Arkansas Launches Golf Trail

Taking a tip from Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and, most recently, Idaho, the state of Arkansas has launched its very own golf trail. Called the “Natural State Golf Trail,” the string of 10 public courses is an effort by Arkansas tourism officials to tap into the big money golfers spend on their sport.

“It’s a new market we haven’t explored before,” said Jim Shamburger, a member of the Arkansas Parks, Recreation and Travel Commission, in comments to Julie Stewart of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Shamburger is also president of the newly-formed Natural State Golf Trail executive committee.

The 10 public courses selected for the trail include: Big Trail Golf & Country Club in Mountain Home; Harbor Oaks Golf Club in Pine Bluff; Red Apple Inn in Heber Springs; Sage Meadows Golf Course in Janesboro; Stonebridge Meadows in Fayetteville; Thunder Bayou Golf Links in Blytheville; the Mountain Springs and Cypress Creek courses at Greystone Golf & Country Club in Cabot; and the Majestic and Arlington courses at Hot Springs Country Club.

These courses – as well as dozens of others wannabes – paid a $2,000 application fee to be part of the trail. An advisory group played each course anonymously before making the selections, basing their choices on such categories as course conditioning, design, “playability,” customer service and related amenities. The state plans to begin promoting the trail this fall, at which time a website and toll-free central phone number will be unveiled.

Fairways Golf Inc. of Mobile, Ala., will help the state develop golf packages and operate the toll-free number. The company works with other states, including the “grandfather” of such golf trails, Alabama’s Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, as well as Louisiana’s Audubon Golf Trail and Bear Trace in Tennessee. “They’re known throughout the United States for golf packaging,” Shamburger said. “That’s all they do, and they do it very well.”

According to the owner of Fairways Golf, Don Faggard, Arkansas has a bright future. “Arkansas is well-positioned geographically for them, with its mind climate and top-notch courses.”

The operators whose courses were selected are enthusiastic about the possibilities. “I think it’s a great program,” said Bill Meadows, whose family owns Stonebridge Meadows. “We’re just real excited”. Added Lang Zimmerman, co-owner of the highly-rated course in Mountain Home, “We are just thrilled to know Big Creek made the final cut.”