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Diamante dethrones Chenal in reader's poll. (Golf Links).

DIAMANTE COUNTRY CLUB of Hot Springs Village has finally dethroned Chenal Country Club of Little Rock as the favorite spot for a round of golf by readers of Arkansas Business. And it wasn't even close this year.

Chenal managed to cling to the top spot by the slimmest of margins as only a single vote separated it and Diamante last year.

This year more Arkansas Business readers responded than ever before, thanks in large part because they could go to and cast their choices. The votes are tabulated on a weighted scale of 10 points for a first-place vote, 9 points for a second-place vote and so on.

All reader polls are subjective and unscientific since there's the possibility of stacking the votes. And they obviously are influenced by where the readers live. The survey didn't ask readers to distinguish between private courses, including land development and resort courses and public, daily-fee courses.

The award-winning Diamante golf course, one of eight private courses at Hot Springs Village, is considered to be one of the most challenging yet flexible golf courses ever built.

With five sets of tees, ranging in distance of 7,548 yards to a more moderate 5,282 yards, the course challenges both low and high handicappers. Diamante's longest hole, the par five 11 hole, stretches to 627 yards.

Golfers hit from sodded zoysia fairways to manicured bent grass carpet-like greens that average 6,500 SF. Four large water hazards come into play, along with a number of grassy depressions and traditional white sand bunkers.

Diamante reigned as the best course in the state for four straight years by Golf Digest magazine, until it was edged out last year by Chenal--a flip flop from the Arkansas Business reader's choice.

Chenal's 18-hole championship course in west Little Rock was designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr., one of the most famous names in the business. Chenal also has been ranked among the top 100 courses in the country by Golf Week.

Chenal's second 18-hole championship golf course, another design of Robert Trent Jones Jr., is scheduled for completion in the fall. The new course is being carved out of the woods and will feature a more natural terrain.

Diamante was designed by Ault, Clark and Associates of Kensington, Md., one of the country's premier golf course design firms. Ault, Clark also designed Mountain Ranch Golf Club at Fairfield Bay, Cherokee Village South, the new Big Creek Golf and Country Club at Mountain Home and the soon-to-be-opened Thunder Bayou Golf Club at Blytheville.

Coming in a close third is the challenging Isabella Golf Course, another of the Hot Springs Village courses that has been hailed as the best new course in the state since Diamante. It opened in 2000.

Another Ault, Clark course, with eight signature holes with water and mountain views, Isabella plays at 7,160 yards from the tips. It features spacious fairways, numerous green side bunkers and plenty of slope and speed on the greens.

There was quite a shake-up this year among Arkansas Business readers who voted. Besides the switch at the top,. Pleasant Valley Country Club dropped a notch to fourth with the large leap by Isabella.

And Big Creek, fourth last year, fell to fifth. Ponce de Leon, Magellan and Balboa, three more of the Hot Springs Village courses, joined the list this year. Rounding out the top 10 are Hot Springs Country Club (Arlington Course) and Pinnacle Country Club of Rogers.

Falling off this year's list were Mountain Ranch, the Country Club of Little Rock and the two Greystone courses at Cabot -- Cypress Creek and Mountain Springs.

The Mountain Ranch course was the biggest surprise since it generally was perceived to be the best of the public golf courses in the state, was ranked No. 1 by Golf Digest and is in Golf. Week's Top Golf Courses in America list.

Big Creek, a public course like Mountain Ranch, broke into the list at fourth place last year and remains very popular. The Mountain Home club features 55 white sand bunkers, and water from four lakes and Big Creek comes into play on seven of the 18 holes.

The Country Club of Little Rock finished 11th in the poll and was followed closely by Mountain Ranch.

Up in the northwest corner of the state, Pinnacle Country Club of Rogers came in 10th. Pinnacle's fairways are wide open, and water comes into play on 16 holes. Many of the greens are multi-tiered and heavily undulating.
Arkansas Business' Top 10

Club Points

Diamante, Hot Springs Village 1,645
Chenal, Little Rock 872
Isabella, Hot Springs Village 859
Pleasant Valley, Little Rock 705
Big Creek, Mountain Home 634
Ponce de Leon, Hot Springs Village 545
Magellan, Hot Springs Village 363
Balboa, Hot Springs Village 345
Hot Springs Country Club (Arlington) 319
Pinnacle, Rogers 317

Golf Digest's Top 10

1. Chenal, Little Rock

2. Diamante, Hot Springs Village

3. Pleasant Valley, Little Rock

4. Ponce de Leon, Hot Springs Village

5. Magellan, Hot Springs Village

6. Pinnacle, Rogers

7. Hot Springs (Arlington)

8. Country Club of Little Rock

9. Texarkana Country Club

10. Stonebridge Meadows, Fayetteville
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Title Annotation:Diamante Country Club is favorite golf course
Comment:Diamante dethrones Chenal in reader's poll. (Golf Links).(Diamante Country Club is favorite golf course)
Author:Henry, John
Publication:Arkansas Business
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 25, 2002
Previous Article:ASGA goal: An expanded golf tour for everyman. (Golf Links).
Next Article:Court to decide fate of Belvedere Country Club sale. (Golf Links).

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