Taking advantage of Hot Springs Village’s optimum golfing experience.
Written by Josh Williams
Photography by Jeremy Rodgers
There is an old adage that says golf obtained its name because all the other four-letter words were already taken. If you have ever attempted to play this great game, you can understand why. It is probably the most difficult game to master. You have to be so precise; that is to say, if you are off by just a fraction of an inch, you will be in the water instead of on the dance floor. There are times when you might take ten strokes before you even reach the green. There are also times (although rare) when you might be in the cup after one or two strokes. That’s the beauty of the game of golf. And those moments, the ones where you hit that perfect shot, are the ones that keep you coming back. You can take 120 strokes during your round and swear off the game forever, but if you hit a great approach shot from 180 yards out and end up pin-high within the leather on number 18, you will be back on the course next weekend. That’s how this game works. It’s really the only sport where the opponent is you. One simply can’t put the blame on anyone else for his or her bad play. That’s your crappy shot. As difficult as the game is, there is a place in the foothills of the Ouachita Mountains that makes your round about as easy as pie. I guess that’s correct, I never knew what that expression meant, anyway.
Hot Springs Village has some of the best golf courses in the country. Quite honestly, it’s what The Village is known for. The lush terrain and mountainous landscape provide a backdrop that’s more beautiful than one of Phil Mickelson’s lob shots from sixty yards out. All eight public courses (Diamante, the ninth course, is a private course) cater to golfers of all skill sets. Whether your handicap is +2 or +25, there are more than enough options for you to thoroughly enjoy your excursion. The golf courses in The Village are managed by Troon Golf, LLC, an industry leader that runs championship-level courses across the nation. It’s easy to see why Troon sits at the top of the golf universe. Every course in The Village is in pristine condition; just being out there raises your game to another level.
The course profiled in this story is Granada, mainly because it’s well rounded, with average length and difficulty levels. Its rolling hills and pine forests provide picturesque views for the entire round. The course designers, Ault, Clark and Associates managed to completely immerse you in the area’s natural surroundings. It is actually ranked in the top ten golf courses in the state by Golf Digest, so we were in for a real treat.
The morning started out a little shaky. It had been raining for about two straight weeks. There was another monsoon in the forecast, and I thought we were going to get washed away. It was overcast for most of the morning, but the rain threat luckily subsided. It was pretty damp and humid, but there is something special about the combination of a Bloody Mary coursing through my veins and thick dew on a fairway that warms the cockles of my heart, and no, that’s not the vodka talking. The three of us pulled up to the first tee with one set of clubs. Let me explain, my co-editor hadn’t golfed in a decade and Jeremy had to take all of the beautiful pictures you see in these pages.
Granada’s course manager, Pat Roberts, one of the nicest people on the planet, pulled up in a golf cart and introduced herself to us before loaning us a set of clubs, free of charge. Wow. Not only are we getting to golf on one of the nicest courses in the country, but we also got to use some new Titleist AP2’s. Winner.
I was playing fairly well, anyway. My co-editor became frustrated about halfway through the round and basically stopped. But not before Jeremy and I got to hear some of those other four-letter words I was referring to earlier. Not that I blame him, a ten year hiatus from the game will cause you to gather quite a bit of rust, and when you’re chilly-dipping every shot, the obscenities will spew. On the other hand, I was hitting a lot of my shots thin. It’s easy to hit it fat when the ground is wet, so I was being extra careful not to. I didn’t want to divot up those beautiful fairways anyway. But, that didn’t take away from our day. You don’t really care too much when your surroundings are as beautiful as they are in Hot Springs Village.
We encountered Dave and Therese Klier, a nice couple enjoying their Saturday morning on Granada. We let them play through on the first tee then caught up to them on the ninth, so we wound up just joining them for the rest of the round. Dave and Therese were on vacation from Chicago. “This place is great, isn’t it?” I asked Dave.
“Yes, it is,” he said, his Midwest accent as thick as froth. “There are so many nice courses out here. I’ve been hard pressed to find any place nicer to play, anywhere. My dad bought a place here in ’77 and we just keep coming back. I’m sure we will retire here.”
Many people do retire here, and that has been the stigma attached to Hot Springs Village, but this gem isn’t just for retirees any more. Every year, members of the younger generations flock to this area. With a plethora of hiking and biking trails, whitewater spillways, natural amphitheaters, golf courses, marinas, restaurants, lakes and campsites, there will never be a lack of outdoor adventures to indulge in. Our experience on Granada was just the tip of the iceberg, and I can’t wait to get back out to The Village to see what else I can get into. Maybe I can come up with a whole new set of four letter words.