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The state of Arkansas undeniably has incredible and diverse landscapes. Its west side is mountainous, and it features the Ozark Mountains, the Ouachita Mountains and the Ouachita Natural Forest. However, looking at its Eastern side, in what is called the Arkansas Delta, the terrain is totally flat, running along the Mississippi river, and full of cotton fields.
That is why the Natural State comes with some interesting and varied golf courses, depending on which side of the state you we looking at. Here goes our top ten list of the best public courses in Arkansas, for those looking to play a round in this beautiful and untamed state. Game on!
Best Golf Courses in Arkansas
Founded in 1898, Hot Springs offers 2 professional 18-hole layouts, called the Park and The Airlington, available for all guests staying in any of the two Hot Springs properties: the Majestic Hotel or the Arlington Resort Hotel & Spa. The former was the first one of the facility, built in 1920 and designed by Willie Park Jr (hence its name). The Airlington, on the other hand, appeared a decade later and was designed by William Diddel, although in 1994 it was fully renovated by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw.
The main differences between both courses lies in the ground where they were built on. The Airlington counts with a more undulated terrain, making it a bit more challenging than its sibling course. Apart from this fact, both courses are really enjoyable, and more than one person would rank the Park above The Airlington without hesitation.
The trickiness of the Airlington is already seen in its opening hole, a par 4 featuring a dogleg to the left. The 8th is another demanding hole, a par three playing to a green well-protected by water. The par 3s of the back nine are pretty fun as well, with a 11th and 17th hole full of bunkers.
Hot Springs has some other services for those looking to have a break from golf, such as 11 tennis courts (8 outdoor and 3 indoor), swimming pool and a fitness center, apart from a restaurant with some great quality menus.
Mystic Creek opened quite recently, in the year 2013, with a design by Ken Dye. Located in the city of El Dorado, the biggest in the Union County, this course was a part of a property development, however, the fairways were built before the housing, ensuring a great layout not adjusted to a limited space.
The best holes at Mystic Creek are the 3rd and 4th (par 4 and 3, respectively), which play around a lake located on their left side; the 10th, a par 4 with a two-tied green protected by large lake on its right; the 12th, which is the shortest par 3 of the course, featuring a carry over water to a sloping green; or the closing 18th, which features a dogleg to the left and a great possibility to end the round in a majestic way, with a possible birdie or even an eagle if you aim right.
Rates at this course normally range from $50 to $80 depending on the day and time of your tee time. There are also some interesting discounts for senior and junior players.
With water coming into play in 12 of the holes, The Ridges stands out as one of the most scenic public layouts in Arkansas. Designed by Andy Dye and opened in 2012, this facility counts with 27 holes divided in three nines: North, East and West, all of them set on the Crowley’s Ridge, giving the layout great elevation changes, water hazards and rolling fairways.
The most recommendable pair of nines are the North and the East. If you choose this option, you will have some water coming into play and a bit more scenic layout. Check for example the 9th hole of the North, a stunning par 4 along a lake to its right. Or the great 7th, a crazy par 4 full of mounds and little bunkers that will test your abilities to the fullest. From the East course, the signature holes may be its par 3 4th hole, with a carry over a marsh; or also its closing one, a scenic par 4 with a lake to its left.
The Ridges also counts with a well-stocked pro shop, practice facilities featuring a nice driving range, and a snack bar for having some drinks after your round. All of it for quite a reasonable price, which does not exceed the $45 per round.
The Ozarks are the main background at Big Creek, together with four lakes and the Big Creek Natural Area, in the city of Mountain Home. Designed by Ault, Clark & Associates, the course opened in the year 2000 and counts with a challenging yet enjoyable layout.
Its most picturesque holes may be the 4th, a par 3 featuring a carry over a lake to reach the green; or the 10th, a dramatic par 5 with stunning vistas of the surroundings and the clubhouse, and finally ending in a peninsula green surrounded by a stone wall and a bunker before the water.
Big Creek also offers a great variety of tournaments throughout the year, and some great ‘Stay & Play’ deals with many of the hotels of the surroundings. Apart from this, a beautiful swimming pool is available for users, and the possibility of renting the clubhouse for weddings, events and other celebrations.
Built in the year 1982, this course was designed by golf course architect Edmund Ault, who created a layout more challenging and fun than the usual resort courses. Its location also offers a beautiful landscape to enjoy as backdrop, as it is situated in the city of Fairfield Bay, near the Greers Ferry Lake and the Little Red River.
The course offers two distinctive nines, the front one being a gentler introduction with sloping and more open terrain; while the back being more dramatic, with elevation changes and where accuracy will be key. Proof of this are the intimidating 14th and 15th holes. The 14th is a par 5 featuring a drop of 80 feet from the tee to the fairway, and the 15th is considered as one of the most challenging par 4s in the whole state.
As for the rates, green fees are affordable, ranging from $29 if playing on a weekday afternoon to $55 if playing in the morning on a weekend.
A drive range, chipping and putting areas form the practice facility, available if you need to warm up before the round. Finally, a pro-shop and a bar & grill complete the layout amenities.
1998 was the opening year for Cypress Creek, a golf course designed by Kevin Tucker and located in the city of Cabot, only a thirty-minute drive from Little Rock, the capital of Arkansas.
A par 72, the course counts with some interesting holes, many of them with water coming into play. In the front nine, check the par 3 4th, the par 5 7th or the par 3 9th, all of them with carries over water. As for the back nine, their best holes may be the par 4 12th, which doglegs to the right surrounding a lake, or the following par 3 13th with a carry over water. However, the signature hole has to be the 16th: a downhill par 3 playing from an elevated tee over a lake to an almost island green protected not only by water, but also two bunkers.
The amenities include a pro shop, a complete practice facility with a driving range and chipping and putting green, and the possibility of taking golf lessons.
As for the rates, they are quite affordable, oscillating between $30 and $50 per round. An absolute hidden gem!
Not far from its sister course Airlington lies the Park, the original layout from Hot Springs Country club located in the city of Hot Springs, in Central Arkansas, a city really close to the stunning Ouachita National Forest. 11 lakes surround this magnificent location, that come into play in many of the holes at every course set on here.
Built in 1898 by Willie Park Jr. and renovated in 2001 by Coore and Brenshaw as its sister Airlington, the Park (called the Majestic in its beginnings) is more open than its sibling, and offers some sand and water hazards, lush fairways and breathtaking views of the natural surroundings.
The clubhouse here is also magnificent, perfect if you want to have a classic country club golf experience. Other amenities include hard court indoor and outdoor tennis courts, swimming pool and playground area, apart from some tennis and golf pro shops.
Located in the city of Drasco, surrounded by the Ozark Mountains and Greers Ferry Lake, this John Floyd designed peninsula course offers dramatic elevation changes, tree lined fairways and water hazards that come into play in many holes.
Check the 12th hole to know what we are talking about: a downhill par 3 with a 130-feet drop from the tee to a semi-island green.
To check the scorecard, you can visit their website, which is shared with another course from our list, Mountain Ranch. (Mountain Ranch and Tannenbaum Website, s.f.) The same happens with the rates, which are exactly the same: from $29 to $55 depending on the time and day of the week.
Designed by Bobby McGee, Glenwood was carved in the woodlands of the homonym city of Glenwood in 1994. However, in 2015 some renovations were made in the fairways and greens, which gave the course a fantastic improvement in its conditions.
The signature hole is said to be the 15th, a par 3 with a carry over water to reach a peninsula green, where accuracy is tested to the fullest.
The amenities include a full practice facility, a pro-shop and a grill bar called ‘The 19th hole’. And apart from those, another great thing about Glenwood are their on-site accommodations in order for the players to be as closer as possible to the layout. They have two lodges, aptly called the Green Lodge and the Fairways Lodge.
Finally, we arrive to the city of Jonesboro, in the north east side of Arkansas, where we can find the Sage Meadows Country Club. Designed by Tommy Bolt, this layout is a links-style course, with no little challenges but fair to every player.
Nine of the holes play with water, an appealing feature that most of the players appreciate. As for the best holes, the par 4s take the lead: check out the 2nd, featuring a waterfall; the challenging 6th, with a tee shot which needs to be quite accurate; or the 9th, which is said to be the signature one, featuring a stunning but dangerous water hazard throughout the whole hole.
In their website you can check also the strict dress code, where collared shirts are mandatory with only few exceptions for the ladies. As for the shoes, they encourage to use golf ones with soft spikes, however, sneakers or tennis shoes may be accepted, if allowed by the staff. (Sage Meadows Website, s.f.)
Rates are similar to other courses seen until now in Arkansas, with green fees which range from $40 to $50 per round.
These ten courses offer some great golf for everybody, most of them with reasonable prices and great conditions. As with any list that includes the best golf courses, it is very hard to narrow down the list, so let us know which course you think should have made the list. Our readers would love to have more options of local favourites. Make your choice and let us know how it went!