Five years ago, most golfers had never heard of architect Rob Collins or his construction partner Tad King. Now they’re on a short list of the most influential and sought-after people in the game, thanks to Sweetens Cove, King Collins Design’s nine-hole gem in South Pittsburgh, Tennessee.
Collins has been the driving force behind Sweetens since its inception, and his vision and philosophy were among the many subjects on Episode 135 of “Talking GolfGetaways.” Next up is our “Emergency 9” quiz with Rob, diving into some of his golf-travel favorites worldwide.
But first, hosts Mitch Laurance and Darin Bunch begin the conversation with a shoutout to architect and mentor Rick Robbins and an explanation of why he was so important in helping Collins get his start in the golf business. Rob also fills us in on his multiple connections to Sewanee (The University of the South) and the nine-hole track there that would ultimately play a big role in his vision for Sweetens Cove.
Jumping into the Emergency 9, Collins explains why he considers The Old Course at St. Andrews to be his “Favorite Course or Destination Anywhere in the World,” expanding on his belief by saying “it’s the foundation for everything that we talk about.”
Next, he travels around the globe to detail why Australia’s Sandbelt is the destination he’d put at the top of his bucket list — a place that’s “as close to the ideals of design and strategy as you can get” — with particular mention of Kingston Heath (one of Darin’s favorites) and Royal Melbourne as courses that are in a class of their own.
You’ll find out why the Dornoch Cottage at Pinehurst is the spiritual lodging location Rob chooses, summed up in one memorable and revealing line: “I worship at the altar of Pinehurst.” And from the divine in lodging to the divine in dining, Rob shares why a meal he treated himself to while working for Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw at Yokohama Country Club in Tokyo, Japan, is the “Single Best Thing He’s Eaten.” After hearing his story about renowned Chef Naomichi Yasuda’s Sushi Bar, you’ll never think of “crab guts” the same way.
A fascinating answer follows the question “What’s the Single Most Important Thing on a Golf Trip,” as Rob dives deeply into the elements of meaningful architecture and explains why nailing the “little other details” matter to him as he gets older. You’ll also learn about Collins’ commitment to custom sticks from legendary clubmaker Don White of National Custom Works, why he feels like he’ll “never have to buy another set of clubs” and why Rob was willing (though it makes for a funny dilemna) to exchange the numbers on his clubs for the initials of people important in the creation of Sweetens Cove.
As we found out in Episode 135, a huge milestone was recently reached for Sweetens Cove with the announcement of an investment-partnership group that includes Peyton Manning and tennis star Andy Roddick, so it’s understandable that the foursome that featured Manning, Roddick and partner Tom Nolan makes up Collins’ “Most Interesting (People) He’s Played Golf With.” (Side note: Playing with Ben Crenshaw in 2016 and with Mike Keiser at Sweetens Cove were both quite memorable as well. Not too shabby.) And you’ll also hear why Rob considers the classic Cal Club, which he thinks “flies under the NorCal radar a bit,” to be the “One Course He Wishes Everyone Knew About.”
If you doubt that Sweetens Cove is a magical place, in spite of all that’s been written about it lately and its ranking on the “Best Places You Can Play” list, you’ll no longer question is once you hear Rob’s quick and easy answer to the “Craziest Thing You’ve Ever Seen on a Golf Course.” (Hint: It involves multiple holes-in-one on the par-3 No. 9 hole and Sweetens Cove — you’ll have to listen for all the amazing details.)