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The Natural State Golf Trail is a public-private partnership created to showcase the scenic golf courses of the state. The trail consists of twelve courses in eleven different locations across the Arkansas.
First discussed in the early 2000s, the Natural State Golf Trail came about due to the efforts of Lang Zimmerman, a co-founder and managing partner of Big Creek Golf and Country Club in Mountain Home (Baxter County), and because of the interest of Mike Beebe, then serving as an Arkansas state senator. Beebe suggested the possibility of a statewide golf trail to the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, and with the help of Jim Shamburger— a commissioner on the Arkansas State Parks, Recreation and Travel Commission and avid golfer—the trail became a reality on July 13, 2004.
Loosely modeled on Alabama’s Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, the Arkansas trail represents a cooperative venture between the private sector, the Arkansas State Golf Association, the Arkansas Hospitality Association, the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, and the Arkansas Department of Transportation. Strict criteria determine which courses may join the trail. For example, each course must offer a practice facility, serve food in some capacity, have a Professional Golf Association (PGA) professional on staff, and offer the regulation eighteen holes with a minimum 6,220 yards in length. Other factors include cart paths, restrooms, and slope ratings.
An executive board with representatives from the Arkansas State Golf Association, the Arkansas Hospitality Association, and the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism handles decisions made in regard to the trail. The Department of Parks and Tourism includes a modest golf trail component in its annual marketing plan for the state.
The trail consisted of ten courses the first year, adding more in 2005. At the beginning of 2015, the trail consisted of twelve courses in eleven different locations across the state. One of the locations, in Hot Springs (Garland County), has two separate eighteen-hole courses. In October 2015, the trail hosted its first “Travel the Trail $10,000 Shootout,” an event that encompassed all of the golf courses on the trail.
The courses on the trail are among the most esteemed in Arkansas. Most have been recognized by major golf publications as premier places to play. The courses include:
· Big Creek Golf and Country Club. This Mountain Home complex is one of only twenty-four courses in the United States to receive a five-star rating from Golf Digest’s Places to Play, 2004–2012.
· Eagle Crest Golf Course in Alma (Crawford County). Located immediately north of Interstate 40, this course offers zoysia tees and fairways, bent-grass greens, and a tee shot over a double waterfall.
· Glenwood Country Club and Lodge near Glenwood (Pike County). This facility in southwestern Arkansas features four sets of tees, four water hazards, and two lakes.
· Hot Springs Country Club in Hot Springs. A traditional favorite, the Hot Springs Country Club offers two eighteen-hole championship golf courses: the Arlington and the Park.
· Sage Meadows Country Club of Jonesboro (Craighead County). This links-style course, designed by Tommy Bolt, has been rated one of the top five semi-private golf courses in the state.
· Stonebridge Meadows Golf Club outside Fayetteville (Washington County). This award-winning golf course in the Ozark Mountains has Bermuda fairways and bent-grass greens.
· Tannenbaum Golf Club near Drasco (Cleburne County). Situated on a peninsula surrounded by Greers Ferry Lake, Tannenbaum has been recognized by Golf Digest as one of the best places to play in the country.
· Harbor Oaks Golf Course of Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). Featuring a par of seventy-two over eighteen holes with five sets of tee markers, Bermuda fairways, and bent-grass greens, Harbor Oaks has a picturesque setting on the banks of the Arkansas River.
· Mountain Ranch Golf Club in Fairfield Bay (Van Buren and Cleburne counties). Ranked by Golf Digest as the top resort course in the state, this course is in the heart of the Ozarks.
· Red Apple Inn Country Club of Heber Springs (Cleburne County). An eighteen-hole championship course, Red Apple was named one of the fifty most scenic golf courses in the country by Golf Digest.
· The Ridges at Village Creek State Park southeast of Wynne (Cross County). This twenty-seven-hole course, designed by Andy Dye, is located atop Crowley’s Ridge in eastern Arkansas.
For additional information:Natural State Golf Trail. http://www.naturalstategolftrail.com/ (accessed February 4, 2015).
Christina Lecuyer Natural State Golf Trail
Last Updated 8/2/2017
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