The Honors Course

The History of The Honors Course

During the late 1950's and 60's, the idea of bringing a world-class championship golf course to Chattanooga was a dream that had been periodically pursued, but never attained. Then during the 1970's, Bill Taff of Lookout Mountain began a relentless search for a suitable site of at least 400 acres. Bill was eventually approached by Jack Lupton who told of his interest in the project and the ongoing search for suitable acreage. In 1978 a possible tract of land was listed on the market (by Bill's cousin) in Ooltewah at the foot of White Oak Mountain. The property had a rich history of archaeological treasure dating back to the Cherokee Indians in the 1500's including the Spanish Expedition of Hernando DeSoto in 1540. In 1871 Samuel Newton started the Chattanooga Powder Company then sold the property in 1895 to Chattanooga Dupont Plant. In 1912 a spin-off of Dupont's munitions operation became known as Atlas Powder Company. However, numerous explosions plagued the company and in 1945 a fatal explosion ended all powder manufacturing at the site. Upon hearing of the property's location, Bill initially feared the property was too remote from Chattanooga. But, at his cousin's insistence, Bill finally agreed to see the property in December of 1979. The natural grandeur and splendor of the gently rolling landscape overshadowed his initial reaction of the property being too remote. Bill contacted Lew Boyd and Bill Healy to accompany him to visit the property and get their opinions. They were impressed and knew that this was the spot for Chattanooga's world-class golf course. Bill Healy contacted Jack Lupton and a meeting was set for October 13, 1980 between Bill Taff, Lew Boyd, Bill Healy, Jack Lupton and Joel Richardson (Jack's attorney and fellow golfer). That meeting ended with the group having formed an informal limited partnership for the purpose of buying the property. Pete Dye, the internationally renowned golf architect, was asked to come and take a look at the proposed land acquisition. His first visit was one of amazement and disbelief. As Pete said, “Rarely does one get the opportunity to work with over 400 acres of virtually untouched land to create a golf course devoid of the distractions of land development and commercialism that usually accompany such ventures." Pete was also able to quickly solve the lack-of-water problem by utilizing the rainfall runoff from White Oak Mountain to fill the proposed manmade lakes. This in conjunction with a pipeline from nearby Wolftever Creek would provide an abundance of water. The time had come to find additional men who understood what the words "great golf course" meant - gentlemen of vision who appreciated the rich tradition of golf and would insure the continuity of what would become The Honors Course philosophy as set forth by the five original partners. The following responded to an invitation and joined the five original partners to become the founding members: Hardwick Caldwell, Jr., Daniel W. Oehmig, Scott L. Probasco, Jr., Lucien B. Crosland, J.D. Schmissrauter, Jr., R.B. Davenport, III, Joseph W. Graves, M.D., James D. Kennedy, Jr., John B. Stout, John K. Woodworth

In April 1981 the first meeting of the founding members took place and an agreement was reached to purchase the property from Industrial Chemical Industries. The members also listed four primary desires that set the tone for the design and future operation of the club: 1. To have a challenging golf course on which to play - an uncrowded course - well defined and secluded so that play on one hole does not interfere with play on another hole. 2. To have a great golf course in the Chattanooga area; one equaling the world's best, and one the Chattanooga community will be known for and of which it will be proud. 3. To have a comfortable place to entertain friends and associates for both golf and for lunch. 4. To avoid competing with or taking members away from the other clubs in the area. (This was an important point. The Honors Course is not a country club - no swimming, no tennis, no evening dining. It is just a golf club.) The next steps were to design and build the golf course and then build the clubhouse. Then, obtain quality members who would nurture the founders' ideas and see that they were perpetuated for generations to come. This early planning also involved deciding on a name and logo for the new course. Jack Lupton solved the problem quickly with "The Honors Course" and emphasized his earlier decision that The Honors Course would host only exceptional amateur tournaments or those sponsored by the U.S.G.A. The logo would be a drawing of the silver cup given annually to the winner of the Tennessee State Amateur Championship. Pete Dye began the challenging task of converting this virtual wilderness into a world-class golf course on July 23, 1981. By June 1982 the fairways had been planted and in August the greens were ready for planting. The Honors Course would be meticulously cared for and nurtured by one of the nation's greatest - David Stone. David was hired by Jack as the greens superintendent and he remains at The Honors Course today as a honorary member of the club. On July 2, 1983 The Honors Course officially opened and immediately took its place among the great golf courses of the world. The founding members felt that not only should The Honors Course honor the amateur golfer but also honor some of Tennessee's finest amateur golfers. Thus, "The Honors Circle" was created in the front of the clubhouse as a wall of mountain stone encircling an array of colorful annual flowers. Grafted into the stone are bronze plaques, each one honoring a player who excelled in amateur golf. The following individuals have been recognized and these holes named in their honor: number 1 - Mitch Voges, number 4 Hillman Roberts, number 7 - Judy Eller Street, number 8 - Terri Frohnmeyer, number 9 - Betty Rowland Probasco, number 10 - Tim Jackson, number 12 - Polly Boyd, number 13 - Curtis Person, number 15 - Cary Middlecoff, number 16 - Sarah Lebrun Ingram, number 17 - Min Woe Lee, number 18 - Lewis West Oehmig. The Honors Course first venture into tournament golf was the 80th anniversary of the Southern Amateur Championship in 1986. Then came the 50th anniversary of the Tennessee Women's Amateur Championships in 1987 and the 75th anniversary of the Tennessee Men' Amateur Championship in 1989. In 1991 The Honors Course hosted the pinnacle of amateur golf ---the United States Amateur Championship. Since then The Honors Course has hosted four additional USGA Championships, including the 1994 Curtis Cup Match, the 2005 U.S. Men's Mid-Am, the 2011 U.S. Senior Women's, and the 2016 U.S. Junior Championships. Over the next 7 years, the club will host an additional 3 U.S.G.A Championships - 2024 US Senior Amateur, 2026 US Women's Amateur and the 2031 US Amateur.

Major Championships hosted by The Honors Course

1986 - Southern Amateur Championship
1987 - Tennessee Women's Amateur Championship
1989 - Tennessee Amateur Championship
1991 - U.S. Amateur Championship
1995 - Canon Cup
1999 - Palmer Cup
1994 - Curtis Cup Match
1996 - NCAA Golf Championship
1999 - Tennessee Amateur Championship
2004 - Southern Amateur Championship
2005 - U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship
2007 - Canon Cup
2008 - Tennessee Women's Amateur Championship
2009 - Tennessee Amateur Championship
2010 - NCAA Golf Championship
2011 - USGA Senior Women's Amateur
2014 - Southern Amateur Championship
2014 - Tennessee Men's Mid-Am Championship
2015 - TransMiss Four-Ball Championship
2016 - U.S. Junior Amateur Championship
2018 - Tennessee Women's Amateur Championship
2019 - Tennessee Amateur Championship
2023 - Southern Amateur Championship