Eastern Tennessee is known for many things. It’s home to Oak Ridge, the site of the world’s first successful uranium enrichment operations. Bluegrass Music originated in Bristol, TN, and Coca-Cola was first bottled at a plant in Chattanooga in 1899. Knoxville was visited by over 11 million people in 1982 when it hosted the World’s Fair. It’s also home to the University of Tennessee and the Volunteers. However, the area is probably best known for its mountainous terrain and the Great Smoky Mountains.
For golfers, there are several unique and challenging golf courses. One of them, Island Pointe, is slightly off the beaten path but well worth the trip. Island Pointe is located in Kodak, Tennessee, between Knoxville and the Great Smoky Mountains, and was created to rival the country’s most prestigious golf clubs and bring world-class, daily-fee golf to Tennessee. One visit and you’ll be back.
This Arthur Hills design first opened in 1991 as River Islands Golf Club and was ranked as high as 10th on Golf Magazine’s Public/Private Golf Courses in Tennessee. Current owner Dan Feehan had already fallen in love with the uniqueness of the golf course and realized its potential, so when the club started to struggle financially in 2009, Dan knew that with a little innovation and some subtle guidance, the course could be returned to its former glory. So, he left the New England banking scene, purchased the golf course, and moved his family to East Tennessee.
Island Pointe is unlike any course I have ever seen with the way it weaves seamlessly into the French Broad River Islands. Arthur Hills took that uniqueness and incorporated it into the golf course. The three islands in the middle of the French Broad River play an integral part in the design and routing of the golf course with holes 3, 4, 5, 15, and 16 sharing the islands. And, while each of the 18 holes at Island Pointe provides its own unique challenge.
Based on its slope and course rating, Island Pointe is the most challenging public golf course in East Tennessee. From the back tees, Island Pointe plays 7,001 yards with a course rating of 74.3 and a slope of 146. Members play from the White Tees (6,223/70.3/137) while the ladies will find Island Pointe enjoyable for the Island Tees (4,873/69.1/122). There are five sets of tees in all so you’re sure to find one that suits your game.
Island Pointe is situated on more than 175 acres with breathtaking views of the Great Smoky Mountains and the French Broad River two features you will become more familiar with as you play the golf course. The ball sits up nicely on the well-manicured Zoysia fairways – often regarded as some of the best in the area –and leads to small, well-contoured mini-Verdi Bermuda greens. This area of East Tennessee is rich with wildlife and it’s not uncommon to see river otters playing on the riverbanks and the occasional bald eagle soaring overhead.
It’s important to get off to a good start at Island Pointe and the first four holes can make or break your round. But not to worry, just take a look at all of the beauty Mother Nature has surrounded you with! The course starts with a modest 365-yard, par 4, with a slight dogleg to the right. The entire hole plays uphill so your second shot will probably require an extra club to reach the green.
Number 2 is another medium-length par 4 and starts with a somewhat blind tee shot up and over a hill with a deep grassy hollow on the right and worse things to the left! Your approach shot is into a shallow green with a steep grassy bank and a trap behind the green. My advice is brains over brawn off the tee.
Number 3 is the course’s first island hole. From the Member Tees, the hole plays 160 yards and is all carried over water. Rocks line the shore leading down to the water with long, gnarly grass between the rocks and the green.
The 4th hole is Island Pointe’s first par 5, with the French Broad River forming the boundary on the left. Playing your tee shot down the left-center of the fairway and your layup shot down the right-center will set up the best angle into the green. This is Island Pointe’s #1 handicapped hole, and, in the event, it didn’t treat you well, look across the river at the 60-foot solid wall of rock! It’s quite impressive.
Three holes on the back nine really stand out, too. Number 15 is a 159-yard par 3 with water all down the left side into a very long and narrow green. The front left bunker comes into play more than you think.
Number 16 is a short par 5 that requires a drive over water and then an approach shot into a green with water protecting the left side.
Arthur Hills saves the best for last. Number 18 is a 400-yard dogleg left and is best played with something less than a driver off the tee. Your approach shot plays downhill into a well-protected green with water on the left and sand on the right.
Before your round, warm up on Island Pointe’s full-length driving range where you can hit every club in the bad. There’s also a short game area and a large practice putting green. Island Pointe has some of the most extensive practice facilities in the area.
Even if you’re not a golfer, there’s still a good reason to visit Island Pointe: the food! Golfers have the best of both worlds, the food truck at the turn and the Island Pointe Grille. While it may be your typical clubhouse menu, they do it right. Fantastic hamburgers, pork sandwiches, and chicken strips. The smoked potato salad and French fries alone are worth the trip!
The ongoing goal of Island Pointe is to help families in East TN and to give golfers a whole new reason to play their golf course to help a variety of special causes. Island Pointe plans to operate as a nonprofit. Course owner Dan Feehan has created a foundation that will raise funds to help battered women, homelessness resulting from addiction, and early childhood development. While this may sound like quite an endeavor, each of these areas has touched Feehan personally through employees and friends. The official launching of the foundation, its name, purpose, and intention will be formally announced in late 2023.
“We are excited to continue to provide an incredible playing experience for all golfers while directing daily proceeds from the golf course operations to helping East TN families. The foundation will not diminish the Island Pointe golf experience in any way or increase the daily fee rate. It offers our golfers a chance to play at a first-rate facility that they know is working to make a significant difference in the community.” We are thrilled to do this for our community.”
As of August, the foundation has three fundraising events planned for the remainder of 2023: Night Golf, Thanksgiving Morning 18-hole Shootout, and a Santa’s Run. As they move into the 2024 golf season, the golf course expects to be able to direct all proceeds generated from daily sales into the foundation.
Although it’s uncertain, the Foundation may offer corporate memberships to Island Pointe and hold tournaments and special events to raise funds for early intervention care at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital.
For more information on either Island Pointe Golf Course or the Foundation, give them a call at (865) 933-0100 or visit them online at www.islandpointegc.com/