August 1, 2019

The Miracle of Design

Sweetens Cove Designer, Rob Collins, to Debut Progressive Short Course/Practice Facility

By: Alexandra Uduk, PGA

Alister Mackenzie is revered as a pioneer of contemporary golf course design. His signature style, which features pronounced undulating greens fit into long and narrow corridors accompanied by free-form bunkers, birthed an entire era of golf course aesthetics. Designs like Augusta National and Cypress Point will withstand the test of time for an eternity, and continue to inspire modern golf course architects.

Rob Collins counts himself among those designers influenced by the work of MacKenzie. However, Collins is also part of a new generation of course builders who seek to create unique, interesting and sustainable courses that fit the lay of the land whilst occupying a smaller footprint. He received great recognition for his 2014 renovation of Sweetens Cove Golf Club in South Pittsburg, Tennessee, which has become the gold standard in modern nine-hole course design.

“Players crave compelling architecture,”says Collins, who hails from an artistic design background and holds a MA in landscape architecture from Mississippi State University where his thesis drew great praise for its critical view of current environmental measures related to golf. “As designers, our role is to satisfy that craving while elevating the land’s natural beauty and sustaining the environment.”

Sweetens Cove delivers on all fronts. It’s a charming, memorable nine-holer that packs character and spirit into a small package while encompassing many MacKenzie- and Augusta-esk design elements.

Golf writer and historian, Anthony Pioppi, wrote his definitive account of nine-hole golf courses, To The Nines: “Sweetens Cove…harkens back to one of the most influential golf courses ever built in the United States (Augusta National)… Collins and his partner, (Tad) King, have embraced the original MacKenzie-Jones tenets with gusto. Writing about Augusta then, MacKenzie could have been describing Sweetens today.”

Collins is currently placing his focus on a unique short course and practice facility called The Miracle, located at Sea Palms Resort in St. Simons, Georgia. It’s more golf playground than golf course. When it opens later this year, it will consist of five greens, bold bunkers and endless shot options. Players will essentially have a chance to practice any short game shot they can envision, while also having the option of playing a cross-country loop. Sitting on just 4.5 acres, Collins describes it as “a condensed version of Sweetens Cove,” and told Links Magazine: “It’s going to be seriously badass.”

Collins’ portfolio also includes practice facilities at Signal Mountain (Tennessee) and The Golf Performance Center in Ridgefield, Connecticut. He’s also constructing a brand new Himalayas putting course at Sweetens Cove modeled after the original at St. Andrews. As of now, The Miracle is set to debut in October 2019 and like all of King-Collins projects, it follows a model that allows it to harmoniously coexist with nature and not impede on sensitive habitats.

Collins has heavily engaged with enthusiasts on Twitter and Instagram, providing weekly updates on The Miracle. Give him a follow @kingcollinsgolf for stunning photography of The Miracle and other feats of golf course architecture.