Holston Hills has a reputation as the Ross course that time forgot because so little has supposedly changed over the years. The story is that the club, increasingly located on the “wrong” side of Knoxville, never had the money to unwittingly hire an architect to come in to “renovate” the course out of character as so many other vintage courses did in the’50’s and’60’s. So what you see in the ground is what was there 80+ years ago, and old photos and aerials affirm it. The club survived alteration by chance, perhaps (minor work has been done restoring bunkers), but now they know what they’ve got and there’s no chance now of anyone coming in and ruining it.
You’d search a long time to find a property better suited to the kind of courses Ross was a master at routing. The land slopes from high ground on the north side down to the Holston River drifting along the southern boundary. The eastern edge is also elevated and a ravine cuts through the western half of the site giving the land sashay and little rhythmical movements, all of which Ross sniffed out for tees and greens.
The landforms and bunkering imbue the holes with much more motion than is obvious from the tee. You learn driving diagonally across to the par four second’s hogback fairway that you’re playing along the ground as much as through the air, and the realization continues at the third when the fairway drops into the ravine past the fairway bunkers, and again at the classy short par four sixth where a heavily canted fairway drops then rises toward an elevated plateau green. Thirteen begins another stretch that uses a ridge, a hollow and a knob of hill all to inspired effect, capped by the 306-yard 16th running up a narrow slope to a slippery pitcher’s mound green (with OB right behind).
I’m not enamored with the back-to-back par fives that end the round; they’re probably the two least interesting holes on the
course. But this club has such irresistible charm and internal logic that it hardly matters. This is one of the best walks in the park in the South and the moment you finish you’re ready to circle around to the first tee to start again. Good routings make good golf. They should, and should remain like Holston Hills, locked in time. (93)
Architect: Donald Ross