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Alotian, PVCC, Chenal get golf pros' approval.

IT'S HARD TO BE COMPLETELY objective about the game of golf, or about golf courses.

Arkansas has many excellent courses, and Arkansas Business readers must be some of their best customers given the number of responses to our annual readers' choice ballots. (See Pages 26-27.)

To add some balance to the choices, the golf pros at several courses around the state were asked to name their favorite places to play--excluding their own, of course.

One of the best known pros in the state is Dan Snider, who is the head professional at The Alotian Club and who was at Chenal Country Club for 12 years before moving to the course Warren Stephens built.

Snider still ranks the Founders Course at Chenal as one of the best in Arkansas. "There's not a bad hole on the course," he said. "It was designed to be challenging, but also playable for beginners."

The course at Pleasant Valley Country Club also ranks highly with Snider. He said it's a course that is sort of a transition between old-style and new-style courses. "You never get tired of playing there," he said. "You have to hit every club in the bag. There are all kinds of shots. It has lengthy holes as well as short ones. It has tight holes as well as open ones."

Snider said one of the most fun courses is the Country Club of Little Rock. "It's an old-style course with smaller greens, tighter holes and it's not long. It's challenging, but not overly demanding."

Blessings Golf Club, the course that John Tyson built at Johnson, is very difficult, Snider said. "It has great holes. You have to appreciate it."

Bobby Baker, manager of the War Memorial Golf Course in Little Rock who has rated courses for Golf Digest for the past 15 years, calls The Alotian "the perfect golf course--it's flawless.

"Everything about it is done so well--the design, the condition, the challenge. The fairways are generously wide and the greens play very fair," Baker said. "And the scenery is unmatched."

Baker also likes Pleasant Valley. "It's the total golf course--very challenging, beautiful, always in good condition and it has a good atmosphere."

He also likes the golf atmosphere in general at the Hot Springs Village courses. He admits he hasn't played the newest course--Granada--but really likes the high quality and interesting terrain of the Diamante course.

Another standout course, in Baker's opinion, is Texarkana Country Club, which got a makeover in 2000 that boosted its length to 6,850 yards but retains the original design that golfing legend Byron Nelson, who served as club pro in 1934, referred to as "little Augusta" as he practiced there before the Masters Tournament.

Baker, 51, who has played at the Texarkana course since he was 9 years old, approves the makeover. "They've done it justice," he said.

Lee Brun, head pro at Jonesboro Country Club, also loves The Alotian.

"It reminds me of Augusta National Golf Club," Brun said. "I've played both, and I'd rank it with Augusta." Augusta, of course, is where the Masters Tournament will be played April 2-8. "The Alotian is very fair and set up for all types of players. It's beautiful and looks like the mountains of North Carolina. All of the holes, 1 through 18, are breathtaking," Brun said.

Another "very fair course" is Pleasant Valley, Brun said. "You have to drive the ball and be pretty accurate."

He also likes Chenal and, like Snider and Arkansas Business readers, prefers the Founders Course to the newer Bear Den course, which is more demanding.

Josh Alsip, one of the co-head pros at the Blessings, likes Stonebridge Meadows Golf Club at Fayetteville. "It has a variety of wide-open holes along with some narrow ones," he said. "It's always in good condition. The 17th hole is a very nice par 3."

Alsip also likes the Bear Den course at Chenal. "Although it was almost brand new when I played it, it has a really good layout," he said.

Tim Jenkins, head pro and part owner of the Country Club of Arkansas at Maumelle, turns to more subjective reasons for picking his favorites.

At the top of his list is Mountain Ranch Golf Club at Fairfield Bay. "It's unlike most courses nowadays that have homes around them," he said. "The course is surrounded by wilderness. It provides its own serenity and beautiful views, which allow you to focus on the game and the people you're playing with."

Mountain Ranch, built in 1981, was private until 1991, when it was opened to the public.

For much the same reason, Jenkins likes Texarkana Country Club. "It's a traditional course with tall pines and looks like it has been undisturbed for a long time."

Pleasant Valley is "a nice traditional course," Jenkins said, "in which the architects built it to suit the land."

Jenkins recognizes some of the excellent courses at Hot Springs Village, such as Diamante, but admits he hasn't played the newer courses because they're closed to most golfers.

BY JOHN HENRY

jhenry@abpg.com
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Title Annotation:Pleasant Valley Country Club
Author:Henry, John
Publication:Arkansas Business
Geographic Code:1U7AR
Date:Mar 19, 2007
Words:843
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