Nestled among the East Tennessee hills between Lynchburg and Chattanooga lies a storied golf course that has become one of the best-known treasures in Tennessee, affectionately called Sweetens Cove. Revered for its beautiful and challenging layout, it quickly became a popular destination among locals. However, while the course was known to many in the area, it faced hard times financially and was in danger of shutting down in 2019. It was then that a group of sports legends and investors saw an opportunity to preserve this amazing piece of golf lore, including Tennessee’s own Peyton Manning, tennis champion Andy Roddick, developer Mark Rivers, legendary sportscaster Jim Nantz, and PGA golfers Brad Faxon and Keith Mitchell..
While the star power of ownership is impressive, the facilities and ambiance are anything but Hollywood. The course is a complete divergence from the traditional norm and etiquette, and that is most certainly by design.
The beautiful hills and mountain views are sublime, but there are still some nuances and traditions at Sweetens Cove that further the uniqueness and luster. There has always been a ritual (one that continues today) where golfers take a shot of whiskey on the first tee box. This was always a nod to non-traditional irreverence, but also to commemorate the camaraderie among friends. There was never a clubhouse, bar, concession, shop or structure on the grounds. This remains the same today with no formal amenities (other than a restroom) and so a BYOB rule remains healthily in effect. There is, however, a covered porch, fire pit and area to sit, sip, relax, enjoy and tell stories. The charm and romance could never be replicated even if someone tried.
As if preservation of the fabled course wasn’t enough, Sweetens Cove now boasts its own whiskey. Sweetens Cove Spirits began producing Tennessee Whiskey and has recently added their newest product, Kennessee, a crafted blend of Kentucky and Tennessee bourbon whiskies as a premium offering. Teaming up with Kentucky's first female Master Distiller, Marianne Eaves (who is also among the youngest to ever claim the title of Master Distiller), Kennessee blends the two storied regions of whiskey making into a single product.
While both the entrepreneurial golfing and whiskey spaces are challenging, one would imagine that pairing them together would be even more of a monumental risk. However, there are times when certain combinations are beyond symbiotic and seem to perform harmoniously in unison than they ever would independently and Sweetens Cove has found that perfect balance.
“If golf had national parks, Sweetens Cove would be one of them. And, what are national parks? They’re preserved, protected, celebrated and shared. That was kind of the philosophy that we approached Sweetens Cove with.” -Mark Rivers
Kentucky’s first female Master Distiller