There are many more guitars strapped to the backs of citizens and visitors in Nashville than there are golf bags. A recent visit would peg the ratio at a hundred (maybe a thousand) to one. That’s not totally accurate–there wasn’t a single golf bag to be spied on the lively downtown streets, though it seemed every few minutes one would encounter a guitar case carried by a dreamer in the country music capital of the world.
Golf isn’t immediately evident in the hustle and bustle of the downtown area, dominated as it is by a seemingly endless array of juke joints and saloons, live music pouring out of most every doorway. There’s the charms of Vanderbilt University, the greenery and open spaces of Centennial Park, and the delightfully scenic pedestrian bridge over the Cumberland River that connects the Bridgestone Arena (home of the NHL’s Predators) to Nissan Stadium (home of the NFL’s Titans).
Must-sees include the Ryman Auditorium (original home of the Grand Old Opry) and the County Music Hall of Fame. (Added bonus: these twin icons of music are some ten minutes apart by foot.)
However, if one is inclined to tear themselves away from all there is to see and do (and eat—more on that shortly) in the downtown area, there is some good golf to be found on the outskirts of town.
Perhaps thirty minutes away in the town of Dickson is the aptly named Grey Stone Golf Club, which features rock walls, and most notably, a field of very large boulders flanking the right side of the par-5 twelfth. This Mark McCumber design has more than 120 feet of elevation changes, with mile-long vistas from certain on-course vantage points. The rock walls come into play intermittently, including the tricky par-3 sixteenth, with a wall fronting a putting surface that runs away diagonally. It is the same scenario on the par-5 second, where the wall guards the green, and occasionally repels approach shots that come up a few yards short of the putting surface.
Perhaps the most notable aspect of The Hermitage Golf Course is the disparity between the two courses. The General’s Retreat and the President’s Reserve are but two minutes apart via golf cart, but first-time visitors would swear they are in two different areas of the country. Named in honor of Andrew Jackson’s plantation, which is only a mile or so away, the courses at this 36-hole facility are named after two distinct phases in Jackson’s life. He was an army general, gaining distinction for leading his troops in the War of 1812, and eventually was elected as the seventh President of the United States in 1829.
The General’s Retreat is a traditional, tree-lined course with smallish, undulating greens. Described as a shot-maker’s course, it played host to the LPGA Tour for a few years. The finisher is notable, a par-4 with water bracketing both sides of the landing area, though further afield than what appears from the tee. The approach is to a slightly elevated green, close by the clubhouse, which often insures an audience for the golfers finishing their rounds. By contrast, the President’s Reserve is routed through three hundred acres of natural wetlands and swamps. It’s a more spacious facility, with larger greens, less undulation, and feels to many visitors as though it’s been airlifted from the Carolina Lowcountry. On a course with many comely candidates, the eleventh might be the prettiest hole on the property. It’s a downhill par-4 with a nerve-wracking tee shot, which must be guided between a water hazard to the right and a bunker to the left.
Gaylord Springs is another good bet. This Larry Nelson design is close to the Cumberland River, and while there are trees on the periphery, the playing fields themselves are generally wide open and windswept. The opening nine features a couple of reachable par-5 holes, where big hitters might find themselves staring down an eagle putt. The course features plenty of limestone bluffs and hundreds of acres of protected wetlands, so in combination this makes it one of the most serene golf venues in the greater Nashville area.
There aren’t as many great eateries in Nashville as there are juke joints, not even close. That said, Nashville is as far from a food desert as you can imagine. Etch is one of many fine restaurants in town. Try their roasted cauliflower or a Peruvian tuna ceviche as light appetizers, before diving into hearty entrees like pork tenderloin or seared scallops. 5th & Taylor is another handsome bistro catering to the elite gourmands (or Vandy parents, pretty much the same thing) who descend upon ‘Music City.’ There is a bit more southern flavor here, with appetizers like sausage cheddar biscuits and fried pickles. Favored entrees include halibut, bison meatloaf and beer can chicken.
Lastly, speaking of chicken, one of the city’s favored dishes is known simply as ‘hot chicken,’ and one would be well served heading to Hattie B’s Hot Chicken (several locations around town) and turn up the spice level to individual preference. (Only the boldest will opt for ‘shut the cluck up,’ otherwise referred to as ‘burn notice.’) All chicken-lovers can cool down with classic peach cobbler or banana pudding after their main course.