RedTail Mountain Golf Club (Mountain City, TN on 08/31/13)

I have a friend in Northeast Tennessee and tried to meet up with him over Memorial Day Weekend earlier this year, but that didn’t work out. We gave it another shot and were able to get together for a couple rounds. When I didn’t tee it up with him I split off for some extra rounds on my own and enjoyed my time. I left on Friday night and returned Monday after a morning round. It was all interstate driving so it moved pretty well and there were not any back ups even with the holiday. The drive took about 4 hours and 15 minutes each way. I stayed in Johnson City, TN and ended up playing RedTail Mountain, Buffalo Valley, Graysburg Hills, The Crossings, and Warriors’ Path. There were a couple courses south on I-81 towards Knoxville that are on my list to play, but I decided to avoid the extra couple hours in the car on Sunday because it was already a bit of a ways to go for a long weekend. I hadn’t touched a club since the first week of August and hit is surprisingly well. However, my touch around and on the greens suffered a bit as normally is the case. Anyway, onto the reviews.

As soon as someone on a golf forum posted about this course it went on my list of courses to play when I visited Eastern Tennessee. I believe that the course was designed as a private club years ago but ended up allowing public play due to economic reasons. The course is out of the way up near the North Carolina and Virginia border with Tennessee and it took about an hour to get there from Johnson City. The drive to the clubhouse from the main road goes up a hill and passes by the opening and closing holes which gave me a false idea of what to expect. For the most part holes 1 through 4 and 15 through 18 play on the valley side of the clubhouse and are reasonably flat. The holes in the middle of the course are on the back and side of the clubhouse which is on a mountain.

The 1st hole is a long par 4 that drops significantly down to a generous fairway. The 2nd hole is a 332 yard par 4 that required a draw off the tee to avoid a tree before the course took on the a different feel on the 5th hole. From the 5th to the 15th the course is a wild ride of uphill and downhill holes with trouble lurking. The 5th is a long par 4 that played even longer up a hill to a green surrounded by trouble. The rise up to the green and the trees surrounding the green reminded me of something that would be found on a course in Monterey, CA. The fog hanging around the tree tops was another reminder of the California coast that I miss. The 6th is a 155 yard par 3 that dropped so much that I could only see the back of the green from the tee box. I hit a pitching wedge and flew the green, so it easily played 30 yards less than the yardage due to the elevation change and the thinner air. The 8th is a short, dogleg left par 5 that played downhill on the tee shot and uphill into the green. I missed it left on the approach and from 30 yards away I couldn’t see the top of the flag stick, so that gives an idea of the elevation changes on some of the holes. Unbelievably, the course gets more hilly after the 10th. The cart ride from the 10th green to the 11th tee is about 3 or 4 minutes straight up a hill to a shorter par 3 with a tiny green. The back has some nice green complexes and the 11th is one of those as there is a rock outcropping on the left side of the green. The 12th is a 532 yard downhill par 5 that I would think to be the signature hole. I bet the hole drops at least five clubs from the tee to the green and the features another green with even more rock around it. The 13th is a beautiful par 3 with a great view and a green framed by mounding and fescue on three sides. The last spectacular hole is the 14th which drops down the hill into the flat. The 14th is a 393 yard par 4 and is so severely downhill that I ended up hitting my 17 degree hybrid and a 60 degree wedge. Keep in mind the course didn’t offer any roll because of the rain the night before. The final few holes are in the flat and a bit “vanilla” compared to the rest. The closing holes reminded me of Canyon River in Montana since they were in a valley with scenic views of the surrounding mountains.

The course showed some signs of wear in the fairways and rough so it was hit or miss for a good lie or a bare patch. My friend said that the course was in much better shape when he played it three years ago. I am not sure how much of the change is the maintenance crews’ fault or from an unusually high amount of precipitation that the area has received this year. The tees were in nice shape considering that many were hidden in the trees where it can be tough to get grass to grow. The greens were in beautiful shape and were the best conditioned part of the course. The greens were fast so I had to be careful not to race the putts past the cup. One thing of note about the condition is that the course is in the process of redoing the bunkers so every bunker was in pretty bad shape. There was a local rule that you could rake and place the ball if you wanted so that helped a bit when playing from the bunkers.  I enjoyed the course and thought it was very fair for a mountain course. Many holes were wide enough to hit driver with just a few on the back requiring placement.  I played the blue tees at 72.3/126/6791 and would have expected it to be at least a shot tougher and with a slope in the 130’s so don’t expect a good round here to lower your handicap. The cost of the round was $55 which seemed reasonable for the layout and even with the inconsistent conditions it is worth a play as there are some jaw dropping holes.





#2 green:






#5 green looking back:








#8 green looking back:










#12 approach:






#14 approach:


#15 approach:




#17 green:


#18 approach:




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