Recently, my never-ending quest for fantastic golf in lesser known destinations took me to Bella Vista, Arkansas. Bella Vista is located on the Springfield Plateau of the Ozark Mountains in northern Arkansas. The city was originally settled as a summer resort destination and officially became a retirement community in 1965 and ultimately an incorporated city in 2007. I spoke with several residents of this little town – none of whom were actually from the area – and everyone said pretty much the same thing: “Bella Vista is a great place to live, and with so much to do, it never gets boring.” For starters, the town features 108 holes of championship golf, over 50 miles of hiking and biking trails and 7 scenic lakes. With so much to do, you’ll feel like you’re on vacation every day! For those who are actually there on a vacation, there is an RV park and campground. Slightly more than 30,000 people call this inland oasis home and because of its tremendous climate, that number continues to grow each year.
For the majority of people, the main attraction seems to be golf and with 6 high quality courses to choose from, I can see why. The Highlands Golf Course is the longest and most challenging course in Bella Vista; it also seems to be the favorite of those I spoke with. Highlands is the home course for the Bentonville West, Gravette High School and Life Way golf teams. The course is carved out of the rolling terrain that surrounds the area and requires not only length but a lot of accuracy and control. Five sets of tees make Highlands a challenge regardless of skill level. Highlands boasts a full practice facility including a driving range, putting green and short game area.
The 2nd hole is the course’s Number 1 handicap and is considered by most to be the toughest hole on any of Bella Vista’s layouts. From the Blue tees, this monster par 4 plays 432 yards – albeit downhill – from an elevated tee box, through a narrow chute of trees lining either side. A good drive will still leave most players with a long iron or hybrid into a small green with a lot of undulation. As you can guess, par is a great score here.
Of the 6 courses at Bella Vista there is no other course like Scotsdale Golf Course, here or anywhere in the area. The course was recently renovated and plays much like a traditional Scottish links course, without the ocean of course! There are several creeks that meander throughout the course, some filled with water, some waiting for the rainy season to kick in. The new Champion Bermuda greens are surrounded by strategically placed bunkers and the designed collection areas create a course that is spectacular and requires surgical precision if you want to score well. The back nine is especially challenging and uses the natural hills and slopes of the terrain. Scottsdale has five sets of tees so it can be enjoyed by any level of golfer.
The 11th hole is a 413-yard par 4 and is the number 1 handicapped hole on the course. This dogleg left starts off with a blind tee shot around a corner that can be cut if you dare. The hill on the right side slopes down back to the fairway and 90 percent of the time when you catch the hill, you will find the fairway! Unfortunately, I was in the minority that day and was left with a long approach shot off a side hill lie. There is little room to bail out as you head towards the green and many golfers will be happy to get on in three and two-putt. After your round, be sure to check out the Scotsdale Clubhouse and Pub. They have a wide selection of Scotches, beers and ales and the Bella Vista Brat; while it’s not exactly Scottish fare, it is a local favorite.
Bella Vista Country Club is a favorite stop for the Cooper Community Charity Classic. It’s a very walkable course and features long narrow fairways flanked by mature trees. Several holes bring Little Sugar Creek into play and there is a significant amount of elevation change as well as mounding around many greens and their peripheries. It’s a course you won’t get tired of playing and never seems to play the same way twice.
Number 12 is an interesting par 5 that plays 535 yards from the Blue Tees. It’s one of the tightest holes on the course with water down the right side and woods down the left. The water continues down the right side all the way to the green and then crosses in front; unless you are on the far left side, you’re going to have to go over the water to get to the green. There’s a deep bunker short of the green on the left side and the green is angled and a lot wider than it is deep. BVCC offers also offers five sets of tees and although there is no practice area on site, the Tanyard Creek Practice Center is nearby.
When it comes to eating, members, guests and visitors to Bella Vista won’t go hungry! The Food and Beverage department is anchored by Chef Jerry James who attended the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, NY. Chef Jerry has worked at both private and nonprivate country clubs including Fairfield Glade in Crossville, TN, where he worked as a corporate chef for several of their venues and claimed the title of Best Overall Taste five years in a row in local restaurant competitions. Chef Jerry joined the POA as Head Chef of the BV Bar & Grill when it opened in 2018. The grill has since proven to be a tremendous success and Chef Jerry was promoted to Head Chef of Lakepoint, allowing him to bring his casual, yet southern flair to his dishes.
Each golf course has a bar and grill, some are very popular. In addition to the aforementioned Scotsdale Clubhouse & Pub, The Highlands Pub is the perfect neighborhood hangout and features soup, nachos and grab-n-go items from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. They also carry all of your favorite adult beverages. The Snack Bar over at the Dogwood course serves traditional clubhouse snack food including hot dogs, cheeseburgers, bacon & cheese biscuits, soda and beer.
The BV Bar & Grill – located in the clubhouse of the Bella Vista Country Club – is a great venue for both lunch and dinner. The ambience is excellent and the food even better. BV Bar & Grill is open daily from 11 AM – 9 PM with $3 Wines, Wells & Brews during Happy Hour from 3 to 6 PM. There are daily specials every day of the week, such as a Chef Jerry’s $20 prime rib dinner on Tuesday nights. The BV Bar & Grill offers a variety of appetizers, salads, hot and cold sandwiches and several entrees. If you’re still hungry after your main course, try their Big Brownie Sunday, but you better have someone to share it with!
Bella Vista’s flagship dining venue is the beautifully appointed Lakepoint Restaurant. Happy Hour at the Patio Lounge is a great place to watch the sun set over the lake during the winter months and their Tasting Room offers wine and appetizer specials with indoor and outdoor seating with a lakeside view. Lakepoint’s Sunday Brunch is a very popular event and often requires reservations.
Although there is a lot more to do at Bella Vista than golf and eat, these may be the only reasons you need to think about relocating to the area. For more information, visit the Bella Vista website at www.bellavistapoa.com.