I’ve reached the age where I can revisit places that I remember from my childhood. Those places where you have a memory about something you saw, somewhere you ate, someone you met that just sticks in your brain for the rest of your life. I know we visited Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge, TN when I was about 14. I remember going to Dollywood (since I hit myself on the head when I stood up into a sign and almost knocked myself out) and I know we stayed at some nice hotel in Gatlinburg with a discount from the Entertainment Book. The only other part of the trip that I remembered was this mini-golf course. It was not a normal course but instead was built into the side of a hill. You got to ride up the incline and every hole went downhill.
It wasn’t until I sent a bunch of old pictures to be digitized that I found the photographic evidence of the place, from our trip in 1987.
You can imagine my surprise when we were driving on US-441 (the main road in Gatlinburg) last year and passed the same mini golf course. I think my reaction was, “That’s IT! I CAN’T BELIEVE IT! IT’S STILL THERE!” It was as if something from a dream suddenly became real. Unfortunately, we were driving past the place around 10PM and didn’t have the time or energy to stop. That was something we were sure to rectify when we made plans to return to the Knoxville area this year. While Sharon’s not a big mini golf fan, she is a fan of kitschy roadside attractions and I think this place also piqued her interest.
Hillbilly Golf in Gatlinburg is currently celebrating their 47th season of operation and the place has the exact same setup I remember from when I was a kid. The check in desk (and more importantly, the bathrooms) is (are) located at the bottom of the hill. From there you are loaded onto the incline for your ride to the courses.
Doesn’t look much different from how it looked 30 years ago.
Gatlinburg had some horrible wildfires in the area in 2016 but the course was spared from those. However, a mountain windstorm with 85 MPH gusts hit in May of 2017 and took out several trees. The damage is still evident but the course is in great condition, just with some really fresh chainsaw marks all around. This is Hillbilly Golf anyway, isn’t it?
It’s almost impossible to resist taking the “down hill through the trees” picture. Here’s a throwback and current day view.
They’ve added more theming to the course over the year, playing up the Hillbilly moonshine theme. You have to putt around moonshine stills:
Under an outhouse:
and if you need a bath, they even have a bathtub
I just love this place because it’s so darn unique. I’ve never seen anything like it and it’s managed to stay stuck in my brain for that long, so that’s something. I mean look at this place. Who builds this???
Now while I was stylin’ in the 80’s with my low top Nike’s and crew socks, my mini golf game has always been on point.
I don’t suggest mini golf as an activity for us because it’s something I know that I enjoy and that Sharon tolerates because of my enjoyment. There’s enough other things to do that we both like. I’m glad that I asked to go and that she agreed (I think she knew it was important for me).
For posterity, we filmed one hole. Just to show what playing on the course was like. Just one hole. Just one take. (FWIW, Sharon’s commentary is PG rated but hey, at least you know that it’s real!)
That’s right. Don’t sweat the technique. It’s a gift. What can I say?
We didn’t have anyone in front of us so it only took us about 45 minutes or so to finish 18 holes. Even with my hole in one, I only managed to beat Sharon by 1 stroke thanks to her difficulty getting past the tractor blocking the 18th hole.
Hillbilly Golf is open seasonally and you can check their hours on their Facebook page.
Adults $12.50 plus tax
Senors 60+ $10.50 plus tax
Active Military/First Responders with ID $10.50 plus tax
Local Residents with ID $10.50 plus tax
Children 4- 12 $8.50 plus tax
Children 3 and under FREE
Group Rates (groups of 15 +, one transaction) $10 adults $8 children
SAME DAY SECOND GAME $5.00 plus tax
Spectators are same prices as players
I’m sure if I was 30 years ago me, I would have been asking my parents to let me play the other course for an extra $5. I’m not that me anymore and playing 18 holes was enough to fill the nostalgia void (and we had plans to meet a group friends in Knoxville for a food truck event that evening).
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