Story by Tyler Hale (Arkansas Money & Politics)
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Stretching over the hills and valleys of Roland, just outside of Little Rock, the Alotian Club offers a golfing experience that is virtually unparalleled. In fact, the club has been compared to Augusta National, home of the annual Masters Tournament, and Golf Digest named it as one of its 100 Greatest Golf Courses for 2019-20.
The $18 million course, which overlooks Lake Maumelle, was built by billionaire Little Rock investment banker Warren Stephens and designed by Tom Fazio.
The Alotian usually keeps a relatively low profile, as it is open only to members and their guests. However, it will draw international attention June 7-9 when it hosts the 23rd playing of the Arnold Palmer Cup. The annual Ryder Cup-style competition will be the first to be played in the United States. This year’s event was expanded to include American men’s and women’s collegiate golfers against their counterparts from Europe, Great Britain and Ireland.
Officials for the Arnold Palmer Cup had their sights set on the Alotian to host the 2019 event, but Stephens, the club’s chairman, wasn’t sure about it until he received a phone call from Palmer asking him to host the tournament in September 2016, just 10 days before the golf legend’s death at age 87.
“They approached us, and I was dragging my feet. Lo and behold, I got a call from Arnold Palmer himself,” Stephens says. “When Arnold Palmer calls you, the answer to anything is ‘yes.’”
Hosting the Arnold Palmer Cup allows Stephens to highlight amateur golfing and bring attention to up-and-coming golfers.
“We want to promote amateur golf when we can and being able to host the inter-collegiate players from around the world in such a prestigious tournament is great,” he says. “We will certainly put on a good show for them.”
Stephens is no stranger to golf. The Alotian Club got its name from a 12-year annual golf tour that he and several friends took across the country.
“Alotian is a made-up word. It’s derived from a golf trip that a few guys started in the mid-1980s called America’s Lights Out Tour. That was shortened to ‘ALOT,’ and we started referring to everybody who went on the trip as an Alotian,” Stephens says.
While he admits that the Arnold Palmer Cup participants likely do not need any advice, he warns them to consider the landscape around each hole.
“The trouble with the Alotian is the greens,” he says. “Beware of where you hit it on the greens.”