The average round of golf in the U.S. is about $36. On occasion, the public golfer might splurge locally on something in the $50-75 range.
But once the green fee hits three digits, expectations soar. Those facilities that can ask $100-plus for one round will need to have soome combination of the following:
- Top 100 or best-in-state acclaim
- A professional or elite amateur event
- Exceptional amenities or service
- A highly convenient or exceptionally beautiful location
The final category is the "member-for-a-day" experience, a coveted outing where Joe and Jane Public feel like they have the run of the joint. And one of the most popular new public courses to be unveiled in the last decade just altered its green fee structure to accommodate this.
Late last week, Sweetens Cove's Twitter account posted they will go to a day-rate model for their peak-season weekends (Fri-Sun, April 1 - October 31st). Golfers can play as much as they want in one day for $100 walking or $125 with a cart. The offer is available to 40 golfers per day, or about a group per hole.
We’re excited to announce our plans for the upcoming season. We made some changes to how we will operate by throwing it back to Summer ‘16. If you were there, you know how good it was. Now it’ll be that way every weekend from April to November. We Look forward to seeing you soon! pic.twitter.com/PCPnakkEr8— SweetensCoveGolfClub (@SweetensCove) February 28, 2020
Overseers of the course, architect Rob Collins and Matt Adamski, cite the summer of 2016 as a magical time and when the Sweetens experience was optimal. Golfers could enjoy the course as they pleased, playing cross-country golf and in as big of a group as they wanted without worrying about holding anyone up. Fast-forwarding to 2020, the word is clearly out, and last year Sweetens experienced too many days where the course was jammed, with up to 70 golfers packed into its nine holes, causing waits on several tee boxes.
By eliminating the standard tee times and offering only all-day play, we are giving everyone the chance to play Sweetens in that purest form. As long as you play fast, respect others and the course, you can do whatever you want.
Golfers used to the trimmings of a traditional $100+ experience - nice clubhouse, practice facilities, service, 18 holes - will need an open mind for the Sweetens Cove way. While you can expect pretty solid conditions considering its low-lying property, the facility is still proudly spartan, although there have been some updates made by the course's new, deep-pocketed ownership group. For now, you'll still have to pack your own food and drink, although the pavilion has grilling facilities (TVs are on the way) and there are bathrooms with plumbing by the shed (though no showers). The "heckle deck" is now complete as well, and the new putting course is great if you want a little break between nines.
Sweetens Cove also has push carts handy, and if you're walking in the hot summer, don't skimp on hydration. Last September, I walked the first 18 holes of my day there. I forget specifically when I caved and went in a cart the rest of the way, but I was enamored enough of the course, the two pins per green, the multiple teeing options, and the BYOB crispy boys, that 45 holes later at sunset I was still having a blast out there.
All-day ticket: How to book a tee time at Sweetens Cove
Sweetens Cove accepts tee times 90 days in advance. Since the announcement of the new weekend all-day rate, the course has fielded more than 200 calls about it and some weekends in April and May are already booked solid. Sweetens also reports that if you are on their course website and see that the date you want is booked, due to limitations with their current booking engine, the day may not necessarily be booked solid, so call the shop and check on the specific availability.
In the last few years, I've noticed on various golf community platforms a trend of golfers stopping off at Sweetens Cove on a road trip (it's minutes off I-24, which heads north to Nashville, and not terribly far from Atlanta). For those golfers who want a quick in and out, make sure you allow for a Tuesday-Thursday round during the peak months so that you aren't paying $100 for nine holes. (The course is closed for maintenance on Mondays during the peak season). Nine holes in the summer cost $35 to walk, $45 with cart.
Larger groups interested in having the course all to themselves can do so for $4,500 per day and should inquire with the course for available dates.
Nice distillation of what playing golf costs in America—I had no idea of what, exactly, a typical round costs. The question of whether it is worth it to spend $100 on an upscale experience for a full-day’s golf at a first-rate course (such as this) is a perplexing one for me. Certainly, I could play this nine-holer four times consecutively without succumbing to boredom, because you’ve made it clear that the course’s inherent flexibility and its potent strategic aspects warrant its inclusion on any ‘must-play’ list in Tennessee, however located, as it is, deep the boonies (South Pittsburgh? Holy moonshine Batman!) Played with a partner—as I’d do—the tab would be $250 for a day. Not bad, yet far more expensive than what I generally spend on an upscale course when playing eighteen. A downside: playing a mere eighteen generally satiates my hunger for golf in any typical 24-hour period, though I perfectly understand how you played the course on the full-day ticket, enjoying it immensely. Sweetens did their marketing homework—as you write, they’ve already selling out, in essence—yet I’m guessing these are the kinds of golfers for whom the money aspect itself is never a genuine consideration. Hedging my bets, I’d first play nine here during Tues—Thurs., to see if it merited a longer, return engagement.
I’m a bit incredulous that mine is the single response over four days to this article, as it raises a ticklish dilemma for the more serious golfer. Maybe everybody’s out golfing.