Fair Park Golf Course
aka: War Memorial Golf Course
The Fair Park Golf Course (also known as War Memorial Golf Course) in Little Rock (Pulaski County) is an eighteen-hole executive course that sits on ninety acres of the 200-acre War Memorial Park, covering almost the entirety of the park west of Fair Park Boulevard. The course was always part of the plan for what was originally called Fair Park, conceived at a time when the game of golf was experiencing its “golden age” during the 1920s. Although it was closed in 2019, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on September 16, 2020.
Built by the city as its first municipal golf course, the course was the only public venue for golf in the city when money was scarce during the Great Depression. The central feature is the course site itself, which was planned beginning in 1924 and completed by 1937. The site was originally at the western edge of the city, but residential development eventually came to surround the north and south sides of the course. Subsequent years saw the western side across University Avenue develop into heavy commercial use, while the adjacent portion of the southern residential neighborhood Oak Forest was demolished in the 1960s to facilitate the construction of the 8th Street Expressway that, in the 1970s, became Interstate 630. The eastern portion of the park was given over to the construction of War Memorial Stadium in 1947, but the three holes adjacent to the construction (originally holes fourteen to sixteen, now numbered fifteen to seventeen) were unaffected. Indeed, though one hole has been significantly altered (thirteen), one removed (the original hole seventeen), one added (new hole fourteen), and two slightly altered (holes four and five), the rest of the course remains largely unchanged from its original design. Two structures in which golfers could rest date to the earliest days of the course, while four rain shelters were added in its early decades. Bridges added at that time were later replaced.
Between 1933 and 1937, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) built the clubhouse, gazebo, rest area/bathroom, and decorative stone pillars using the Rustic architectural style. The golf course clubhouse sits at the westernmost point of the northernmost line of the property on Markham Street and is a single-story construction of cut native stone. It includes a basement and sits on a continuous cast-concrete foundation. It is topped by a composite shingle front-gabled roof with three gable ends and a flat roof of composite shingles in the rear. The clubhouse received no major renovation until June 1988. The natural stone gazebo includes a natural stone, solid wall base topped by beige concrete on three sides. Two pillars made of cut natural stone built in the 1930s flank the cart path as it runs north-south between holes one and twelve, essentially marking the “entrance” to the cart path system. Each is approximately four feet high and topped by a square of shaped concrete, which is slightly convex on top. Between the two pillars is a mounted metal gate, not original to the course and added sometime after it was renamed in 1948, on which metal is shaped to spell “W M GOLF.” The shelter/bathroom is octagonal and includes natural cut stone enclosing four sides.
Other contributing structures include four rain shelters, built in the modern architectural style in 1959. The non-contributing maintenance sheds were built in 1975. The original construction date of the non-contributing Bridge 2 on hole eighteen is 1959, but it was replaced four decades later, as was the non-contributing Bridge 1. The Spillway Bridge was built during course alteration in 2010, when the original 1959 bridge was removed. The non-contributing rock walls were added during clubhouse renovations in 1988.
The golf course was closed in July 2019 for budgetary reasons.
For additional information:
Berry, Cody. “From Truman to Topgolf: A History of War Memorial Park in Little Rock.” Pulaski County Historical Review 70 (Spring 2022): 2–17.
“Fair Park Golf Course.” National Register of Historic Places registration form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/National-Register-Listings/PDF/PU11244.nr.pdf (accessed March 20, 2021).
Frisco, Frankie. “The Final Go-Round: Golfers Start Goodbyes to War Memorial.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, July 4, 2019. https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2019/jul/04/the-final-go-round-20190704/ (accessed March 20, 2021).
Silverman, Juli. “War Memorial Golf Course in Rough Shape.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, November 29, 2000, 1B.
Slatten, Jeffrey “Redesign Cuts Par, Reshuffles Back Nine.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, July 3, 2010, 19.
Wallworth, John. “LR Will ‘Arrive’ as City of Parks during This Year.” Arkansas Democrat, February 20, 1966.
Little Rock, Arkansas
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