Golfers taking advantage of new east Arkansas courses

WYNNE (Times-Herald) - All three courses at The Ridges of Village Creek are now open for play, even as construction continues at the course that opened in May.

According to Jesse Weeks, golf course manager at The Ridges, work is currently under way on a permanent clubhouse and cart barn along with the roads leading to the facility. Weeks said work is also ongoing on the construction of a pair of restrooms situated along the courses.

"We rolled through the summer and things went pretty well. We averaged around 1,000 rounds a month through the summer, which is our peak time for play. Now, most of the activity is on the construction end of things. Phase I of the construction was the road work and prep work for the new clubhouse, and that is moving forward, even though it has been slowed somewhat by the weather. Phase II is laying the footing and everything for the clubhouse along with the curbs and all of that. Most of the curb work has been done, but we're seeing some of the same delays, again because of the weather," said Weeks. "We also have construction under way on the restrooms for the course, and one of those is in Phase I construction and the other is in Phase II construction with the footings and some of the plumbing going in. We're still in our temporary facility right now, but we anticipate being in the new building by September."

Weeks said the East Ridge, the final nine-hole course at The Ridges, has opened and the reception from the public has been good.

"We call our courses the Ridges, and we have the North Ridge, the West Ridge and the East Ridge, and all three are now open. The reception from the public has been great. We have players drive in from Memphis and Little Rock, and we have quite a few people from the outlying areas, including Jonesboro, who are coming in to play. We've finished our USGA (United States Golf Association) ratings, and we're the second toughest course in the state," said Weeks.

According to the USGA course rating and slope database, the North-East course has a 75.8 rating, the North-West course has a 75.0 rating and the West-East course has a 76.4 rating, all from the Black tee, the furthest from the hole.

The Ridges has also been added to the Natural State Golf Trail, one of only 11 courses in the state listed on the trail and only the second in Eastern Arkansas.

Also on the Natural State Golf Trail are: Big Creek Golf and Country Club in Mountain Home, Eagle Crest in Alma, Glenwood Country Club in Glenwood, Harbor Oaks Golf Club in Pine Bluff, Hot Springs Country Club in Hot Springs, Mountain Ranch Golf Club at Fairfield Bay, Red Apple Inn and Country Club in Heber Springs, Sage Meadows Country Club in Jonesboro, Stonebridge Meadows Golf Club in Fayetteville and Tannenbaum Golf Club in Drasco. According to The Natural State Golf Trail website, the trail was created to showcase the scenic courses that dot the state and allow golfers to play through a variety of scenic topographies in different parts of the state.

Weeks said the public reception to the course has been so great that adjustments had to be made to accommodate golfers and those wanting to just see the course and its beauty.

"When we first opened, we were allowing non-golfers to come out and get a cart and go out and just enjoy the beauty of the course. You have rolling hills and beautiful valleys, and the course is really just aesthetically pleasing. We had to adjust that policy because we had so many people wanting to come out and view the course. We didn't want our golfers to have their day interrupted by all of the traffic on the course, so now we're doing private tours. All people have to do is call and schedule a time when they want to come out. I give most of the tours, and that's because I'm so proud to show this place off. It's really something to behold and something to experience, and people really get an appreciation for the area when they take the tour," said Weeks.

Weeks also urged area residents who enjoy wildlife to sign up for one of the park's night excursions along the course.

"One of the great things we have to offer to those who don't actually play golf are the night safaris. One of our park interpreters does most of that and we line up the carts for them when we're about to close. They provide just enough flashlights so people can see where they're going. They go out and travel along the course to see the different wildlife that we have out here, and it's a pretty amazing time. If you like wildlife, it's something that you probably want to come out and do because it really is interesting," added Weeks.

Weeks said one aspect of The Ridges, which may soon need to be addressed, is lodging. Original plans for the golf course called for a centralized lodge that would include lodging, meeting rooms and a restaurant. Other plans called for the possibility of cabins along the course, but all of those plans were scrapped when the private entity that originally signed on to manage the course pulled out, opening the door for state management. Weeks said lodging has been the one request from golfers that he feels will be needed.

"The next thing that may be needed is some sort of lodging for golfers. We have 10 cabins located here at the park and there are no plans to build additional cabins at this time. There is also lodging at motels in both Forrest City and Wynne, but the one constant request we have had is for more lodging near the course. It's something that may be on the backburner that is addressed down the line, but I think it's something that must be considered just because of the number of requests that we've had. It may not be lodging here at the park or on the course, but I think someone will eventually seize that opportunity," said Weeks.

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