Q&A with Rob Collins
Rob is the Principal Designer at King-Collins Golf Design, considered 'The Next Best Thing' (according to a December 2019 article on Golf.com), and, perhaps most importantly, a co-founder and super fan of Sweetens Cove Golf Club.
After launching his career as an on-site golf course architect under Gary Player, Rob teamed up with Tad King to create King-Collins Golf Course Design in 2010. The firm’s first project was a contract to rebuild Sequatchie Valley Golf and Country Club. Through a strange set of circumstances, they not only rebuilt and redesigned the course, but Rob and his old friend Ari Techner became co-founders of what we now know as Sweetens Cove Golf Club. The course reopened with a fresh design, new name, and new ownership in October 2014 as a 9-hole public golf course with state of the art amenities that included a shed and a port-o-john.
A lot has changed since 2014. Sweetens Cove started receiving national attention in publications like The New York Times, Sports Illustrated, and Golfweek, King-Collins Golf Design has since taken on several high profile projects, and a new ownership group joined Rob and Ari to help take Sweetens Cove Golf Club to the next level.
For those who haven’t visited in several months, tell us about what's new at the course.
If you visited Sweetens Cove Golf Club sometime between October 2014 and late 2019, you know we came from humble beginnings with one goal in mind: unhurried, unpretentious golf. In April 2019, a new ownership group (which includes Skip Bronson, Mark Rivers, Tom Nolan, Andy Roddick, and Peyton Manning) came in to help support the growth of the course and allowed us to make some great improvements to the course experience.
These improvements included a 20,000 square foot Himalayas putting green, a covered pavilion and seating area, and a heckle deck. We also relocated the shed and now have indoor plumbing. It’s still the same vibe, but we were able to tie together a lot of pieces that make driving to South Pittsburg, Tennessee from halfway across the country an even better experience than ever before.
The Himalayas putting green is an experience in itself. What's the best way to play the putting green, besides taking a few practice puts?
The putting green is sort of a choose your own adventure experience, kind of like the golf course just on a smaller scale. There are a lot of wild puts; it’s a lot of fun to hit a put through a deep swell, bank it off a side bank, and try to lay it next to a hole. It’s a great way to hit some wild puts you might not encounter anywhere else.
Another recent change is the move to all-day passes for weekend play. What was the idea behind this change?
We realized over the past few years as the course grew in popularity that it would get a little too crowded on the weekends, which impacted the course experience. By having a limited number of passes available each weekend you can really explore and learn the course, and have fun; getting back to our roots.
All-day passes offer everyone the opportunity to enjoy Sweetens Cove as it was meant to be: unhurried, uncrowded, and where you can go out and have a hell of a time. It even gives you time to discover some of our hidden cross country holes. Spending a day at Sweetens Cove is a truly unique experience you can’t find anywhere else in America.
We're still reliving the glory of the Biscuit and Hashbrown Open and Friday Nite Lights. What's next?
We’re cooking up some really exciting ticketed experiences that we hope to roll out in the next month or so. I can’t give away many details quite yet, but let’s just say they’re going to be a lot of fun and it’s pretty much guaranteed you’ll have a great time. Make sure you follow us on Instagram and Twitter to be the first to know when tickets go on sale as they tend to sell out really fast.
Who is your dream pairing to make up a foursome at Sweetens Cove?
Playing with my dad who passed away in 2018, my brother, and my daughters. They’re not too into golf but I’d love to steer them into it.
Do you have a favorite hole?
This is a little bit like Sophie’s Choice. If I had to choose, the 5th hole is my favorite. I’m a sucker for short par fours with a lot of options and a little bit of danger sprinkled in.
Which hole is the hardest?
The hardest hole at Sweetens Cove is the 6th hole. It’s a cape style hole, so bends around the lake. It’s a long par four and there’s water along the left-hand side. You just hope you get a par and get out of there; it’s rare to get a birdie on #6.
Loaded question: what's your favorite SC logo?
Whew, that’s a tough one. I have to say, I love the Pine Valley of the Sequatchie Valley logo best--otherwise known as the Dunwoody.
Favorite beverage to drink on the course?
I have a pretty serious unsweet iced tea addiction. Although sometimes I’ll steal my friend John Allen’s Coors Lights if he’s not looking.
Who do you love to heckle from the heckle deck?
We built the 9th hole situated on a hill, so it has a great amphitheater feel. Getting the heckle deck up there is one of my favorite new additions to the course. Watching close friends come in and get one close or get absolutely slaughtered is the best.
Favorite Sweetens swag in the shed right now?
This is a really tough question. I love everything Holderness & Bourne, and I’ve been wearing Greyson all week in Nebraska and it was perfect. We’re working with a lot of new brands this year so it’s really hard to pick just one or two.
Best burger in Chattanooga?
Tremont Tavern. On Twitter a few years ago, someone said: “Sweetens Cove is the Termont Tavern of golf”. This was before the restaurant expanded into their new space, so it was a little bit of a hole in the wall; an unpretentious place you like to go with friends, but you know what you’re there to get is really high-quality product. I thought that was a good analogy and a great compliment.
Is a hotdog a sandwich?
Hahaha, I don’t think so.
Tiger Woods and Peyton Manning vs. Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady. Who ya got?
Peyton is gonna bring the heat. Brady’s gonna feel some pain.