What began as a tourist destination eventually became a retirement community. Many investors saw potential in Cumberland County because of its logistical brilliance. One man in particular saw an opportunity by beginning Cumberland County’s first golf course – Tansi.
Back in the 1930’s, Cosby Harrison, an entrepreneur by every definition, began Trade-A-Plane. It was the go-to source for aircrafts, parts, and any aviationist’s needs. In 1959, he saw a huge opportunity in the tourism business. That stroke of genius has become one of Cumberland County’s largest incomes today: golf, leisure, and the retirement market. The humble beginnings of the “Golf Capital of Tennessee.”
Cosby Harrison once told this to a News-Sentinel reporter: “There’s nothing like this great Plateau, but the Plateau’s future is people. Millions of people will come here when we have the facilities to house and entertain them. Americans are running out of places to go. I believe that this area will become the nation’s major resort area.”
What is known today as Lake Tansi Village began as a vision in Cosby Harrison’s mind. This vision was formed as he would fly over the land. Originally, he built Lake Harrison, followed by Harrison Resort, and the famous 18-hole golf course. Like a true man of aviation, he also built a 3,600 feet landing strip on a part of the course. The idea was to fly in and play a round of golf before flying back out.
The landing strip was placed on two par of four holes. Golfers were always on the look out for incoming planes. The course also featured the longest par of 5 in the county with 715 yards to drive. Tansi’s golf course has changed many times over the years.
Lake Tansi Golf Course has been a mark of love for PGA players throughout the years. Starting in 1965, the annual State Tournament was hosted there. Today, the Tennessee PGA plays all over the state. Many courses have been built after being inspired by Tansi.
Eventually, Mr. Cosby Harrison sold Lake Harrison to 10 separate investors. Lake Harrison was then renamed Lake Tansi Village.
The next resort to come along in the county was Renegade Resort and Vacation Enterprises. Perched on the top of Black Mountain in Crab Orchard, they held their first season in 1962. Renegade was primarily a ski resort with two Austrian ski instructors, but it also offered horseback riding, an Olympic size pool, fishing, a private hunting range, a golf driving range, and tennis.
At the time, Renegade’s slopes were anticipated to be better than Gatlinburg’s. It is said that Renegade’s peak was at 3,700 feet. With promises of trophy bucks, their hunting was even more sought after.
At one time, the idea of a golf course was discussed, but never came to fruition. In 1986, the resort sold to a development organization in Florida. Snow was not frequent enough, and the slopes went dry. Renegade was then renamed “Cumberland Gardens.”
In 1968, the Crossville-Cumberland County Chamber of Commerce was formed to help with the growing town. Their mission statement is as follows,”The mission of the Crossville-Cumberland County Chamber of Commerce is the unified voice of business advocating for a progressive, innovative economic climate which enhances the quality of life for all citizens.”
The biggest of them all, Fairfield Glade, continued the resort boom. The land was owned by none other than Cosby Harrison and his company, Plateau Properties Inc. With its abundance of natural resources, the area now known as Fairfield was once used for mining, logging, and hunting. Over time, this left the area with its rolling green hills.
In 1969, Fairfield Bay Corp. bought over 12,000 acres from Mr. Cosby Harrison. They promised to turn the property into a resort similar to their already successful Fairfield Bay resort in Arkansas. Just one year later, construction had begun. They had a $20 million project underway on 10,000 acres of Cumberland County’s land. Their plans included: a restaurant, information center, administrative offices, recreational center, golf course, horse stable, 68 mobile homes, and an additional lake (which made three total)- and these plans were just for the first year. It was huge, it was big, and it meant money for the town and its people – an idea that could not be ignored.
The first golf course built was Druid Hills, complete with a country club. This was not just any ordinary club. It was a 100 room lodge, which included an indoor pool, sauna, 20 unit villa, shopping center, office, business center, two outdoor pools, and so much more. It was one of a kind and a first for Cumberland County.
Fairfield Glade was a force to be reckoned with in Cumberland County – and still is today. It is home to some of Tennessee’s top golf courses: Druid Hills, Dorchester, Heatherhurst, and Stonehenge. While they all have something special about them, Heatherhurst ranks above them all. It is home to 36 holes. The first set is called “The Brae” and the second “The Crag.” Golf Week Magazine named it one of the “Best Courses You Can Play in TN.”
The golf course obsession did not stop with Fairfield. The Bear Trace came in next at Cumberland Mountain State Park. This was a huge concept. It was the beginning of Jack Nicklaus’s signature courses. In total, there are four throughout Tennessee. His goal was to build courses that did not require a membership, were not expensive to build or maintain, and ideally serve the general public. These ideas made it perfect to be placed at a state park.
The golfing industry has continued to grow in Cumberland County. Today (2023) the county has a total of 10 courses within its 685 miles. Crossville also self proclaims itself as the “Golf Capital of Tennessee,” and there is no denying that this marketing plan does work. It is hard to beat the amount of revenue brought on by golf and vacation packages. Restaurants, hotels, retail, home rentals, and more benefit each year from golf tourism.
- The History of Tennessee Golf, Pearce
- Cumberland County Tennessee 1956-1986 Volume 2, Hellen Bullard Krechniak
- Tennessee Virtual Archives