Nashville Three Ways

Nashville 3 Ways

Going beyond the tourists on Broadway and deep into the city’s thriving golf scene with a trio of locals

The Restaurateur

Nick Bishop Jr.
Co-Owner, Hattie B’s

Nashville Three Ways Nick Bishop

My grandfather started working for Morrison’s Cafeterias in south Georgia back in 1947. He was, as he called it, “dipping peas on the line.” He moved his way up to floor manager and then assistant manager, and finished as chairman of the board of the company in the mid-1990s.

My dad worked in restaurants too. I grew up doing homework in booths and wiping tables down, and somewhere along the way I realized how that could bring joy to somebody on a simple, basic level. We’ve all got to eat. But, like so many kids, I had to get away from what I was raised on.

I think I’m one of the few people with zero musical talent who actually held a music-industry job for an extended amount of time. I grew up with the Prine family and worked in sales for their label, Oh Boy Records. I was there from about 2005 to 2010 and worked on Fair & Square, which won John a Grammy. That was a big deal. There were only four of us in the office, so everybody was just taking off one hat and putting on another. It was truly grassroots. Seeing people who were so passionate about what we were putting out was a cool thing, and I’ve thought a lot about that with Hattie B’s.

While I was still working with Oh Boy, my dad retired from his corporate restaurant job. But he couldn’t sit still, so he opened a meat-and-three over in Franklin. Eventually I went to help him run that. We were looking for ways to add to the menu and thought, We grew up eating hot chicken.

I think the story in Nashville goes that Thornton Prince Jr. came home late after a night out. His lady friend was not too pleased about his state when he arrived, so she decided she was going to blow him up. She made some chicken and doused it in cayenne and paprika, thinking she was going to get a little bit of revenge, but he loved it. It’s been around for almost 100 years now. The two families that started it, the Princes and the Boltons, still have restaurants here. They’re the forefathers of this thing.

When we added hot chicken to our menu, it turned into about 30% of our protein sales in the first month. We looked at each other and knew we had something.

It’s just chicken on a plate, but it’s something bigger to us. We take a lot of pride in that. I’ve been around Nashville for 31 years now. This is home. We’ve raised a family here. We try to represent Nashville well and make sure that we’re doing things the right way.

What does all that have to do with golf? I don’t really know. But the other day, I told my wife, “I’m so grateful that while we were growing this company, I also fell in love with golf. It’s something I find a ton of beauty in, but also a lot of peace.” A couple other guys in the office and I fell really hard for it at the same time, and now we play on a regular basis. A lot has come out of those rounds. It’s a great way to clear my head or talk about bigger-picture issues. Much of where we wanted to take this company and what we wanted it to be came from the course.

Nashville Three Ways

It’s a great scene here, both public and private. I’m a member at Legends, which is a great old club that’s always been associated with Vanderbilt, so we get the men’s and women’s teams out there, which is neat to see. We watch them tee off and go, “Oh, they’re playing a different game.” It’s got an interesting membership, and I’ve met some really good friends. Nate Bargatze’s out there, so it’s been fun to get to know him a little and watch him become the biggest comedian in the world.

There’s also tremendous support from the clubs in Nashville for public golf. You see it in things like the Percy Warner project: It’s a nine-holer just inside the park in a nice neighborhood in Nashville, and it could easily be, like, 100 houses. Instead, people rallied to redo the course. It’s a big win for the city, for public land and for affordable places to play golf.

My favorite little place to go is Harpeth Hills on Sundays. My wife is into golf, and so are our three girls. We’ll go out for a couple of hours before football starts. It’s been fun to watch them care about something that I care so much about too.

I was out at Harpeth about a year ago, and this kid was standing there on the first tee, and two groups had teed off, and he was just trying to hop on. I was there alone too, so I told him to play with me. Turned out he was a freshman at Alabama A&M on the golf team, was a 3.5 handicap, and he was just absolutely striping the ball.

We played nine holes and became good buddies, and we still keep up. We’ll send some swag and gift cards down to the golf team. It’s always those little relationships where you start talking to somebody and something special happens on the course. That keeps me excited to go out. It happens a lot in Nashville. 

The Professor

Robbie Matz
Assistant Professor of Sport Administration, Belmont University


The general class is called “Ways of Knowing.” It’s part of Belmont’s core curriculum that every student takes, regardless of major. It’s first-year writing, and we read a common anthology or text, ranging from Plato’s Allegory of the Cave to Walt Whitman’s poems to Octavia Butler’s science fiction. We look at how knowledge is constructed and how people look at different parts of the world in general, from socioeconomic status to grief. On top of that, each instructor is told to create a class however they want to add on to the general “Ways of Knowing” theme. For the last three years, mine has been titled, “Golf Life Lessons and Society.”

It’s awesome to read Plato and Whitman, but we can also learn those broad themes on how knowledge is constructed through everyday people. I think it’s a good lesson for me and for the students to take a step back and realize that the person next to you can teach you just as much about life as these people who haven’t been around for a while.

We get students in the class who don’t play golf—some aren’t even fans of golf—but I would like to think that they learn quickly that it’s a welcoming game. Some students come in and think we’re going to talk about the PGA Tour or big equipment companies, and that’s the furthest from the truth. We talk about human-interest pieces. I get so much feedback from students who say, “Whoa, I didn’t think about golf in this way.” There’s almost a kind of fantasy element to it for them. The class takes them away from what they watch on TV to what happens when real people interact on the course. Mostly I hear, “These are incredible stories.”

They’re learning about friendship, camaraderie, and honesty. I think golf has so many different unique elements that can touch people’s lives in different ways. Whether it’s the camaraderie piece or if you’re someone who likes to be out in nature, golf is for all of that.

The stories also force them to reflect. I think today has so much going on with social media, screen time, news, everything. It’s fast. Especially this generation coming up, they’ve not really known anything different. They find that golf can be a place where you tune that out, where it’s just you and the course, or you and your friends, and a place to figure out what’s meaningful.

I grew up in Southern California and was about 8 years old when my dad took me to the driving range. I’m left-handed, and my dad is a righty. It was an old range and they didn’t have any left-handed clubs, so they gave me a right-handed sand wedge that was like a sledgehammer. I’m tiny, awkwardly trying to swing this thing. I remember the last shot of the day, I said, “Hey, can I just tee it up and hit it with the back of the club?” I thought it was so taboo, like I would get in trouble. Dad said, “Yes, go for it.” I teed it up and pulled one in the air over the driving range onto the 10th hole. It was hilarious. I was hooked.

Nashville Three Ways

When it came time to decide on a career, I went back to school for a PhD and my dissertation was focused on historical women’s participation in golf and how it’s changed over time. I interviewed around 40 people for that. Eventually, I ended up teaching here at Belmont.

I think a big part of Nashville is the transplant population. When you look at the outside perception, what clicks in most people’s heads is Broadway and the bachelorette parties and the honky-tonks. You learn that’s such a distorted view of what Nashville really is. One thing that I found that I love about this place is how collaborative and supportive the general community is, and you see it here in the public golf scene.

There’s something for everyone. On the higher end, as far as price and maybe condition of courses, you have places like Hermitage and Gaylord Springs. In town, we have the metro courses—six of them—and they’re very close, easy to get to and accessible as far as price is concerned.

I don’t think anyone takes themselves too seriously, which is nice. But the thing that I enjoy most is how interwoven the courses are into the city. McCabe over in Sylvan Park has three nine-hole loops and has a great walking path that touches up against the golf course. On any nice day, there’s going to be people with strollers and people with dogs while you’re on the course. Fifteen feet to your left, there’s dogs playing in the creek, and then 15 feet to your right, people are teeing off. No one’s going to tell anyone to be quiet. It’s a part of the community; it’s not secluded or uppity in that sense.

The same goes for VinnyLinks. Coming into Shelby Park, the first sign says, “Dog park to the right, ball field to the left, Shelby Bottom Greenway to the left, VinnyLinks to the left.” I think that is so emblematic of what is awesome about these public courses: They’re not only for a certain type of people. As you drive down into the park, you drive past the ball fields and then you have VinnyLinks right there. I don’t think there’s any more welcoming course than the kind where you drive up and think, Yes, I could be someone who plays here.

The Musician

Drew Holcomb

Nashville Three Ways Drew Holcomb

As a Memphian, we are raised to distrust Nashville. Elvis left Memphis for Nashville to record. Same thing happened with Johnny Cash. I think Memphis has a chip on its shoulder about losing its most talented people to this city, because Nashville is the one that has the commerce, whereas Memphis would argue that it has the soul. We were raised that Nashville is a soulless, corporate, commercial music space where talented people go to sell themselves to the devil. I made my first record in Memphis. Then I moved to Knoxville and finally convinced Ellie to date me. When I convinced her to marry me, she was an eighth-grade English teacher in Nashville, her hometown. We thought, Well, it’s pretty central for touring, and you got a job.

Seventeen years later, I’ve found that the people in Nashville are amazing. The talent here is incredible. I do think there still is a truth that people come to Nashville to see what the city can offer them, not what they can offer the city. There is a culture of ambition, but I’m not naïve to my own. And that’s the 30,000-foot view. The micro view is that it’s a great city of neighbors who love each other and take care of each other. But I’ll always keep that 901 area code on my phone.

Growing up, our music in the morning to get going for school was my mom playing hymns on the piano. Before my senior year of high school, I lost a brother who had spina bifida. Music was the thing that helped me navigate that grief. In college, I always went to see live shows, and I started writing songs my junior year. I studied abroad in Scotland, and I took my guitar because it was like my right arm. Only played golf once. When I got home, I started playing the songs I wrote for friends, and they convinced me that maybe I should give music a go. One of the first things that helped break our band was a song called “Live Forever.” It got used in the series finale on Season 1 of Parenthood. Since then, more than 120 of our songs have been used on shows. That’s been huge.

The first magic moment in making music is the “aha” when you marry a guitar riff and the words. The next is when you get in the studio, and you’re playing it, and the drummer comes in with his part. Then the other guitar player is doing the harmony. All of a sudden, you’re like, “This didn’t exist 10 minutes ago, and now it does.” Then you have a record. That record goes out into the world, and people can hear it from anywhere. More magic. Then you get on stage. This is the third act of the play. You start that original riff, and the people in the crowd who love that song go, “Woo!” It gets quiet, and you can hear them singing along. That’s the last bit of magic. I’ve got similar feelings about golf.

Nashville Three Ways
Drew Holcomb treats folks who would normally play public courses to rounds at the Golf Club of Tennessee (above).

I’m one of those guys that my social life and most of my deepest friendships revolve around the game. I don’t have a casual, beer-drinking relationship with golf. I don’t play to escape the tribulations of home or work or life. I play to digest and reflect upon those things with people that I trust. It’s not always that meta. Sometimes, I really just want to make a freaking birdie.

For better or worse, golf culture in Nashville is similar to the music business in that it’s very celebrity driven. Almost every musician I know plays golf. If you want to find a musician on the day of a show in your town, there’s a 50% chance they’re playing golf somewhere. If they’re a country musician, it’s about an 80% chance. That said, the golfers and musicians who live here know the game. They love it.

Nashville has great municipal golf. But there’s still a supply problem. If you go to a municipal on just about any day, it’s going to be full. That’s good for the game, bad for the golfers. For guys like me, who are in our working age with kids, the five- or six-hour municipal round is a tough sell to the family. So, a while back I was fortunate to join the Golf Club of Tennessee.

I look at it now as a gift that I can give people. We’re one of the only places in town where you’re not stacked up, waiting and playing a five-hour round. It’s nice to be able to host people at a beautiful place that’s ranked in the state. We’re involved with a handful of different philanthropy organizations, and my wife told me, “You can join this club, but you have to take people who work at these nonprofits that play golf. And you always have to cover their costs.” It’s cool to share it. But I feel generous because others have been so generous with me throughout my golfing life, both on the road and here in Nashville.

The game has given me more than I could ever imagine getting back. Talking about those magic moments, I had one a few years back playing Royal Dornoch for the first time. It’s me and three of my best friends, and we don’t tee off till 6 p.m., and we’re in one of those long Highlands days where the sun just keeps stretching along the horizon.

We’re sitting there on the 16th hole, and the sun’s finally going down. I start thinking of all we’ve been through together: highs, lows, family tragedies, loved ones lost. We’ve been each other’s dearest friends. And I realize that this thing happening to us Tennessee guys has been happening to people on this spot at Royal Dornoch for, like, 500 years. I start sobbing, sitting on this tee box. If I had to write a book about my life in golf, it would start or end with that moment.