Billionaire Unveils Exclusive New Course

The chairman, president and CEO of Little Rock’s Stephens Inc. has opened up his Alotian Golf Club. Warren Stephens, a 47-year-old billionaire and son of former Augusta National Golf Club chairman, Jack Stephens, unveiled his 7,400-yard golf course to members on September 4, 2004. The 300-acre layout occupies a panoramic site overlooking Lake Maumelle in Pulaski County, Ark. Vistas also incorporate Ouachita Mountain ridges.

Designed by Tom Fazio, the course on the western outskirts of Little Rock cost $18 million to build. It fills a quarter of a 1,200-acre parcel on the south side of Highway 10 that Stephens purchased from Deltic Timber Corp. in December 2001. In addition to an immaculately tended track, the club features an 11-acre state-of-the-art driving range and practice facility, and a 25,000-square-foot clubhouse that is slated to open around Christmas.

The club’s unusual name derives from a group of wayfaring golfers – including Stephens, also a member of Augusta National – who set out to play the best courses in America. The trips became known as the “America’s Lights Out Tour” (ALOT). Over time, members began calling themselves Alotians.

Stephens looked at several options when evaluating names for his club. “We thought about the name Golf Club of Arkansas, but that sounded way too serious,” he told reporter George Waldon of Arkansas Business. “This is a fun place, and I hope, a place that is not stuffy, a place where you can enjoy the company of fellow golfers.”

Stephens spared no expense with the course. Each green features an underground system capable of cooling or warming the bentgrass roots to a 10-degree differential with the air temperature. During Arkansas’ hot summers, the system augments the electric fans that circulate air over the greens.

A network of lakes – the largest of which is 28 acres in size – supplies irrigation water to the golf course and surrounding plants. The lakes also provide a steady flow of running water in the creeks, a sound that Stephens loves.

Stephens invited a select group of in- and out-of-state members to join Alotian. The non-equity memberships run into the six figures. In comments to Waldon, Stephens said he likens the club’s organizational structure as a “benevolent dictatorship.” There will be no committees that are often found haggling and playing politics at many private clubs. There will also be no tennis courts or swimming pools. Unlike Augusta National, which famously has no women members, Alotian’s new clubhouse will contain a ladies’ locker room.

Fazio fashioned a course with generous fairways and merciful rough. To reach that goal, a whopping 1.5 million cubic yards of dirt were moved while shaping the layout. “Golf is a game where you better enjoy it no matter how well you play,” Stephens said. The 10-handicapper added, “I wanted a course that is fun to play, not frustrating. If you want to play from the back tees, you can be frustrated.”

With his considerable financial resources, Stephens could have built his dream golf course anywhere. But it only made sense to build it close to Little Rock. “I wouldn’t want to do it anywhere else,” he told Waldon. “This is home. I guess it never occurred to me to do it somewhere else.”

Though his course has only been open for a short time, Stephens, during an August round, shot the track’s first-ever hole-in-one. The ace was the second for Alotian’s founder, and the first since he was 13 years old at a sports camp in Virginia. Asked which was his most memorable hole-in-one, Stephens replied, “I’d have to say the one here. I didn’t see the first one go in the hole, but I did see the one out here.”