Many of you know that I am a child of Tennessee. Knoxville, to be precise. I went to high school there and graduated from the University of Tennessee, which was about a 20-minute drive from my parents home.
After graduating, I began my journey of living and working in as many different cities and states as I could. The only wrinkle in this journey was that some of those locations were not of my choosing. But I have been fortunate to meet great people every place I’ve lived and worked.
Now that I am in Charlotte, I am close enough to get back to Knoxville and vicinity on occasion, which is typically a four-hour drive if traffic cooperates. I had that opportunity this past weekend, and travelled to attend my cousin’s blowout 70th birthday party (boy, is he old…). Since I was in Maryville, just southeast of Knoxville, I thought it would be cool to play a golf course I used to play in high school and college.
Pine Lakes Golf Club is out Alcoa Highway, and is a relatively easy drive from the campus. Get on Alcoa Highway toward the Knoxville Airport, make one turn and there you are. I wasn’t sure Pine Lakes was even still in business, so that was the first task- to see if it was still there.
It is, and was. Here is the story of going back to a golf course of my youth.
Playing Golf in High School
I’ve mentioned before that I had the opportunity to play on the high school golf team, and turned it down. I distinctly remember saying “Are you crazy?” or words to that effect when I was asked. I was playing baseball and although I liked golf, I was a much better baseball player (and in fact played competitive baseball until I was 18 years old). But golf was just not something that was cool in high school like it is now.
The first time I played Pine Lakes was when I was a senior in high school, and played with the physical education student teacher from UT during spring break. We played it at least three times that week, and walked 36 holes each time we played (those were the days).
I distinctly remember the student teacher having two eagles that week, including one in which his third shot on a par-5 hit the flag on the fly, wrapped it around the flagstick, and dropped straight into the hole! Only time I’ve ever seen (or even heard) of that happening.
Once I started at UT, Pine Lakes was a lot closer to campus, and therefore a relatively easy drive out after class to get in nine or even eighteen holes after the time had changed.
And after I graduated and left the area, I never played it again, until this past Saturday morning.
It had been close to forty years since I had played it, so needless to say, I remembered very little. I did remember that the first hole was a dogleg-left short par 4 with a small pond on the dogleg. It was easy to hit over the pond, although it being the first shot of the round, and not being all that loose, memory has it being bigger and more foreboding than it probably was.
That pond is long gone, I was told in the clubhouse. It is easy to see where it used to be, as the depression is still there, and hitting a shot into that depression would be an effective shot penalty, as it would be practically impossible to reach the green in regulation.
There is an old joke where an old golfer and young 20-something are standing next to his ball with a tree in front of the young guy. Old guy says, “When I was your age, I could hit it over that tree.” Of course, the young guy accepts the challenge and tries, only to see the ball hit the branches and fall straight down.
As they walk to the ball, the old guy says, “Of course, when I was your age, that tree was about half that size…”
That sums up Pine Lakes. The trees are mature now, and the fairways really are tree lined. Hitting into the rough before, from what I remember, still gave a lot of options, but now, being behind a tree means punching out into the fairway. In other words, the course is a typical tree-lined, parkland municipal golf course. There are still ponds and small lakes, although most are not really in play except for a duck hook or banana ball.
The fairways were relatively plush- more plush than I remember. The greens were plush also, meaning slower than average. I had several wedges into greens, and never failed to leave a divot, even with half-wedges. In fact, I had one hole where I spun a wedge a good twenty feet from hole high to almost off the front of the green. I chalk most of that up to the slope and wetness of the green rather than my superb wedge play!
One other unique factor of pine lakes is that every dogleg hole, and there are four or five of them, are dogleg left. That is a rarity. I know I’ve never played another course without a dogleg right.
It’s a municipal course, so the dress code is, shall we say, relaxed. The foursome in front of us had a guy who looked like a young Charlie Daniels with a shirt with the sleeves cut out (think Larry the Cable Guy) and blue jean shorts. But I saw several who could have passed muster at any country club anywhere, so if you can imagine it, there was probably someone wearing it last Saturday.
As for my play, my driver is slowly but unfailingly getting better and more reliable. I played from the off the fairway twice that I can remember. In fact, if I could have putted the slow-ish greens a little better, I would have had the best score of the year. As it was, I shot an 82 with nothing but 4’s and 5’s on the card–another first for me. And Alice shot her best nine holes ever with a 44 on the back.
The staff were nice, the course was crowded (a five-hour round, but it was Saturday morning), and was in better than average shape for a municipal course that cost $25 to play. All in all, it was a fun trip down memory lane for me.
If you get to the Knoxville area and are looking for an inexpensive option where losing a golf ball would take significant effort, give Pine Lakes a try.
Thanks for reading and enjoy Shooting Your Age!