Prime spots for watching Western Amateur


LITTLE ROCK — Willing to walk to watch the world’s best amateur golfers, first timers to The Alotian Club should start out by backtracking along the cart path far right of the fairway on the ninth hole.

Meander down a hill to be surprised by the bridge in the trees. Take in the creek below and marvel that something man-made can look so natural. Continue along the cart path to the member tees and turn left. Take a deep breath to prepare for an uphill walk of a few hundred yards. Travel complete, get comfortable in the area left of No. 8 fairway, about halfway between tee and green on the par five that is 575 yards from the back tees.

From there, patrons will have an unobstructed view of participants in the Western Amateur and the players’ target. Most everybody in the 156-player field will be able to reach the green in two because the tee is elevated and the fairway is an endless downhill to the green.

The eighth might yield more birdies than any other and there will be some eagles, particularly when the hole is near the middle of the green. Anything on the left side of the green will ride the cant of the putting surface, much like Louis Oosthuizen’s second shot did when he made double eagle on No. 2 at the 2012 Masters. The players will be hard-pressed to get their second shot close if the flag is on a narrow tongue of green to the far right.

In addition to the striking vistas, one of the beauties of The Alotian is the isolation of every hole. Never will you hear “fore” because of an errant shot from another foursome.

The aforementioned spot on No. 8 is rare because a savvy spectator can watch players on two holes. From home base on the eighth, an about-face and 20 steps will yield a vantage point to see approach shots to the par-four third.

Most every course has more than one location with viewing access to multiple holes. At Augusta National, for example, the ninth tee is sandwiched between the first and eighth green and regulars at The Masters make a beeline for a spot behind the 12th tee where they can see the famous par-three and the 11th green.

For up-to-date tournament information, comfort, and excitement, No. 14 at The Alotian is the spot and the trek is mostly downhill from the clubhouse. There will be an electronic scoreboard behind the green and observation seating for about 180.

From the 14th tee, a pond on the right is an eye magnet and appears impossible to carry. But the longest hitters in the tournament should give it a go in the practice round because the 318 yards to terra firma is doable when the tee shot is launched from the extremely elevated tee.

Most will take the safe approach, aiming for a spot short of the creek that traverses the fairway that turns right. Depending on the angle and proximity to the creek, the player will have a shot of 225 to 240 yards that plays about 15 yards longer because of an uphill slope. Anything to the right will flirt with the creek.

For those who prefer to sit and watch, seating will be available on Nos. 5, 9, and 16. Patrons torn between golf shots and gorgeous scenery can get their fill of both most anywhere on holes 10-14.

During the practice round on July 29 and the 72 holes of stroke play to follow, patrons will see seven of the top 10-ranked amateurs in the world, including three members of Alabama’s NCAA championship team, and No. 4 Michael Kim of Cal. Kim tied for 17th in the U.S. Open and made the cut last week at the PGA tour stop in West Virginia.

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Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. His e-mail address is hking@arkansasnews.com.