CORNBREAD, BOURBON, AND A ROUND OF GOLF
SOUTH PITTSBURG, TENNESSEE – This pretty little town (population 3,018) about 20 miles west of Chattanooga, is not Rocky Top. But you can get corn from a jar here. You can also get a slice of cornbread and a round of golf, maybe even with Peyton Manning.
South Pittsburg (Tennessee, not Pennsylvania) has long staked claim to being the Cornbread Capital of the World. Its annual National Cornbread Festival attracts nearly 30,000 visitors each year in April, gathering to celebrate that wonderfully crumby cornerstone of southern cuisine, cornbread.
South Pittsburg is home to many God-fearing people of faith who believe in the scripture that man does not live by bread alone, unless it is cornbread with a side of black-eyed peas.
The National Cornbread Festival ranks right up there with other great annual Tennessee events including the National Storytellers Festival in Jonesborough, Mule Day in Columbia, and the Moon Pie Festival in nearby Bell Buckle, Tennessee.
But, as if cornbread isn’t filling enough, there are many other wonderful things to experience here in South Pittsburg.
How about a round of golf at the Sweetens Cove Golf Club, a 9-hole unique jewel of a course carved in the Sequatchie Valley whose club pro is Peyton Manning? Well, okay, Peyton is not a golf pro. As I recall, he was once a professional football player. But he is one of the owners of the Sweetens Cove Golf Club and can often be seen there taking a swig of bourbon before he tees off.
Mark Twain once called golf “a good walk spoiled,” but he never played a round at Sweetens Cove. It is a quirky course designed to make a round of golf fun, something almost unheard of in the history of the game. Each hole features four tees and two pins, almost encouraging mulligans. There are “cross-country” holes where a duffer can drive to the green of his or her choice.
The club has been described as a cross between Augusta National and a bowling alley. It is not your typical snobby country club. It is a public golf course that doesn’t even have a clubhouse. It has a shed. Literally a shed where you pay your very affordable greens fees by placing them in a bucket.
You can’t get a Caesar salad in the shed, but there is a Waffle House a mile or so from the club, where they serve cornbread.
No caddies. Most of the duffers at Sweetens Cove carry their own golf club bags around the course. Peyton does. During a recent round, he took a video of himself on the 8th hole and sent it out on social media, proclaiming a great ad line. “Carrying my bag. Playing 9 holes. God bless America!”
And now, Sweetens Cove features another great resource of South Pittsburg, Tennessee: Whiskey. Tennessee bourbon whiskey.
There is a long-standing tradition at Sweetens Cove, dating back to the old Sequatchie Valley Golf Club, the predecessor to the current course. Before you tee off on the first hole, you take a swig of bourbon.
And here again, Peyton Manning has stepped up to the tee. He has joined a foursome with tennis legend Andy Roddick, golf sportscaster Jim Nantz (the voice of the Masters), and master bourbon blender Marianne Eaves to create Sweetens Cove Tennessee Bourbon Whiskey. Ah, that’s the spirit!
Unfortunately, the pandemic caused the cancellation of the 2020 National Cornbread Festival this past spring. But here is hoping by next April, the pandemic will have passed, and we can all head here to South Pittsburg to celebrate that scrumptious treat. And we can wash it down before we hit that little ball down the Sweetens Cove fairway.