In this blog post we’re going to explore some of the best public golf courses in Knoxville, a city renowned nationwide.
Located in the eastern part of the state of Tennessee, this is a city known for its wild outdoors and scenic beauty. Hardly surprising considering it is nestled right in the heart of the Appalachian Mountain range, also known as the Great Smoky Mountains.
Unsurprisingly, Knoxville is hugely popular with visitors looking to explore the great outdoors. But it also has a thriving arts scene and a number of charming historic sites.
Allied to the warm Southern hospitality, Knoxville is one of the most popular tourist stops in the Volunteer State.
And I think you’ll be surprised at the quality of golf you’ll find here, balancing quality and affordability.
The best public golf courses in Knoxville, Tennessee
|1||WindRiver Golf Club|
|2||Avalon Country Club|
|3||Egwani Farms Golf Course|
|4||Willow Creek Golf Club|
|5||Lambert Acres Golf Club|
|6||Dead Horse Lake Golf Course|
|7||Tennessee Centennial Golf Course|
|8||Three Ridges Golf Course|
|9||Ruggles Ferry Golf Course|
|10||Knoxville Municipal Golf Course|
|Value for money||Lambert Acres Golf Course|
|Groups||Dead Horse Lake Golf Course|
|Clubhouse||WindRiver Golf Club|
|Views||Three Ridges Golf Course|
1. WindRiver Golf Club
To kick things off, we have the superb WindRiver Golf Club. Part of a much larger gated community called WindRiver Lakefront & Golf Community, this is luxury epitomized.
The vast site hugs the Little Tennessee River and features numerous luxury lakeside properties. There is nothing but nature surrounding the site and there is the constant backdrop of the Great Smoky Mountains.
And it is within this upmarket development that the highly respected Bob Cupp, a Jack Nicklaus protege, routed this sensational semi-private layout.
Originally called Rarity Pointe Golf Course, the course deftly climbs and descends the rolling hills. In fact, be prepared for some pretty stark elevation changes, needing two to three clubs balancing.
Fairways are beautifully contoured as are the impressive green complexes, defended by Billy Bunkers.
It is a challenging course with from the back tees the yardage stretching to just under 7,500. But with six sets of tees, most abilities are welcome.
The nearest urban conurbation is Lenoir City, which takes about forty minutes from downtown Knoxville. But boy is it worth it!
2. Avalon Country Club
Just the other side of Lenoir City, not far from the private course of Fox Den is Avalon Country Club. Keeping on Interstate 40, it is a mere twenty five minute drive from central Knoxville.
The club occupies a scenic 166 acre plot and opened for play in 1997.
It was designed by Joe Lee and has consistently been rated as one of the finest public golf courses in Knoxville ever since. It is also highly regarded at state level whilst Golf Digest awarded the course 4 stars.
The routing takes the layout through an elegant residential community, made up of luxury homes. But rarely do you see the housing with dense woodland flanking most fairways.
The gorgeous piece of Tennessee countryside features plenty of elevation changes, keeping things interesting and challenging throughout all 18-holes. It isn’t the longest from the back tees, reaching just 6,764 yards. But with every hole so different and unique, you’ll need every shot in the bag.
A major project recently upgraded all the greens to feature the high-endurance Primo Zoysia grass. This ensures the greens hold up well and are now getting rave reviews.
And post-round, I definitely recommend booking into the T-Prime Steak and Seafood restaurant. Choose from The Butcher menu where you’ll find Filet Mignon, New York Strip Steaks, Market Fish and more!
3. Egwani Farms Golf Course
Tucked away between Knoxville and Maryville in the town of Rockford, is the wonderful Egwani Farms Golf Course.
This hugely popular public golf course near Knoxville opened for play in 1991 and was designed by D.J. DeVictor.
Despite not being a course designer many golfers will recognise, D.J. has nonetheless enjoyed relative success in the field. He’s been responsible for a number of public and resort projects across eastern U.S., many highly ranked and rated.
Here at Egwani Farms, he inherited a sumptuous parcel of land positioned alongside the serene Little River. Unsurprisingly, D.J. ensured the river plays a major part in the course routing, with nearly half the holes playing alongside it.
Where the river isn’t in play, large lakes and sweeping swathes of fescue grass are to be avoided. Likewise, a number of billy bunkers were installed as part of a major renovation which took place in 2016.
At 6,701 yards it is open to most levels, but you need to hit the ball relatively straight. Regardless of which tee box you play off, some consistency is required to ensure it isn’t too long a day!
4. Willow Creek Golf Club
In the verdant suburbs to the west of Knoxville, Willow Creek Golf Club is one of a number of courses on offer.
Within a short drive you have Avalon Country Club and the outstanding Wind River Golf Club. As well as next door, you’ll find the private Fox Den Golf Club. You’re definitely spoilt for choice in this area.
In a relatively square plot you’ll find Willow Creek, an upscale club with a fine championship golf course. It was designed by William ‘Bill’ Oliphant & Associates opening in 1988 and turns out to be the only solo project they headed up.
But this lack of experience certainly didn’t impact the quality of the routing.
It is a well thought through layout, which cleverly integrates the constantly changing terrain. A number of creeks intermittently come into play whilst tracts of woodland are best avoided.
The greens are superb and without doubt one of the main appeals to playing here. Amongst other reasons, I imagine this is why the course was originally chosen to host the Knoxville Open.
Likewise from the back tees, the course stretches to 7,211 yards so will challenge the big hitters out there. Consistently considered one of the best public golf courses in Knoxville.
5. Lambert Acres Golf Club
A few miles east of Maryville, in pristine Tennessee countryside, is the great fun Lambert Acres Golf Club. This is a wonderfully scenic spot with views stretching for miles and miles.
One of the oldest public golf courses near Knoxville, Lambert Acres opened in 1965. It was designed by Ray Franklin, who like other designers on this list, isn’t what you’d call a recognisable name. And this was also one of just a couple of projects he worked on.
But here is another example of where experience clearly isn’t everything. Here at Lambert Acres, Franklin was responsible for designing three loops of 9-holes. These are called the Red, White and Orange nines.
Regardless of which nine you play, you can be sure to find beautifully manicured fairways and firm greens. Majestic trees are littered around the site whilst the odd creek, water hazard and plenty of bunkers keep things interesting.
It is this variety which makes the course so much fun to play. Poor shots don’t get too penalized. Whilst there are plenty of opportunities to score well. Just good unadulterated fun and incredibly good value with weekday twilight rates under $25.
6. Dead Horse Lake Golf Course
Just down the I-40, fifteen minutes west from downtown Knoxville, is the fantastic Dead Horse Lake Golf Course.
Another Knoxville public golf course which has been a mainstay in Eastern Tennessee since the early 1970s.
And there is a fascinating backstory to Dead Horse Lake. No fancy or expensive golf course designers for this project. Instead, the owners Joe and Pete Parker decided to build the course themselves on their family farm.
With support from other golf course owners and a handy USGA ‘How To’ guide, they completed their endeavor in 1973. Ever since, Dead Horse Lake Golf Course has received plenty of praise and acclaim.
So much so, it was chosen to host the men’s Knoxville Amateur Tournament as well as various other high school and junior golf events.
The terrain lends itself perfectly to building a golf course, with plenty of elevations, water and foliage. It’s water which really makes itself known right from the off, with a lake running along the left hand side of the 1st hole.
The infamous Dead Horse Lake comes into play on numerous occasions, none more so than the 3rd hole.
You can either play ‘safe’, crossing the lake to an accessible fairway and then having to cross the lake again to approach the green. Or from the tee, pull out the big dog and attack the green in one. Although you’ll need to be able to carry some 300+ yards.
Great fun, great value.
7. Tennessee Centennial Golf Course
Up towards Oak Ridge to the north west of Knoxville in Anderson County, is Tennessee Centennial Golf Course.
Part of me wants to push this course higher up on the list, and on another day it would be higher. But I guess this shows the quality in depth of the public golf courses near Knoxville.
Tennessee Centennial Golf Course opened in 1997 and occupies a delightful tract of land. 120 acres of plush verdant countryside hugging the Melton Hill Lake and next to Haw Ridge Park.
Aside from a few houses you see from a couple of holes, you’re very much at one with nature.
There are big elevation changes on these rolling hills of East Tennessee countryside. The course designer was the talented Gary Baird, whose architectural career kept him largely in the U.S. but also saw him complete various projects in eastern Asia.
But the bulk of his work was in the Volunteer State, especially around Nashville and towards Knoxville. So when choosing who to head up the project, Baird was considered a safe pair of hands.
And deliver he did with a delightful routing which takes full advantage of the natural contours and drops and rises. This leads to a number of daunting shots, with some tight and narrow fairways to aim for.
Anyone who struggles to hit the ball straight may be in for a long afternoon…but rest assured you will have fun. It has the right balance of entertainment and challenge.
8. Three Ridges Golf Course
A municipal golf facility which has over the years, received numerous awards and recognition from notable publications including Golf Digest amongst others.
Three Ridges Golf Course is located to the north east of Knoxville, twenty minutes from downtown. This part of eastern Knoxville is renowned for House Mountain, the highest point in Knox County and just a few miles from Three Ridges itself.
The other thing to note about this area is how hilly it is. Which makes for an entertaining round of golf!
Designed by Ault, Clarke & Associates, the course opened in 1991 and immediately became a local’s favorite, despite the challenging conditions.
Stunning views and vistas make this one of the most scenic golf courses in Knoxville. An abundance of trees and greenery also ensure you are immersed in nature. Fairways rise and fall and there are a number of blind tee shots adding to the challenge.
These fine playing conditions ensure Three Ridges continues to be chosen to host various high caliber tournaments. The National Golf Association (NGA) Tournament is one of those to have been hosted here.
And this is no pushover, with from the back tees the course extending to 7,035 yards.
9. Ruggles Ferry Golf Course
As we get down to the lower echelons of this list, you’d be tempted to assume the quality really drops. Well the answer is a categorical no.
All the courses on this list are well worth playing and on another day, this list could look quite different. Ask ten other Knoxville residents and you’d probably get ten completely different lists!
Ruggles Ferry Golf Course is a good example of this. Down in 9th position, but a fantastic course nonetheless. If there was a ‘playability’ meter, this would rank highly.
And this is one of the reasons Ruggles Ferry is so popular. It is so playable. Yes it has some superb views over the surrounding landscape. Yes there is a good variety of holes and yes the conditions are often very good.
But being immensely playable is one of the reasons golfers come back here time and time again. It’s no pushover and there is still ample challenge with some tight fairways and a winding creek which comes into play on nearly half the holes.
But generally errant shots aren’t too penalized and there are plenty of birdie opportunities out there.
10. Knoxville Municipal Golf Course
As close to downtown as you’ll get being just a ten minute drive, is Knoxville Municipal Golf Course.
As far as municipal golf courses go, Knoxville Municipal really holds its own and it would be hard beaten for value. Twilight rates start from 2PM and will range around the $30-35 mark depending on whether you are playing midweek or weekend.
The course was designed by D.J. DeVictor, who designed the aforementioned Egwani Farms Golf Course and opened in 1984.
Like many of the courses surrounding Knoxville, the plot of land features numerous elevations, rolling hills and slopes. Yet again, we have a course which would rank highly on a playability meter!
Measuring 6,413 yards from the back tees, length isn’t necessarily an issue. Nor is shaping the ball as many of the fairways are pretty straight.
Where most of the challenge comes into play is avoiding the streams and trees lining the fairways. Likewise, some may struggle with the physicality of the course.
All in all, convenient and good value. The lovely clubhouse features are large patio area round the back which overlooks the 18th finishing hole.
What is the best public golf course in Knoxville, Tennessee?
The best public golf course in Knoxville is Wind River Golf Club located towards Lenoir City. It was designed by Bob Cupp, who worked closely with Jack Nicklaus and opened for play in 2007.