Rugged and Beautiful: The Ridges at Village Creek


The Natural State Golf Trail:

Arkansas' Destination Golf Experience.

Posted by: Rick Parnham


Arkansas is nicknamed as the "Natural State," and after experiencing a handful of the state’s golf course offerings, it is easy to see why. A five day golfing adventure took us through the Mississippi flats, into the state capital of Little Rock, to the historic Hot Springs area and along the winding roads of the Ozarks. After learning about the Natural State Golf Trail while planning a visit to Memphis, we became intrigued to find out what Arkansas had to offer a couple Canadian’s looking to play some spring golf. What we found was a collection of quality designs, friendly people, a rich history and a place that has much to offer as a somewhat lesser known vacation or golf destination.


Our first stop on the junket was a 27 hole day at The Ridges of Village Creek State Park. Located midway between Memphis and Little Rock, this Andy Dye signature facility is a perfect compliment to highlight the rugged landscapes and wilderness of the state park setting. The boldly contemporary style design features stark lines and ridges with more than enough challenge and beauty for any golfer. Ridge at Village Creek course review


The night stay in Little Rock took us to Lost Forty Brewery, one of the many craft breweries dotting the streets and neighbourhoods of the state’s capital. With alcohol laws changing in the south a boom in local breweries has taken hold. Lost Forty, named for a practice in the local logging industry to blow off work to sample a few pints, while cutting, the “Lost Forty”. The brewery has seen rapid growth in demand for their product and has been constantly adding new tanks to meet the demand for really good beer. The taproom has a rustic ambiance with rough hewn oak tables, with seating for close to 100. They have a delicious range of brews with the Amber Bock and the Forest King bourbon barrel stout being the take home crowler cans that evening. A diverse menu features a variety of meats flavoured on site in the outdoor smoker, which are well worth the visit themselves. Visit Lost Forty


Glenwood Country Club was the day two on the journey and lead us to a quaint farming and logging area in the western reaches of the state. A shot maker’s delight greeted us upon arrival. Opened  in 1994 and designed by Bobby McGee, those who value old school designs will enjoy the subtleties of the green complexes and challenge of finding the canting fairways. Grilling steaks while staying in the on-site lodge comforted us after the bogey-fest, and was the perfect way to finish the visit. Glenwood Country Club course review


The historic Hot Springs Country Club welcomed us on day three. Founded in 1898 the club ranks as one of the oldest on the continent. Built as a playground for those seeking the therapeutic spas along the National Park’s bathhouse row, the club boasts a rich history of playing host  to celebrity guests and prestigious championships. Two terrific options are offered to Trail travelers with the Park and Arlington courses and their slick subtle greens. Hot Springs Country Club course reviews


No trip to Hot Springs should end with just golf. We journeyed to the historic heart of downtown, that at the time, was filled with spring break revelers. A stroll along Arkansas’ Walk of Fame we discovered the origins of Spring Training baseball in the city. Walking along the famous Bathhouse Row you are enlightened of a different era in this resort town as the history of gangsters and the New York and Chicago mobsters is told with placards and museums celebrating its unique past. A walk into the world famous Arlington hotel, a favorite of Al Capone, helps tell the story of Hot Springs being neutral ground for the underworld characters of yesteryear. It seems even prohibition-era gangsters needed some well deserved time away from the office. With a purge of the city’s illegal casinos by Governor Rockefeller in the 1960’s, Hot Springs continued to be a destination for those seeking the spas evolving into the family friendly destination it is today. Offering everything from a theme park to miles of beautiful hiking trails, to the traditional go karts and mini golf and plenty of water sports on beautiful Lake Hamilton, the city embraces its gangster and baseball past, and blends that history with modern day fun. Visit Hot Springs


Historic Bathhouse Row: Hot Springs National Park


In a state with more than a few dry counties, we took the liberty to sample a pair of local craft breweries that call Hot Springs home. Superior Bathhouse Brewery is new and very welcome addition to the local scene. Located in the most northern of the former spa buildings, they use the famous thermal water once used in the spas for their brewing process creating a unique experience. Featuring 16 flavourful taps there is a tasty beer option for any palate. The family friendly taproom, with its tasty lunch and diner menus,  is spacious and airy with a wall of windows providing a great vantage point to people watch along the historic avenue. Bubba Brews Taproom, on the other hand, offers a refined lounge-like feel to the visit. The lengthy bar has twelve brews gracing the taps. A fully stocked collection of spirits is backed by a beautiful reclaimed historic ornate oak mirror that owner Johnathon Martin knew was the perfect backdrop for his bar adding a speakeasy feel. Proudly brewed a few miles away, Bubba Brew’s features a dozen taps pouring a variety of top quality delicious tastes celebrating German and Irish stylings.Visit the brewery’s: Superior Bathhouse / Bubba Brews


Plentiful Taps at Bubba Brews


The Ozarks became home for the final two days of the trip with visits to the three Trail facilities surrounding the stunning Greer’s Ferry Lake. This massive reservoir was created for flood control and generating power from the Little Red River and covers an expansive 45000 acres offering 310 miles of shore line and a boating and fishing paradise. Surrounded with high mountain bluffs and thick forest cover there is no shortage of amazing landscapes to enjoy. The trio of trail courses expose you to some of these incredible vistas while challenging your game.


Mountain Ranch Golf Club is located in the Fairfield Bay community near the town of Clinton. Designed by Edmund Ault, the course sits atop high ridges creating a mountain golf feel to the visit. Spacious fairways are offered on the front side maximizing playability to the elevated greens, while the back side tightens up the landing areas and forces more delicate shot making from your game. Mention Stay and play here. Mountain Ranch Golf Club course review


The Tannenbaum Golf Course also offers a mountain golf experience to guests. John Floyd’s design, which opened in 1999, routes over some of the most striking terrain of all the trail courses we toured. Considerable wow factor is found on a pair of the par 3 holes, while the visuals of massive monoliths and rock walls adds a sense of awe. Secluded from much of the world, the round feels like a trip through a massive wilderness. Tannenbaum Golf Course review


The lakeside town of Heber Springs was our final Ozark destination and the last stop on the trip. The Red Apple Inn was our home for the night providing a quaint and charming luxury stay. The historic property is located on Eden Isle and sits on a hilltop overlooking the lake. A casual southern elegance, refined, yet cozy, can best describe the venue. Our morning coffee on the terrace was accented by the family of white tailed deer welcoming us to their home, while the one minute morning walk to the first tee at Red Apple Inn Golf Course was a very welcome respite for two weary traveling golfers.


The Red Apple Inn Golf Course  was opened in 1969, featuring a blend of open parkland holes framed by home sites and incredible views of the lake, along with many holes routed through woodlands with dramatic elevation changes. Deceptively longer than the card suggests, the course has a fine collection of greens with plenty of movement to grab the attention of even the more confident putters. Red Apple Inn Golf Club course review


Not knowing what to expect upon our arrival in Arkansas, we were impressed with the variety of courses our slice of the Natural State Golf Trail had to offer. Big and bold, historic and charming, beautiful and challenging all became part of the trip’s vocabulary. Knowing that we only saw six of the 11 branded Trail facilities, this sampling gave us a terrific taste of Arkansas golf and made us ask: Why isn’t this state on the radar for those looking for a unique golf trip?

The Natural State Golf Trail: [website]





































Lost Forty Brewing







Glenwood Country Club







Historic Hot Springs







Downtown Hot Springs







Mountain Ranch













Red Apple Inn