‘Not an easy decision’: Sweetens Cove, beloved 9-holer, to close for 3 months

Sweetens cove

Sweetens Cove will close this summer following a challenging winter.

One of the toughest tee times in public golf just became an impossible get for much of the summer.

Battered by a spell of unusually cold weather that has brutalized its turf, Sweetens Cove, the beloved 9-hole course in South Pittsburg, Tenn., near Chattanooga, announced Sunday that it will shut down from May 24 through Aug. 31. Play will resume on Sept. 1.

“It’s not an easy decision but it’s the right decision,” Sweetens Cove general manager Mike Adamski told GOLF.com. “It’s the right decision for the golf course, and for all the people who come here to enjoy it.”

The news, which Sweetens Cove announced on social media, comes in the midst of what would normally be peak golf season in Tennessee, during a year in which the weather has been anything but seasonal. The first big curveball from Mother Nature came in January, Adamski said, when six inches of snow fell in 36 hours across a region that historically averages one-quarter of an inch of snow per year. When the snow stopped falling, the temperatures dropped further, and, Adamski said, “the snow turned to ice that stayed on us for the next nine days.”

The turf at Sweetens Cove is Bermudagrass, a warm-season varietal that goes dormant through much of the fall and winter, and starts to hit its stride as temperatures rise in the late spring and early summer. This year, the grass never got the chance to fully reawaken. Sweetens Cove is a year-round facility. Initially hopeful that conditions could recover, management kept the course open for play, offering discounts for subpar conditions. But as bouts of cold weather recurred and the turf continued to struggle, Adamski said, it became apparent that a temporary shutdown was the only way to go.

“People come here for a unique experience, and we want to provide that for them,” Adamski said. “To have them come all the way out here and the course not live up to their expectations, it wouldn’t be good for us, and it wouldn’t be fair to them.”

In lieu of conventional tee times, Sweetens Cove offers day passes, a year’s worth of which get snatched up minutes after they’re released (peak season rates are $125 to walk and $175 with a cart). The entirety of the 2024 calendar has been booked solid since it began.

Sweetens Cove in Tennessee.
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The shutdown will displace some 3,500 golfers, Adamski said. As compensation, the course is offering those golfers first dibs on passes for 2025, at a 25 percent discount. Golfers who have passes between now and the May 24 closure can either use those passes and play the course at a discount, or reschedule for 2025, Adamski said. 

Designed by Rob Collins and Thad King, Sweetens Cove has carved a distinctive path to success since it opened in 2015, evolving from a cult-darling into a mainstream juggernaut, with an ownership group that now includes Peyton Manning and Andy Roddick

Situated in the Tennessee River valley, Sweetens Cove has been forced to shut down before but for other reasons. The longest of those periods came in 2019, when the course closed for 47 days due to flooding, Adamski said. Other shorter closures have occurred during brief spells of unusually frosty winter weather, when maintenance crews have had to tarp the greens to protect them from the cold.

This is a more disruptive weather-induced shutdown. But, Adamski said, Sweetens Cove plans to use the downtime to its full advantage by sodding and sprigging the entire course.

“When we reopen, it’s going to be like a new course,” he said. “The conditions are going to be better than they’ve ever been before.”

Josh Sens

Golf.com Editor

A golf, food and travel writer, Josh Sens has been a GOLF Magazine contributor since 2004 and now contributes across all of GOLF’s platforms. His work has been anthologized in The Best American Sportswriting. He is also the co-author, with Sammy Hagar, of Are We Having Any Fun Yet: the Cooking and Partying Handbook.