By Ken Mink
TOWNSEND, Tn. – When you have a golf course that bumps up against the expansive Great Smoky Mountains National Park you are bound to have a setting of which Mother Nature would be proud.
And Wild Laurel fills that bill perfectly, providing fantastic views of tree-covered emerald mountains and provide golfers a chance to see a bevy of forest animals up close and personal.
It is not unusual for golfers to see deer, groups of wild turkeys, coyotes and black bears. The area is a black bear habitat. Even elk show up occasionally.
The national park has about 520,000 acres (Tennessee and North Carolina) and overflows of animals into the golf course is common.
“We have about a 500-pound black bear that shows up around the 13th hole. So we tell golfers if they happen to come upon him just let him play through,” said a grounds keeper.
The course includes a full clubhouse and restaurant, putting green and net hitting area. A large veranda provides golfers scenic views of the course and the mountains while enjoying drinks and/or food.
Like many golf courses in America the course underwent some financial woes a few years back and was in danger of closing, but recovered and is now thriving.
The course is located off Highway 321, some 15 miles south of Maryville and 30 miles south of Knoxville.
Also nearby is the Foothills Parkway, one of America’s most scenic highways, with its sweeping Sky Bridges providing bucolic views of the Smokies. The road is especially beautiful in the fall, providing panoramic views of unsurpassed foliage colors.
Townsend is a small town with lots of hotels/motels/restaurants and historic venues. One of the favorite things for locals and tourists is tubing down the Little River, with several miles of beautiful whitewater.
Tourists can easily access the bustling Pigeon Forge (Dollywood and much more) and Gatlinburg areas, less than an hour away.
But Townsend offers a much more relaxed atmosphere, advertising itself as “the peaceful side of the Smokies.”
The golf course itself offers four sets of tees – 6,350 from the blues, 6,025 from the whites, 5,739 from the gold (seniors) and 4,873 from the reds (women and senior men).
There is not a lot of water (a few ponds which come into play), several doglegs, and relatively small greens. The course is not as hilly as you might expect, with many holes played in the valley.
Several small rest rooms are strategically located. Fairways are generally wide and are in fair condition.
The course under the new management has made several improvements and more are underway (including painting spruce ups and signage). The course is one of four courses hosting the Blount County Amateur each year.
The golf course was originally called Laurel Valley but was changed to the more fitting Wild Laurel by the new management
Rates (including cart):
|Junior Rate (17 & under)|
|Golf Club Rental||$25||$40|
For more information on this course you may write to Wild Laurel, 102 Country Club Road, Townsend, Tn., 37882-3620, call 865-738-3134 or visit their website at https://www.wildlaurel.us/
Ken Mink is a member of the Golf Travel Writers Association (GTWA) and is editor of the online travel magazine The Travelling Adventurer (www.travellingadventurer.com)