The Elite 18: Council Fire’s No. 11 Chosen As Area’s Best

  • Tuesday, May 14, 2024
  • Paul Payne

When Council Fire Club founder and managing partner Jon Kinsey was formulating plans for a new golf course in East Brainerd bordered by South Chickamauga Creek, he knew it was critical to have Jack Lupton’s support behind the project.

Lupton had already made his impact on golf in Tennessee by orchestrating the opening of The Honors Course several years earlier. Hoping to impress Lupton with his vision for the new venture, Kinsey took the Chattanooga philanthropist to the highest point on the property that featured spectacular vistas.

After taking in the scenery from the overlook, Lupton reportedly said, “My God. If I’d seen this place before I built The Honors, I would have built it here.”

It was the endorsement Kinsey had hoped for, and Council Fire opened in 1992.

That same view that wowed Lupton is now the tee box for No. 11 at Council Fire. The downhill par 5 continues to serve as one of the club’s signature holes, and was recognized as the readers’ choice to join the ranks of The Elite 18.

Other holes that have earned inclusion are:

No. 1: WindStone Golf Club

No. 2: McLemore Highlands Course

No. 3: Bear Trace at Harrison Bay

No. 4: Chattanooga Golf and Country Club

No. 5: The Ooltewah Club

No. 6: Black Creek Club

No. 7: Brainerd Golf Course

No. 8: The Honors Course

No. 9: The Honors Course

No. 10: Cleveland Country Club

Advancing to the holes under consideration for the Elite 18 best No. 12, our panel of local professionals and top amateurs came up with 11 different candidates among the 25 golf courses in consideration. With distances measured from the back tees, the top choices are:

Black Creek Club, par 4, 458 yards: Dubbed as “Dry Branch”, the hole features a meandering stream throughout its length. There is an alternate fairway to the right, from which the approach angle is more favorable. Attacking the pin from the left fairway must be precise as anything short will find the hazard and left of the green is bounded by thick native grass.

Chattanooga Golf and Country Club, par 4, 469 yards: The tree-lined hole is straight away and seems benign from the tee other than a bunker on the left side of the fairway that swallows tugged drives. But after cresting the hill, there is a decided downhill slope to a hazard bordering the front of the green that makes approach shots a challenge to a green that becomes more elevated as you near the creek.

Cleveland Country Club, par 4, 374 yards: A creek runs along the left side of the hole before crossing the fairway, so determining distance off the tee is required. The approach shot to the elevated green is obscured by a large bunker protecting the front.

The Farm, par 5, 498 yards: The downhill par five begins with a tee ball from a narrow tree-lined chute onto a fairway that slopes to the right where bunkers await. A long drive that finds the short grass makes this hole reachable in two, but the narrow opening to the green is guarded on the left by a large bunker.

The Honors Course, par 4, 380 yards: The dogleg right is a challenging risk-reward hole that doesn’t require driver from the tee. Finding the left side of the fairway is critical for a proper approach to avoid a tree guarding the right side of the green that is narrow and well-protected with bunkers.

You can make your preference known at the poll below. Voting will remain open until Thursday at 6 p.m., with the final results revealed on Friday when we introduce the candidates for the Elite 18 Hole No. 13.


Paul Payne can be emailed at

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