When you think of difficult golf courses, some big names come to mind: Pine Valley, Bethpage, Pinehurst; the list goes on and on. However, tucked away deep in the woodlands of northern Arkansas is a relatively new course known simply as Blessings Golf Club. Don’t let the name fool you, though. While the course may look like heaven, it has quickly gained the reputation as one of the most difficult golf courses in the United States and is guaranteed to push the junior golfers competing in this year’s Rolex Tournament of Champions to their limit, both mentally and physically.
Designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr., Blessings Golf Club made its grand entrance into the golf world in 2004. Equipped with tight, lengthy fairways, winding hills, difficult greens, and intimidating tee boxes, Blessings Golf Club was deemed one of the 10 Best New Private Golf Courses in the U.S. by Golf & Leisure Golf Magazine in 2004. Tom Jones, the General Manager and Director of Golf at Blessings Golf Club, is excited to see how the junior golfers handle the pressure of such a difficult course.
“Blessings is one of the most challenging golf courses these juniors will encounter,” Jones said. “There’s a lot of visual intimidation off the tees and it requires a lot of accuracy and precision. When you stand on that tee sometimes it seems like it carries forever.”
Emma Talley of Princeton, Ky., currently ranked 25th in the Polo Golf Rankings, is no stranger to the challenge Blessings will provide this week, having won the AJGA Arkansas Junior at Blessings on this very course just a year ago. However, Talley knows that a repeat performance is no guarantee. A grueling round of golf, on the other hand, is.
“The course itself is extremely difficult from a physical and mental aspect,” Talley explained. “We can all drive, chip, and putt, that is what we practice every day, but we are not all faced with the mental pressure that this course brings. You’re going to have to keep the ball in play. If you can keep your drives on the fairways, there is a good chance you can succeed. Once you get off the fairways and into the roughs or hazards, you can get into trouble, and there are a lot of roughs and hazards.”
While an aggressive strategy may be the key to success at other courses, Talley understands that taking risks may result in disaster here at Blessings.
“You can’t take too many risks on this course. You just need to be patient and play smart. Once you start taking too many risks, you’ll find yourself in trouble. If you stay smart and try not to do too much, especially when you are in trouble, you can definitely shoot low on this course.”
Jones shares Talley’s sentiments, believing that players looking to work the golf course will have to quickly rethink their game plan.
“Patience is the key on this golf course,” Jones said. “You’re not going to force things to happen here. You have to see what the golf course gives you and I think that will be the biggest challenge for some of the young players.”
Even to those with little knowledge about the sport of golf, one look at Blessings Golf Club and you know you are in the presence of a course that will challenge even the most experienced of golfers. In reality, there is no easy hole on this course. Each and every hole offers something unique and challenging, never duplicating itself in layout or design. And while low scores are obtainable on this course, it will take a lot of patience, intelligence, and endurance. The true test will be to see who, if anyone, can string together four round’s worth of low scores.
- Written by Anthony Rouse, AJGA Communications