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Walk Like A Golfer At Treetops
By Jack Berry

Walk to play golf? Walk on a resort course? You crazy?

Most resorts require customers to take a golf cart. It's a matter of revenue and a matter of courses stretched out to accommodate housing with long hauls from green to tee.

But Rick Smith, who can talk bark off a tree, convinced Treetops Sylvan Resort owner Harry Melling to let him design a walking course as the Gaylord resort's fourth 18 hole course.

When Melling hired Smith in 1986 he thought he was getting just a golf professional, not that that's a bad thing. What he got was a whirlwind who teaches great players (Lee Janzen, Billy Andrade, Rocco Mediate) and ordinary players, who has a national television show on ESPN and designs courses with the fervor and feeling of an old master.

"We had three really good courses that were different and a unique par 3," Smith said of the Robert Trent Jones, Tom Fazio and Rick Smith Signature courses and the fairwayless Threetops Par 3.

"The only thing we didn't have, that other resorts don't have is a walk-only course. Walking is a lost art even though the whole game of golf originated with players toting their bag and chasing the ball.

"You go overseas and play and there's never a motorized cart. Everyone walks_it's healthy. So, did we want another course that was spread out or did we want to try something different?"

Smith sold Melling on the idea and Tradition is Treetops' newest course. Nine holes are open now and the second nine is expected to open this fall.

"We took the mildest land we had (at Treetops North, where the Fazio, Smith Signature and Threetops courses are located, five miles north of the Jones course and main Lodge). "We worked with 150 acres and it's a par 70 course."

The fairways are wide, the greens are open on the front which permits players to play bump and run shots and the greens are not as undulating as on Treetops' other courses.

The first nine is 3,256 holes from the back and then 2,888, 2,742 and 2,380 yards. It's nicely bunkered, especially the short par 4 seventh and eighth holes that measure 309 and 300 yards from the back tees (similar to the blues).

Smith wanted to make Tradition fun and he has. It not only is Treetops' first course where the ninth returns to the starting area, he also made loops of three, five and seven holes.

And believe it or not in a northern resort course, Treetops is working on a caddie program.

"I started a caddie program in 1987 on the Jones course_the kids were cart caddies but there was a liability problem. I think this will work and we'll have caddies available on our other courses. It'll be heaven for kids to make some money," Smith said.

And it's a little bit of heaven for folks who like to have their feet on the ground.

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