By Alice & Danny Scott

Who knew, Arkansas has a golf trail? In March, as the flip switched from winter to spring and all were abuzz about the Eclipse, we played two on the trail and others that warrant listing. “The Natural State” mixes gorgeous landscapes with history and more, worthy of rediscovering America.

Little Rock

Little Rock is the big city to fly in and explore a bit before branching out. Stay at Little Rock Marriott for a spectacular waterfront view of the Arkansas River. Downtown attractions include The Clinton Library with interesting historic depictions and artifacts, regardless of political slants. Since Arkansas invented cheese dip, believe it or not, try the world award winning, 24 plus ingredient, creamy treat at Dizzy Gypsy.

Golf at Mystic Creek in El Dorado

Two hours south of Little Rock and just above the border of Louisiana, the town of El Dorado (Spanish for The Golden), emerged in the 1920s during the black gold rush. A century later, impressive statues on one main corner commemorate the men and machinery that created the boom town.

The Haywood boutique hotel plays host to a stay and play package with Mystic Creek Golf Course, the number one course on the trail and one of Troon portfolio’s pride and joy. This true championship course is home to an Epson Tour event and GM, Cody Lack says it is one of the gals’ favorites to play. A sunny blue sky emphasizes towering pines and hardwoods – a squirrel’s playground and a golfer’s maze. The winding creek is crossed by Swilcanesque bridges throughout the course. The depth of beauty is derived from the natural contouring while the difficulty comes from the convolution of bunker placement and crazy greens that Kenneth Dye Jr. designed. Some of the elevated greens with false fronts and sides make for easy stairways to seven.

The three-year new clubhouse, built with local pines, serves as an amphitheater for the 18th hole on the ground level or upper balcony. The Mystic Grill delivers quality service with a pretty outdoor view. Salmon cakes are a must try and so is the course. www.golfmysticcreek.com

Golf at DeGray Lake Resort

DeGray Lake Resort State Park is a whole get away destination, one hour from Little Rock. The Lodge is perched on the lake with a front lawn for romantic weddings or family reunions like The Duck Dynasty’s.

Leon Howard designed the golf course through rolling foothills of the Ouachita Mountains. The front nine fairways are wide with a few inconspicuous homes and assorted waterfowl strutting. Dogwood trees sparkle with white blooms amidst the evergreens on the back nine. It is a journey in the woods where Safaris are led for park visitors to search for nocturnal animals in a golf cart caravan.

The course is well maintained with help from prisoners of Arkansas Department of Corrections. Dressed in white jumpsuits, looking like golf caddies, they parade to duty with landscape implements, guarded by fully armed sheriffs on horseback. They love the assignment and do a great job.

Golf, boat, relax or explore nature. Boredom never sets in at www.degraygolf.com.

Hot Springs Village

The largest gated community in North America has eleven lakes and three nines at the Isabella Golf Complex, designated on the Arkansas Golf Trail. Plus, eight more courses are beautifully designed and maintained for a storybook golf life for residents and visitors, 45 minutes from Little Rock.

Granada was designed in ’04 with panoramic views. Cortez is known for its wildlife, with occasional bear sightings; but deer and possums are more prevalent on all the courses including Ponce de Leon_,_ originally opened by John Daly. Balboa, Coronado, DeSoto, and Magellan complete the public courses while Diamante Country Club is a private course in a gated community within the largest gated community for double security.

Nearby in the town and National Park of Hot Springs, thermal waters have drawn visitors for over a century. The Fordyce Bathhouse Visitor Center and Museum is a comprehensive display of original bath works. The Gangster Museum delivers an entertaining history, showcasing the New York connection of Al Capone and others who chose Hot Springs as an early base of operations, their gangster paradise.

Oaklawn Racing and Gaming began here in 1905 and with $100m in renovations, today you can bet on having fun, wager on the ponies or canter through the expansive casino and dine at The Bugler, a fine culinary winner.

3-Day stays at Hot Springs Village start at $299 and include lodging, meal for two, community tour, amenity access and golf. Book this getaway and you may discover your new home at www.explorethevillage.com

For more on all 14 courses on the Arkansas Golf Trail, visit here.