed Sweetens Cove into additional assignments. Collins insists he and King are close to a breakthrough.

“We have got a bunch of irons in the fire,” Collins said recently while driving to Mississippi to watch his nephew’s high school football game. “We’ve got more inquiries right now than we’ve ever had.”

The design team – Collins is the architect, while King oversees construction – is working with PGA Tour player Zac Blair on plans for The Buck Club, Blair’s dream club in Utah, though a timeframe for that project has not been announced. Collins is hopeful that he and King will start a nine-hole renovation project in New York soon, and he said the pair has had nibbles on proposed jobs in South Carolina and Michigan. Collins also mentioned tentative talks regarding a 100-acre site near Knoxville, where he dreams of building something like El Boquerón, the mythical Alister MacKenzie design with two greens per hole.

There is a lot of smoke, but no fire yet. Collins acknowledged that he’s surprised he and King haven’t yet shed the label of one-hit wonders.

“I kind of thought this wave of inquiries would happen a couple of years ago,” he said. “It’s taken longer than I thought. … It’s a reminder of how incredibly difficult it is to crack into this profession. We are so fortunate to have Sweetens Cove. Being a new firm, I don’t know how the hell you get leads without getting something. There’s a lot of talented guys out there. We’re lucky to have something that keeps giving us opportunities.”

Collins said his hope is that he and King will have two projects nailed down by Christmas and be working onsite by spring. The New York renovation seems imminent; the other projects are bigger jobs, but less certain to happen.

“I’m more optimistic about our future than ever,” Collins said. “It’s so close, we can almost taste it.”

(The Phoenician/Jim David)

New courses opening this month

Here’s something you don’t hear often these days: We’re about to get hit with a modest wave of course openings over the next few weeks.

This week architect Richard Mandell will be offering a sneak preview of Braemar Golf Course, which he built for the city of Edina, Minn., on a site previously occupied by a 27-hole course. Braemar is billed as the first new 18-hole golf course built in Minnesota in a decade. (Mandell also renovated Keller Golf Course for the nearby city of St. Paul. Keller reopened in 2014.)

On Nov. 1, architect Phil Smith’s re-creation of The Phoenician’s golf course in Scottsdale, Ariz., will reopen. The course previously crammed 27 holes onto a 115-acre site. Smith has reduced that to a far more workable 18 holes.

Also on Nov. 1, Ozarks National, the latest Bill Coore-Ben Crenshaw collaboration, will get a soft, and likely chilly, opening in Hollister, Mo. The official opening is planned for spring.

Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris commissioned Ozarks National as part of his efforts to bring more visitors to his Big Cedar Lodge in southern Missouri. It will be his second 18-hole course, complementing two short courses, and likely will be added to the rota of courses for the PGA Tour Champions’ Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf. Just across the road from Ozarks National, Tiger Woods’ design firm is working on a third 18-hole layout for Morris. That could open by late 2019. Gwk

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