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Golf Pros' choices differ from readers' picks.

THIS YEAR ARKANSAS BUSINESS asked several golf professionals to name their favorite courses in the state. The only condition was they couldn't name their own course.

Some of the answers may surprise golfers.

In the informal survey, none of the golf pros mentioned Isabella in Hot Springs Village, which was Arkansas Business' readers pick for the past two years. (See story, Page 20.) In addition, it was ranked the sixth best new course in the country by Golf Digest when it opened on Labor Day in 2000. And the magazine also named the golf course the No. 1 course in the state for 2003-04.

Still, there was a wide variety of courses mentioned, from ultraexclusive The Alotian Club near Little Rock to Texarkana County Club.

John Paul, the director of golf for all Hot Springs Village courses, said he likes the Country Club of Little Rock, Pleasant Valley Country Club, Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers and Big Creek Golf Course & Country Club at Mountain Home.

For all of the courses, Paul said he likes the layout and the diversity of the holes.

The Country Club of Little Rock, Paul said, seems to be well maintained. And he pointed out he liked the design of the 18-hole, 72-par Big Creek, which plays at 7,320 yards.

Vicky Watkins, general manager of Mountain Ranch in Fairfield Bay, said she also likes Big Creek, the Course at Eagle Mountain in Batesville and Pleasant Valley Country Club in Little Rock.

Watkins said she was attracted to the newness of Big Creek and Eagle Mountain.

Ken Smith, the PGA professional at Harbor Oaks Golf Course in Pine Bluff, said he hasn't played that many courses in Arkansas. But he said he had good experiences at Big Creek and the Granada Golf Course and Ponce de Leon Golf Club, both in Hot Springs Village.

He said the courses were challenging.

"Both the golf courses at Mountain Home and Granada really have some beautiful views," Smith said.

Ryan Browning, head golf pro at Belvedere Golf Resort at Hot Springs, said his three favorite courses in Arkansas--other than his own, of course--are the Country Club of Little Rock, Pleasant Valley and Texarkana Country Club.

Browning said he liked those three because they are more traditional, with larger trees and narrow fairways, as opposed to the newer courses that are wide open.

On the older courses, players have to shape their shots.

"You just can't swing as hard as you want ... or you get in trouble," Browning said.

Chris Mayes, head golf professional at Pleasant Valley Country Club, said some of his favorite courses are Alotian, the Country Club of Little Rock and Texarkana Country Club.

Mayes said he likes the shot values of the courses and likes that the Country Club of Little Rock and Texarkana Country Club are traditional. But he enjoys the scenery of The Alotian Club, which plays at 7,405 yards.

With the CCLR and Texarkana Country Club's courses, "it's not so much a target golf but you have to hit the ball fairly straight or you have to work the ball one way or another," Mayes said. "One of the things that I like is a course that you can use every club in your bag during a round. It's not the same thing hole after hole after hole."

Hot Springs

Dustin Hamm, assistant professional for Hot Springs Country Club, said fun courses to play are Longhills Golf Club in Benton, Maumelle Country Club and Pleasant Valley. Hamm also said he liked Ridge Pointe Country Club in Jonesboro but hasn't played that in a few years.

Longhills is fairly short and anyone could play it, he said. The course plays at 6,561 yards.

"It doesn't matter if you're a junior or if you're a senior, you can still get around it fairly easy if you don't hit the ball far," he said. "A lot of these new courses you have to hit the ball far to be able to score well on."

He said Maumelle and Pleasant Valley are challenging.

Jeremy Moe, the PGA Pro at Hardscrabble Country Club in Fort Smith, said his favorite courses are Alotian, Johnny Tyson's The Blessing Golf Club in Johnson and Pleasant Valley.

Moe said all of the courses have a "great layout, traffic conditions [and are] challenging.

"They are very well designed and always in great shape," Moe said. "[It's] an all-around great experience--since we can't list our own."

MARK FRIEDMAN

mfricdman@abpg.com
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Golf Guide
Author:Friedman, Mark
Publication:Arkansas Business
Article Type:Survey
Geographic Code:1U7AR
Date:Mar 27, 2006
Words:749
Previous Article:The candidate filing period for the 2006 political season got under way last week and continues through noon April 4.
Next Article:Hot Springs Village dominate readers poll.
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