Top five public courses
1. Hermitage GC
2. Harpeth Hills GC
3. Gaylord Springs Links at Opryland
4. McCabe GC
5. Forrest Crossing GC, Franklin
Hermitage gets top billing because it offers two 18-hole courses that could not be more different. The General’s Retreat is the original course designed by Gary Roger Baird. It hosted the Sara Lee Classic, an LPGA tournament, from 1989-99. I think it’s the easier to play of the two, so if it’s one of your first times out, or you carry a high handicap, try it first. It is also a good course to walk. The newer course is President’s Reserve. While the original course is more of a traditional design, President’s Reserve reminds me of some South Carolina courses with a lot of natural wetlands and marshes. Another bonus is you can see owner Mike Eller’s sheep roaming the courses. They’ll let you play through. They can stretch this one out to 7,200 yards from the tips.
Harpeth Hills is the top Metro-owned and operated course and makes you use a variety of clubs. The course is adjacent to the Steeplechase course on a choice piece of Old Hickory Boulevard. It has a lot of elevation, and the greens can be tricky to read.
Gaylord Springs Links provides zoysia fairways, and two-year-old mini-verde hybrid greens, but the design was limited by a river on one side, a bluff on the other. They had to move a lot of dirt in, creating what I call elephant burial grounds. It has back-to-back par-3 holes on the back nine, and both are difficult. One requires you to hit the green if you want to make par, the other requires a tee shot that carries a lake in front of the green. A difficult downhill green invites bogeys, but the service there is first rate, and it gets a lot of play from tourists staying at Opryland Hotel.