In the foothills of the Tennessee Appalachians, a place I consider to be the Garden of Eden, has some of the most picturesque dairy farms in the world. Lush fields of alfalfa and corn stretch for miles, punctuated by silos, barns, and cows – lots of cows. Driving between two of the state’s oldest towns of Jonesborough and Greeneville, you can become slightly disoriented as you drive through, around, or past one dairy farm after another. The tranquility of the setting is only slightly disturbed when you wind through a cut in a hillside along a small stream and find before you a manicured area that is immediately recognized as a golf course. It is then that you have arrived at Graysburg Hills GC.
Graysburg Hills (graysburghillsgolf.com) is dear to me. Having lived nearby and played the since it opened in 1979, many of my golf memories were made there. It was built when a dentist (whose name is fading from memory) hired a budding architect named Rees Jones. I am sure that he was thrilled, as this would be his first solo job. What Mr. Jones accomplished with 400 acres of narrow valley that were formerly cow pasture has never received its due as an outstanding layout. Golfers who really know and appreciate such excellence think nothing of driving 1 ½ to 2 hours from Asheville, Knoxville, or Bristol to play this course, it’s that good and that remote.
There are actually three nines at Graysburg, but the course that Mr. Jones laid out is named Knobs (the front nine) and Fodderstack (the back nine). Chimney Top was added in 1994 and is regarded by seasoned players as the step-child of Graysburg Hills. While fun to play, it does not match the demeanor of the course proper.
Over time, Graysburg Hills has matured into an excellent course. In its youth, before the trees grew, you could stand on certain tee boxes at either end of the course and see every hole nestled in the valley holding the course. My friend Dave McVeigh and I would regularly find ourselves the only two golfers on the course, so we felt as if it were our own private reserve and that we were the presidents of a very private club. Wildlife is abundant, and there are only cow pastures abutting the course at both ends. Walking Graysburg, which we always do, was more than golf. It was our sanctuary, our therapist's couch, and a place where golf was only a part of the day.
Dave aptly named the 4th hole on Fodderstack "Long Reach." From the back tee, the fairway climbs 416 yards straight up the western hillside from the valley floor, making the effective playing length more like 440 yards. Hitting up the hillside, we feel fortunate to have a 170-yard uphill shot to a green which is like an upside down saddle where three putting is common. Many were the day when Dave and I finally made it to the green and looked into the woods off the course to see numerous pick-up truck parked there. We never knew what was going on, and we imagined all sorts of dastardly things going on – Klan meetings, a moonshiner convention, but most likely a local cock-fight. After all, we were in a pretty remote, rural section of East Tennessee.
My memories of Graysburg Hills are too numerous to recall here. But is you are EVER anywhere nearby, you should definitely plan to play here. And then you will concoct reasons to go back there.