Spectacular and Challenging: The Arlington Course


Hot Springs Country Club:

Historic & Grand Golf in Arkansas' National Park City.

Posted by: Rick Parnham


Not often do you get to spend time with a character filled 120 year old and have a chance to soak up the wealth of rich history it can provide. A visit to Hot Springs Country Club, one of America's oldest golf clubs, afforded us with a chance to experience a wealth of hallowed tales of the club, its former members and guests, along with being treated to some exceptional golf. Famous for the thermal springs that have brought throngs of tourists to the Ozark Mountain foothills over the decades, the city's golf roots are deep and impressive.   


With roots back to 1898, the club has seen many changes to its facilities over the more than a century of golf in the National Park city. The club began as a Willie Park Jr. designed nine hole facility and according to club GM Barry Howard, the chipping area green is said to be the last remnant of the original layout. Expansion to satisfy the demand for golf once saw the club home to three championship courses in its hay-day. The club now boasts two terrific old school designs; The Park named after Willie Park Jr. and the Arlington, a William Diddel design circa 1932, which is a former PGA tour stop from the 1950’s and current host course to a US Open qualifier. Both were renovated by Coore & Crenshaw in 1994 with the goal to return the bunkers and green complexes back to the orginal stylings.


Formerly known as the Majestic in tribute to one of the city's historic hotel properties lost in a fire, the Park Course is aptly named; befitting of what you will find. The routing is what is left from many remodels and downsizing from the club’s 54 hole collection of years past. Characterized by, “What you see is what you get,” the holes are generally straight with slight meanderings. Plenty of elevation change will be found throughout the round, none more dramatic than at the final par 3 of the round. The tee shot on 15th plays downhill from the footings of the magnificent clubhouse to a green tucked behind a narrow chute in a thicket of evergreens and then a pond short of the putting surface. The farthest reaches of the course present a pair of strong designs at holes five and six. A crossing creek in the landing area of the drive gets your attention at the fifth hole. A raised green fronted by bunkers on the right side makes your approach to this par 5 a tricky task. The par 4 sixth hole cants left in the landing area and leaves you with an uphill or side hill lie from which to attack the bunker-less green complex high above. The finale is a big finish requiring a big poke with the drive which leaves a long iron or hybrid into another raised green site, this time set beside the striking facade of the clubhouse and watching eyes.


Traditional Green Sites on the Park Course


The Arlington course is named after the city's downtown landmark hotel that has hosted guests in Hot Springs for decades. The layout has played host to the PGA and the historic figures that graced the leader boards back in the 1950’s. Additionally the course is one of the current hosts of  US Open Regional qualifiers. Built in the 1930’s the course is a splendid example of old school design principles. The opener plays as the toughest on the card. It is a bold dogleg left par 4 guarded by a pair of well placed bunkers on the inside corner. The approach plays uphill to the green which is also protected by a trio of bunkers on the left and one front right. The second is a tricky downhill par 3 requiring a deft touch with a short iron to avoid the fall offs and bunkers. The third is a remarkably designed short par 4. The semi blind tee shot is best struck with less than a driver as the severely sloped fairway cants from the thick tree line on the right to a series of bushy pines lining the left. The perfect drive will clear the rise and run to the flats short of the creek that lies beneath a fronting rock wall and hillside green complex. This hole certainly has a chance to be in the best in show conversation. The first par 5 begins at the sixth tee and is a wonderful swooping dogleg left with the final target being a raised green set amid tall stands of pines. The par 3 eighth offers a waterside target protected by a pair of deep bunkers in front and one behind to collect any shot not threaded perfectly to the putting surface.


The back nine opens with a long par 5 that is all about the green complex with its three tiers and sharp ridges. The par 3 11th is pit bull tough playing at least an extra club or more to a high, heavily sloped green. The 12-14th holes are all out and back par 4’s each with raised tees and elevated greens. Long and lean, these holes present some of the more challenging putting surfaces on the round. The 15th is a marvellous short par 4 that may not require a driver if you are looking for par. The left is lined with a large bunker and three trees short of the green while a thick collection of pines will gladly swallow anything hit errantly to the right. The high plateau green is small and heavily sloped. The 17th is a hole that every course needs. The wedge length par 3 lies in a shadowy hollow amid tall pines and completely ringed with deep bunkers.


History Filled Clubhouse


It was a special privilege to be able to include a visit to Hot Springs Country Club on our visit to Arkansas.  As a Natural State Golf Trail partner, the private club provides access to the hallowed grounds as part of a trail package. Very few  clubs of this era and ilk are welcoming to public guests and with the quality of design waiting on the first tee, a visit to the club is an absolute must. I am big fan of old school designs and Hot Springs Country Club gives two great examples of architecture from a different era.  Both courses are a treat on their own, but a 36 hole day of fine golf and being able to soak up some of the rich history of the club and the city of Hot Springs was time well spent.


Related Editorial: Natural State Golf Trail



Hot Springs Country Club

101 Country Club Drive
Hot Springs, AR


(501) 624-2661




























The Park: Par 72


Yards Rating Slope

















The Arlington: Par 72


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Park Hole # 15


Photography is Courtesy of:

Hot Springs CC &

The Natural State Golf Trail