I’ve always wondered what would possess someone to own a golf course, after all, they are typically not the money-making machines that they once were. So, what would be the allure to leaving a perfectly good, well-paying career and purchasing a business that is physically and mentally demanding and is often a financial drain? It just doesn’t seem to make sense. Then I met Jonathan Williams.
Jonathan Williams is passionate about two things: golf and helping people. Before becoming the owner and General Manager of Nashville National Golf Links – the old Highland Rim Golf Course – in Joelton, TN just outside of Nashville, Jonathan spent 25 years in the financial services industry, sitting behind a desk, staring at a computer screen. “I had a solid career which afforded me this opportunity,” Jonathan said, “The dream was to one day run my own business; what better way to use resources than to combine the business passion with my golf passion.”
Six years ago, Jonathan and his wife Gloria decided to take the biggest step of their lives and purchase a golf course. It was a good fit because of his passions (golf and helping people). Their dream was (and still is) to create a family-oriented, user-friendly establishment where everyone is welcome to enjoy it.
For starters, there is no specific dress code at Nashville National Golf Links, just wear clothes and shoes. On the course, you’re likely to encounter all types of golfers, old, young, male, female, beginners, and seasoned players. You may also come across the odd fivesome – but not to worry, the ones we saw were hard to catch up to.
One of the first things the Williams did after purchasing the golf course was to make a few upgrades, clean up the fairways and the greens, and then the clubhouse and building facilities. In 2019, a new fleet of gas-powered golf carts was brought in and equipped with Club Car’s proprietary Shark Experience GPS and Bluetooth systems. Future plans include a new heating and air conditioning system in the pavilion building so it can be used year-round as well as adding a larger snack bar.
At most courses, the 9th hole leads back to the clubhouse, and golfers can fuel up with food and drink. Not so at Nashville National, the 10th tee is about a mile from the clubhouse. To better serve his customers, Williams has built a drive-up snack bar at the 4th green. There are 10 holes in this part of the course that a golfer can easily access. In addition to pre-made sandwiches and hot dogs, there’s a BBQ grill and fresh burgers are usually available, as are all of your favorite beverages.
This amazingly beautiful 18-hole layout is set among natural Tennessee beauty. You’ll encounter limestone bluffs and Sycamore Creek, several times. And unlike many courses, not a single home has been built on the course. Other than the usual golf course pitfalls and hazards Mother Nature throws at you – water, wetlands, trees, etc., you’re not going to encounter a whole lot of manmade trouble, there are a total of three sand traps on the course.
Something that seems to be the norm at Nashville National is the blind tee shot, there are several of them as well as a blind approach shot on number 1. This alone puts a premium on course knowledge; another good reason to get to know Nashville National Golf Links.
A quick look at the scorecard lets you know that the course’s length is not going to overpower you. From the back tees, Nashville National plays 6,107 yards with a course rating of 70.2 and a slope of 123. There are three par 3s on the front, so par out here is 71. Three other sets of tees – Blue (5,573/67/118), White (4,950/64.5/112), and Yellow (4,249/65.5/110) provide suitable yardages so that the course can be enjoyed by golfers of all levels.
The five par 3s are by no means pushovers. Number 3 is a 164-yarder that plays uphill and probably closer to 170 yards. The wetlands between tee and green should not come into play and if you’re unsure of your tee shot there is plenty of room to the right to bail out. The par 3, 5th hole plays 159 yards from the back tees. The tee sits 40 feet above the green and the hole probably plays closer to 145. Woods line the left side so if you hook your tee shot, you can kiss that ball goodbye. Anything right and/or long is in the wetlands. Number 8 is a beast of a par 3 From the back tees, playing 243 yards into an elevated green. There’s not a lot of trouble, you just need to hit it long and straight. Par is a good score here.
Number 11 is a 168-yard par 3 with no trouble around – as long as you hit it straight and not too long; Sycamore Creek runs down the left side and wetlands on the right of the green. The green is a lot longer than it is wide. Number 16 is the signature par 3 on the Nashville National layout. From the back tees, the hole plays 195 yards, downhill, over water, and into the prevailing headwind. Not only is it a challenging hole, but it also looks good too!
The par 5s on the front 9 are 3-shot holes for the majority of golfers. Number 4 plays 553 yards from the back tees. A good drive followed by a good layup will still leave a mid-iron to wedge into the green. Anything right of the green is big trouble. Number 7 is another long par 5 – 542 yards. There’s plenty of room right off the tee, but then you want to favor the left side on your layup, otherwise, you could find the long, overgrown grass area or be blocked out by the large oak tree. Your approach shot plays uphill and longer than your GPS says.
The back nine ends with two par 5s, the short, 503-yard 17th, which is another three-shotter, and the 540-yard 18th. Seventeen is a double dogleg, first right and then back slightly to the left. The fairway has a lot of rolling hills in it and your third shot plays into a small green. Your round ends with a blind tee shot on a slight dogleg left. Your drive needs to favor the right side, anything left is most likely lost in the forest.
Nashville National Golf Links has facilities to warm up every facet of your game before your round or to just get in some good practice. There’s a full-length driving range with six target flags, a large, short game area, as well as chipping and putting areas. There’s also a fully stocked pro shop with all of the necessary golf accessories – gloves, balls, hats, and logoed apparel, as well as a snack bar with beer, burgers, hot dogs, and snack foods.
One thing you can never count on is Mother Nature and golfers know that there is always a chance of rain, thunderstorms, and inclement weather. Nashville National is the only course I know that will offer you a full-value raincheck whether you’re on the first hole or the 18th green. No partial credit, no pro-rating, you’ll get a raincheck for a free round of golf – all 18 holes. Once again, it’s all about giving customers what they deserve.
If you’re tired of those impersonal golf clubs that just want to collect your greens fees and get you out on the course, then pay a visit to Nashville National Golf Links and see for yourself what a friendly and caring staff is all about. It is truly one of the Nashville area’s hidden gems. You can call them at (615) 746-0400 to book your next round or visit them online at www.nashvillenational.golf.