Hodge Park – Brains Over Brawn

One of Kansas City’s best golf values is Hodge Park Golf Course in Kansas City, Mo. The 5707-yard course (from the white tees) is not long, but there are plenty of challenges, with lots of risks and rewards. A smart player has a good chance to win over a masher.
The best example of that is the 10th hole. The 371-yard par 4 is actually much shorter as the crow flies. But going for the green is not a wise idea. In fact, probably the best play is an iron off the tee to a little right of the middle of the fairway that leaves a 150-yard shot to a wide-open green. But most golfers won’t take the best angle, instead opting to cut the corner.

Thick brush to the left makes it impossible to see the green, and difficult to find your shot if you don’t clear the trees to the narrow fairway beyond. Even muscling up will leave you a difficult approach because of woods on the far side of the fairway.
“I try to draw it over the trees to the right to fit it into the right side of the fairway,” said Tim Underwood, the general manager and club professional of Hodge Park. “Most people are trying to draw too close to the trees to the left. You’ve got to get it near the 150-yard post to have a shot at the green.”

hodge park golf course

Hodge Park has been part of the community since 1973. There are plenty of elevation changes, especially for a course in the Midwest. The fairways are green and lush, and the greens are smooth and fair. Underwood says that they use creeping bent grass on the greens, which tends to heal more quickly than most bent-grass greens.
One of the reasons the course is in such great shape, according to Underwood, is that his team works really hard. He’s been there for 17 years, as has most of his staff. Consistency in the staff really makes a difference.
“Every golf course has personality,” he said. “If you stick with the same staff, you can get some pretty good results, because they know and can attack the problem areas.” And having a standard maintenance routine allows them to be a step ahead of the trouble, instead of just reacting.
With the 18-hole course measuring significantly less than 6,000 yards, it’s no surprise that there are plenty of short holes. There are three par-4s under 300 yards, and all the par-4s but one are under 400 yards. But nearly every “short” hole has major punishment if you’re not perfect with your drive.

hodge park golf course

For example, hole 6 is 269 yards on the scorecard. It’s mostly downhill approaching the green, with the green uphill a little from the lowest spot. But first-time players may not realize that there’s a lake at that lowest spot, a lake which stretches from the rough on the left to the trees on the right.
If you hit your drive between 220 and 240, you’re wet. If you’re right or left, you’ll risk losing your ball in the rough. Even if you drive the green, you’d better have some back spin, because prairie grass behind the green has an insatiable appetite for golf balls.
“In order to drive that green, you pretty much need to be able to drive it 280 yards (from the back tees),” Underwood said. “You’ve got trouble left, trouble right and trouble behind. You don’t have a lot of room. So it’s not a smart shot to go for the green. It’s a fun shot, but not a smart shot.”
The greens are relatively large and flat, appropriate for the shots that are expected to land there. Hole 1 has a large green, because most golfers will require a long iron or a fairway wood to reach it on their second shot. The green on hole 2 is smaller, because a driver and a wedge will get you there, and most golfers have better control of their wedge.

hodge park golf course

The course is designed for the average golfer, which has served Hodge Park well over the years. Underwood says that once golfers consistently shoot in the low 80s or high 70s, they’ll move on to longer, more-challenging courses in the area, like neighboring Shoal Creek, also owned by Kemper Sports Management. But there are plenty of golfers for whom Hodge Park is a perfect fit.
“It doesn’t play 5,700 yards,” Underwood said. “We have a lot of meandering dog-legs, which makes it play tougher. The only really drivable holes are 6 and 14 for your regular player.
“When they built this course, it was built with the guy who is not a good golfer in mind. You’re going to get a little confidence playing this course. It’s not going to beat you up.”
The greens fees are very reasonable, fitting for a course designed for the casual golfer. Daytime fees are $24 walking and $40 riding, and the course is walkable for most golfers. Weekend rates are $28/$44, with senior rates (over 60) $18/$34. All the rates are available at the course’s web site: hodgeparkgolf.com.

hodge park golf course

Hole 10 certainly is a signature hole for Hodge Park, but it’s not the only one. How many courses do you know where there’s a large tree positioned at 180 yards off the tee right in the middle of the fairway?
Hole 15 has that, which hides the fact that the northern edge of a large lake that meanders through the course juts into the fairway. If you go around that big tree to the right, you’re wet again. Another hidden tree behind the first one makes approach shots difficult because you have to elevate quickly to get over it. The only safe tee shot is to the left of the big tree, leaving a high loft approach to the elevated green.
Hodge Park has a very inviting 18th hole. It’s more of a bend to the right than a dog-leg. The cluster of trees in the right rough blocks your view of the green from the tee box. But other than that, those trees don’t affect shots. A nice fade (for righties) that starts left will leave an easy approach to the large green.
But at 277 yards there’s a tug on the ego to try and drive it. Underwood has a word of caution if that’s your choice.
“You can drive it all the way to the green if you’re long,” he said. “In a match yesterday, I just hit an easy drive short of the green. My opponent tried to hit it hard and he hit it into the gunch on the right. He lost his ball, and the match.
“It was a case of brains winning out over brawn.”

-by David Smale

Paradise Pointe – A Full Golf Experience

For the full golf experience, it’s hard to beat Paradise Pointe Golf Complex in Smithville.

Paradise point is unique in Kansas City for having two 18-hole golf courses, plus a four-hole practice course.  The two courses are built along Smithville Lake, offering not only sweeping views of the lake but several holes where water lines fairways or surrounds greens.

Just as the courses are memorable, so is the pro shop. Paradise Pointe prides itself on having the largest and most varied selection of fitted clubs and other golf equipment in Kansas City.

paradise pointe golf course

Paradise Pointe is also set up to host large golf events, with a 4,000-square-foot banquet room for post-golf activities as well as wedding receptions, reunions, large parties or public presentations.

The person at the controls at Paradise Point is Eddie Hall, general manager and director of golf. He has for many years held the contract with property owner Clay County top operate Paradise Pointe.

paradise pointe golf course

Hall has a simple way to measure whether Paradise Pointe has a winning model: people come back.
“We get a lot of repeat business because the course is in very good condition and we take care of our customer when they come in,” Hall said. “They have a good all-around golf experience.”

Paradise Pointe, at 18212 Golf Course Road in Smithville, opened in 1982 with the completion of the Posse. In 1994, the Outlaw opened adjacent to the Posse. The course names derived from Jesse James, the outlaw who had lived in Clay County.

paradise pointe golf course

Both courses have rolling, wooded terrain. The Posse is more compact while the Outlaw is links-style, with a front nine that does not return to the clubhouse. Each course is a par 72. They are both about 6,500 yards from the back tees and there are four tee boxes. Both courses are walkable.
While the Outlaw has slightly higher course and slope ratings, Hall says scoring is roughly the same on each course.

“To me, there is more shot-making required on the Posse because of the undulating fairways that are more narrow,” Hall said. “The Outlaw has wider fairways. You can still get into trouble but not as much as the target golf of the Posse.”

The signature holes are those along the water. Especially memorable is the 4th on the Posse, where the fairway borders the lake on the left and the green is on a peninsula. The next hole, a par 3, requires a tee shot over water.

paradise pointe golf course

Water borders the left of the 9th hole on the Outlaw, almost surrounds the green on 10 and runs along the 11th.

The Outlaw has zoysia grass, the Posse bluegrass. The dry summer has taken a toll on area golf courses but Paradise Pointe benefits from drawing its water out of Smithville Lake, Hall said.

The woods and water that surround Paradise Pointe make it popular with wildlife. Golfers commonly see deer, wild turkey, bobcats and variety of birds on the course, Hall said.

paradise pointe golf course

Paradise Pointe, about 20 minutes north of downtown Kansas City, not only draws players from the metro area but from other states, especially ones to the north such as Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota, Hall said.

Golfers like being able to play two courses at the same location, especially if they come in from out of state, Hall said. The four-hole Academy course for practice has proved popular, Hall said. It has two par 5s, a par 3 and a par 4. Golfers can practice a variety of shots long and short. It’s popular with beginners and experienced players, Hall said.

With its banquet room and dual courses, Paradise Point pulls in more than 100 tournaments per year, Hall said. Charitable or corporate outings for groups of 16 to 144 players or more can be accommodated.

paradise pointe golf course

In the clubhouse, Paradise Pointe continues to have a wide range of golf clubs and other equipment at a time when many other courses have given way to big box stores by trimming their inventory.

“We are not cutting back and we are very competitive on price and selection,” Hall said. The club has periodic sales, including a customer appreciation sale in October.

Hall fits clubs using the latest technology to find the best length, shaft stiffness and loft for particular players. He observes players hitting on the range to do the fitting.

paradise pointe golf course

“The best thing about our clubs and the reason people keep coming back is they do not hit into a net during the fitting,” Hall said. Customers and Hall can observe the shape, trajectory and length of various clubs in a way not possible when hitting into a net, he said.
“A lot more people today understand the need to get fitted for clubs rather than to get something off the rack,” Hall said.
Hall said there is a continuing trend in what players want most out their clubs.
“People are still chasing that distance,” he said. “They always have and they always will.”

Information the golf course, green fees, leagues, memberships, lessons and social events can be found at paradisepointegolf.com or by calling the pro shop at 816-532-4100.

Tomahawk Hills – Blending the Old and the New

The next time one of your out-of-town buddies tells you that Kansas is flat and boring, take him to Tomahawks Hills Golf Course in Shawnee.
The 5,978-yard course (from the blue tees) is more like two courses played at different elevations. The course is still in Kansas, so we’re talking about differences of a few hundred feet, but there’s a definite separation.
With numerous hidden greens and sloped fairways, the par-70 course is challenging but fair. The challenge mostly revolves around the uniqueness of almost every hole. Many of the visible greens are crowned, making perfect approach shots almost necessary.
“This is totally different than any other course in Kansas City,” head pro Jay Lispi said. “It’s hard. There are a lot of trees and you have to hit it straight. On most of the greens, the best place to miss it is short.”

tomahawk hills golf course

Tomahawk Hills challenges you right from the start with a 550-yard par 5. It’s a straight hole with big trees on both sides that make the fairway seem narrower than it really is. A par-3 second hole and a par-4 third hole lead you to an apparent dead end.
But after a sizeable climb up the hill, you’re on the “second course” for the rest of the front-9. Well, most of it, as you’ll leave the upper portion on your tee shot on No. 9.

Hole No. 4 is a simple 410-yard par 4, followed by a reachable 269-yard par 4. The challenge on No. 5 is that you can’t see the green from the tee box and there’s sand around the green. Do you blast away and hope you’re straight, or do you lay up for an easy approach shot? Welcome to Tomahawk Hills.

A deceiving uphill par-3 plays longer than the 141 yards listed on the scorecard for No. 6, followed by the second par-5 on the front nine, a straight, narrow 476-yarder with trees tight on the left side most of the way.
No. 8 is another par-4 that appears reachable, but your tee shot must be crushed. The 315-yard measurement is as the crow flies, but the terrain goes downhill before it goes back up, with the green a little higher than the tee box. It’s a fairly safe hole, however, as the fairway is wide and the rough is spacious.

tomahawk hills golf course

Tomahawk Hills is unique in that both sides conclude with par-3s, the third par-3 on each side, accounting for the par-70 for the whole course. But simply calling 9 and 18 “par-3s” is like calling Dustin Johnson “long.”
The tee box at No. 9 allows you to see the green and the landing area in front, but very little in between. You’ll start at nearly the highest elevation on the course and if you land it properly you’ll be at nearly the lowest. The 194-yards plays more like 164 as gravity adds to your drive. The sister green of No. 18 lies to your left, giving you plenty of landing area.
There’s plenty of distance between the 9th green and the 10th tee, giving you a chance to see the refurbished clubhouse. Tomahawk Hills, built in 1910, is the oldest golf course in the Kansas City metro area. But the clubhouse—the only “house” on the course—was redone in 2011.
Tomahawk is owned by Johnson County Department of Parks and Recreation, which also owns Heritage Park Golf Course in Olathe. Tomahawk’s clubhouse is a modern facility that has a banquet room, lounge, dining area and large wrap-around front porch that overlooks the 9th and 18th greens and practice area.

tomahawk hills golf course

Just like the front nine, the back nine starts with a challenge. No. 10 is just 365 yards, but a creek running through the fairway about 200 yards off the tee, and plenty of rough and trees, force you to make a tough decision right away. If you choose the driver, you have to hit it perfectly to avoid trouble. If you lay up but stay too far right, you’ll have to hit over a large group of trees to a hidden green.
Another uphill par-3 follows and plays longer than the 170 yards on the scorecard. With a big drop-off to the left and out-of-bounds to the right, the only choice is straight, which is easier said than done.
Another winding uphill climb takes you back up to the upper course. You might see more than you expect on a public golf course in Kansas. “You are going to see a lot of wildlife out here, including deer and turkeys,” Lispi said. “It’s a pretty course and most holes are kind of individual. Only a couple of them border each other.”
Holes 12 and 13 are both par-4s with slight bends to the fairways. No. 12 turns slightly to the right going steadily uphill, while No. 13 bends back to the left on another reachable par-4. The 282-yard hole is another one where the green is not visible from the tee.
Reachable is in the distant past as the next two holes are dueling par-5s, the only two on the back nine, another unique feature of Tomahawk Hills. No. 14 is 533 yards straight east, with plenty of trees on the right. No. 15 heads back straight west for 539 yards. Multiple elevation changes make No. 15 particularly difficult.

tomahawk hills golf course

After those exhaustive twin holes, a pencil-thin, 185-yard par-3 requires a straight shot to avoid ample trouble. Scattered trees to the right are more appealing than the thick woods to the left. As you’re putting on another crowned green on 16, you can’t help but notice the fairway of hole No. 17 to your left.
The portion of the fairway that’s visible looks more like Turn 2 at Talladega than a fairway in Kansas, but the hole is one of the more unique designs in Kansas City golf. The hole is listed at 405 yards, but if you want to live dangerously and go over the trees, you can leave an easy pitch to the green. Of course, you can only see about 200 yards off the tee, so you have to be good and lucky to find your drive if you choose to live dangerously.

tomahawk hills golf course

If your adrenalin is not pumping after finishing 17, No. 9’s evil twin awaits. No. 18 allows you to see the flag—barely—but even less than No. 9 short of the flag. At 197 yards, it’s not impossible to have a really good shot. My playing partner was three feet from his first hole-in-one. But if you’re off-line, as I was, you’ll have some adventure finding your tee shot.
The staff at Tomahawk Hills, led by Lispi, has done a great job of keeping the old girl looking fresh and inviting. Take the time to visit, just west of Interstate 435 on Midland Road.

By David Smale

Tiffany Greens – Fun is Now Par for the Course

With smaller bunkers, shorter rough and new forward tees, Tiffany Greens Golf Club is trying to make fun par for the course.

While still a challenging 6,648 and 7,055 yards from the two back tees, Tiffany Greens has responded to laments of the average and casual golfers that the course was too long and difficult, said Head Golf Professional Doyle Harris.

The Northland course opened in 1999 during the “Tiger Boom” when golf was peaking in popularity and courses were made longer and harder, Harris said. As years passed, golf started losing business to other recreational endeavors.

tiffany greens golf course

“People were getting frustrated with how tough the game was and we wanted to make it easier and more fun for them,” Harris said.

Research showed that the course was about 1,000 yards too long for most players, so Tiffany Greens decided last year to build 14 new forward tee boxes to enable short hitters to have a chance to reach greens in regulation. Work continues on those tee boxes, but meanwhile tee markers have been moved up and added and there are now five sets intended for players of all levels.

Tiffany Greens also determined that it had too many large bunkers, many with severe lips, that caught too many shots and were too difficult to escape.  The high-edge bunkers also tended to wash out in heavy rain. Most of the 42 traps were shrunk and the lips eliminated. A few traps that were not often in play were replaced with all-grass turf.

tiffany greens golf course

Rough was cut shorter to help golfers recover more easily from wayward shots. Players of all ages and abilities gained from the change.

“We are trying to make the game more family-friendly,” Harris said.

Designed by Robert Trent Jones II, the par-72 Tiffany Greens has always been considered a premier course in Kansas City. The course hosted the U.S. Senior Tour’s TD Waterhouse Championship in the early years. Signed photos and flags from the event are displayed in the lower level of the clubhouse.

Tiffany Greens, just south of Kansas City International Airport at 5900 NW Tiffany Springs Parkway, meanders through woods and meadows on the front nine and through an upscale subdivision of homes on the back. Each hole is unique and provides golfers a good view of desired landing areas off the tee and in subsequent shots.

tiffany greens golf course

“The layout is unlike that of any other course,” Harris said. “It’s a layout you can play every day and enjoy. You do not have parallel holes or holes that are the same. But we don’t get gimmicky, either.”

The course is also known for its smooth and speedy greens, compliments of the ground grew headed by Superintendent Randy Cox.

The beauty and brawn of the course is perhaps most evident on the first hole, a downhill par 5 with a small lake that juts into the fairway from the right and gobbles up many a second shot. Harris said No. 1 is the signature hole and presents golfers with a second-shot choice of laying up to the left of the water or going over in hopes of reaching the green. The wind has a lot to do with how that hole is played, he said.

tiffany greens golf course

“It’s a hole where you can make eagle, it’s a hole where you can make 12,” Harris said. “It’s a hole everybody remembers.”

Harris said the finishing holes, 16, 17 and 18, also stand out. No. 16 is a par 5 and Nos. 17 and 18 and are par 4s.  All three are doglegs. “They are holes where a lot of things can happen,” Harris said.

Tiffany Greens is a course where most of the trouble is the left, with the notable exception of the first hole, Harris said.

In its efforts to broaden its appeal, Tiffany Greens has number of leagues and golf social groups, Harris said. One ladies golf group that had dwindled to ten players is now up to 40 to 50 on most evenings as the course was made more player-friendly and rules loosened, Harris said.

There is still a serious side to golf at Tiffany with leagues, tournaments and a young professional program for players under 30 and under 40.

tiffany greens golf course

Tiffany Greens is popular for weddings, reunions and other social events in its ballroom and dining areas.  The ballroom can host events for up to 200 people, under the guidance of Krissy Frewin, food and beverage manager. She can be reached at 816-880-9600, ext. 224 or at kfrewin@tiffanygreensgolf.com.

A dining area and deck for after-golf food and beverages overlooks the course.

The course sells golf apparel and equipment in the spacious pro shop. Players can be fitted for clubs at no extra cost.

Information on golf programs and memberships at Tiffany, along with green fees and details of the course can be found it its website, www.tiffanygreensgolf.com. The main phone number is 816-880-9600. Harris and the pro shop can be reached at ext. 206 and the pro shop at 208.

Kyle Hurst is general manager and PGA Director of Golf at Tiffany Greens. He is at ext. 223.  Either Harris or Hurst can provide more information on course offerings over the phone or via email. Harris is at dharris@tiffanygreensgolf.com and Hurst is at khurst@tiffanygreensgolf.com.

Shoal Creek – Making a Difference in Kansas City

Since 2001, Shoal Creek Golf Course has been among the top (if not the top) course in the Kansas City area. And that’s not just our assertion, the course has been recognized consistently as a top ten course in Missouri by GolfWeek and last year was the top rated Missouri course on GolfAdvisor.com.

“It’s nice to get that kind of feedback from golfers. [The GolfAdvisor rating] has nothing to do with professional reviewers; it’s just people who come out and want to leave a review. So, that’s really nice to get that bonus,” said Brett Plymell, General Manager.

When asked what resonates most with golfers and reviewers alike, he added, “We try to offer that ‘private club for a day’ experience. We try to offer better service than giving you a cart key and letting you go.  We try to make sure that each person that walks in the door feels like they’re a member for the day.”

shoal creek course

The course is truly a gem in the KC area, stretching to a maximum of 6983 yards, but with plenty of tee box options to accommodate all kinds of players. All carts are equipped with GPS to help golfers find their distance and keep pace of play moving along. The spacious practice facility has plenty of room for anyone warming up for the day or working on their game with twenty-five stations, six target greens, and a sizeable practice putting green measuring 6000 square feet.

Once on the course, golfers notice the attention paid to the routing and layout. No fairways run parallel to each other, and so it gives more of a secluded feel as you make your way around the course. Plymell commented, “You don’t ever see traffic from the other holes. It’s laid out very well – not up and down, side by side, but each hole feels like it’s own entity. When they designed the course they used the land really well, I think, to maximize the spacing and spread the course out more.”

He went on to note that while there is residential development on the course, it is not on all holes, and that all houses have a view only from the outer perimeter of the course, so they only sit along one side. There is planned to be additional residential development along a few holes, particularly on the front nine, but just like the current neighborhoods, they’ll be set well back of the fairways.

shoal creek course

The layout is just one aspect of the course’s allure, though. The pristine conditions are the other. While the course is always in excellent shape, what makes Shoal Creek stand out is the attention to the landscaping throughout the property – around the clubhouse, between holes, alongside the paths, and other areas.

Plymell noted, “Our whole grounds crew does a really good job keeping the whole property in good shape.  Our superintendant, Duane Sander, and his crew do a lot of landscape work around the property that I think makes it look fresh when you pull in.  Same as on the golf course.”

Perhaps it’s exactly the course and level of play that brings a number of events to Shoal Creek each year. They have partnered with the Ronald McDonald house and play host to the Trent Green even the last several years. They run a series of holiday events – most notably their St. Patrick’s day event, a Halloween Spooktacular tournament with an exceedingly tough setup, and an ever-popular Black Friday event when the weather permits.

shoal creek course

Also notable is a new event, the inaugural Rod Yeager Memorial Golf Tournament was held last year and the second iteration is already planned for September 9, 2018. Col. Yeager (USAF retired) was a former KCGA executive who passed away in February of 2017. The tournament benefits the PGA Reach/HOPE foundation that has a mission to provide golf as a therapeutic rehabilitation tool for all military veterans.

“It was the inaugural event last year, to help the foundation and their work offering free instruction or entry to the game to wounded veterans, whether they are suffering from physical or emotional/mental impacts of their service.  The first tournament last year raised $19,000 for the charity, which is great” he added. Goflers can register for this year’s event and support this worthy cause through the shoalcreekgolf.com website.

shoal creek course

He went on to add that there are a number of other efforts the course and its staff take on to help our veterans. “Kind of piggybacking on that are the free clinics we host for veterans throughout the summer.  Tom Watson helped us kick off the first of the clinics and then we do the instruction after that for seven weeks straight.  The PGA of America has gotten involved a lot more and Titlest has become the sponsor, so we have been able to provide a lot of good stuff for veterans throughout the summer this year.”

In addition to those programs, Shoal Creek is also working on growing the game with youngsters through a program called “Youth on Course.” The program provides $5 tee times to kids to make the game more accessible and affordable.

shoal creek course

Plymell share, “It’s a really good program that KCGA is now leading locally.  The way it works is kids can play, at limited times of the day, for $5.  That doesn’t include a cart, but it’s a pretty good deal.  There are several courses involved throughout the Kansas City area, so it’s a nice way to get juniors to go out and play affordable golf.”

Shoal Creek Golf Course is located at 8905 Shoal Creek Parkway in Kansas City Missouri. The course can be reached at 816-407-7242 or through their website: www.shoalcreekgolf.com and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Sunflower Hills – A Mainstay in the Middle of it All

sunflower featured

A lot has changed in western Wyandotte County in the last four decades, but not when it comes to championship golf.

Sunflower Hills, opened 1977, has been a mainstay during the development boom just to the east that includes the Legends shopping center, a casino, NASCAR track and stadiums the Kansas City Sporting and T-Bones.

Visible from Interstate 70 just east of Highway 7, Sunflower Hills is carved into rolling, wooded landscape that stretches over 7,000 yards from the back tees. You won’t find houses on Sunflower, one of its appeals, just a very engaging 18 holes of golf.

“The things we hear most about the course is how challenging it is and that it is so well-maintained,” said Jeff Johnson, manager and PGA master pro at Sunflower.

sunflower hills course

Surely, nobody knows Sunflower better than Johnson. He has been at the course for 37 years, or all but the first four years of its existence. He has a contract with Wyandotte County, to manage the club operations. The county owns the course and hires the maintenance staff.

Johnson grew up in Kansas City, graduating from Washington High School in KCK. He no longer plays in tournaments but has regular Sunday rounds with friends and keeps busy giving lessons to players at the course.

The course layout has not changed much in its 41 years. In 2003, zoysia fairways came to Sunflower, along with new cart paths and watering system. The only changes in recent years have been the removal of some diseased trees, Johnson said.

Two years ago, the course hired Jonathan Bennett, formerly at Kansas City Country Club, as superintendent. Johnson gives Bennett credit for the top condition of the greens and fairways at Sunflower.

sunflower hills course

The course has added some tee boxes on fairways to shorten the long course for some players. In all, it has five sets of tees. Designed by Roger Packard, the course features large but often elevated greens that require smart approach shots, preferably leaving the ball below the hole. The course has six dogleg holes.

“To me, the most difficult thing about the course is you never have a level lie, except on the tee,” Johnson said. “That is challenging to a lot of players.”

Trees are a factor, especially on holes 6, 9, 10 and 11. “Hole six is where the course starts turning a little difficult,” Johnson said.

Water becomes a real factor on holes 13, 14, 17 and 18. “Those four holes in particular really challenge the players as far as forced carries over water,” Johnson said.

sunflower hills course

Sunflower is 7,032 yards off the back tees. The other sets are 6,659 6,030, 5,838 and 5,107 yards. Slope and course ratings are relatively high.

While hilly, the best landing areas can be seen from the tee box. Drivers can be used off the par 4 and par 5 holes for most players.

Like all public courses, Sunflower has seen a steep decline in rounds played over the past 25 years, but play has leveled off in recent years, Johnson said

“It’s not like it was during the golf boom of the late 1980s and early 1990s when we did 55,000 to 60,000 rounds a year,” Johnson said. “The last few years we’ve averaged just over 30,000 rounds per year.”

sunflower hills course

Players at Sunflower typically come from surrounding neighborhoods as well as the Shawnee and Lenexa areas of Johnson County, Johnson said. A lot of players come down from Leavenworth and quite a bit of play is generated from hotels near the Legends, he said.

Green fees have not changed much in the past six or seven years, Johnson said.
The course is one of the most popular venues for leagues, especially seniors.

Sunflower has patron card and other discounts and can host group outings, tournament and special events. Information on all of course offerings are on it course website, www.sunflowerhillsgolfcourse.com.

Sunflower has a cozy clubhouse for drinks and food after golf, and large deck overlooking the ninth hole. The course has a fully stocked pro shop and offers club repair, grip replacement and other services.

sunflower hills course

Sunflower has a six-hole par 3 course for kids and beginners. Players check in at the Sunflower clubhouse. The small course is a very short drive away.

The Sunflower phone number is 913-573-8570. The address of the course is 12200 Riverview Avenue, Bonner Springs, KS 66012.

By Kevin Murphy

Relaxation and Easy Access at Clinton

Comfortable and relaxing, Clinton Country Club can be the perfect respite for travelers to or from the lake.

The small, semi-private club is located just outside of Clinton off 7 Highway as you head towards Truman Lake and Lake of the Ozarks.

The club is approximately two miles east of town, then north about a mile along NE 201st Road.

“As you turn east and head towards Truman Lake out of Clinton, we’re just off 7 Highway,” explained Tom Browning, Vice President of Clinton Country Club. “There’s a sign that say ‘Clinton Country Club’ with an arrow to where to turn off.”

As the town of Clinton grew to its current size of about 9,000, it swallowed up the existing nine-hole course and the Country Club moved east of town, starting construction in 1992 and opening the current course the next year.

The club is about a half hour from Truman Lake, an hour from Lake of the Ozarks, and about two hours from Branson.

Being centrally located makes it easily accessible from almost anywhere in the region.

“We have several highways that all come into Clinton,” said Damon Parson, President of Clinton Country Club and a long-time member. “13 Highway, 7 Highway, also 18 Highway, they all junction right here in Clinton. Wherever you’re at in the state of Missouri, you can easily get to Clinton.”

clinton golf course

Some folks even make a longer journey to Clinton.

“Clinton’s got some fine hotels if you want to end up staying overnight,” Parsons said. “We’ve had folks from as far away as Minnesota that have come down almost on a yearly basis, stay at the hotel and play the course for a few days.”

The club is managed to make it easy for travelers to use.

“It’s a fun, quaint, small, quiet golf course to play,” Browning said. “It’s never crowded. We don’t even take tee times. We don’t have marshals.”

“You can come in and pay your green fees and have hardly no wait time at all to get on the course,” Parsons said. “The only exception is when we have tournaments around the holidays in the summer months, but those holiday tournaments are on Sunday instead of Monday.”

Golfers travelling to the Lake on Friday or Saturday will usually find the course completely available, as will golfers returning on a Monday holiday weekend.

Travelers are also welcome to play in the tournaments.

“Most of the holiday golf tournaments are open to the public,” Parsons said. “If they want to participate in the tournament they can.”

The course itself is designed for tranquil enjoyment.

“It’s a relaxing course,” Browning said. “It’s not easy by any stretch, but it’s just a nice course for what I call an everyday player to come out and have some fun and enjoy it.”

clinton golf course

The par 72 course plays 6,507 yards from the championship tees, with a course rating of 69.2 and a slope rating of 109. The white tees are 5,929 and it’s just over 5,000 yards for the forward tees.

“I’ve always found it’s a very affordable, fun place to play golf,” Browning said.

“It’s got excellent fairways that are very challenging,” Parsons said. “The greens are well maintained throughout the year. We have a great Superintendent that takes care of the course and he’s got a good staff. I’ve played through the winter months. Most generally, there’s been times up to two weeks where we couldn’t play because they’re snow covered. But, it’s mostly available any time.”

The challenges with Clinton’s course are somewhat hidden.

“The interesting thing about it is there’s no sand traps on the course,” Parsons explained. “But there are some areas around the greens where the turf is a little bit thicker than normal and kind of compensates for not having sand traps. It’s something people may not be aware of. But, once the play it, they’ll definitely enjoy it.”

“Probably the best way to describe the course is it looks pretty tame,” Browning said. “There are no sand traps, for example. But, there’s lots of places where there are what we would call grass traps. There’s a lot of grass around the greens that are pretty tough to hit out of. You get trapped in it. It’s like a lot of small courses, if you play the ball in the fairway you can score. If you get off the beaten path, you can get in trouble in a hurry.”

Both long-time members have their own favorite parts of the course.

“I like the whole course,” Browning said. “Number 18 is a signature par 5, going into the clubhouse. Number 2 is a signature par 3 – a narrow little par three that’s difficult to hit. It plays longer than it looks; it plays a little uphill. It’s hard to get the ball close to the hole. You walk up there and think this is an easy par 3, but it’s not.”

“I’ve got several (favorite holes),” Parsons said, including Number 7, a par 3 where he got his first-ever hole-in-one a year ago. “And Number 18, a par 5, if you hit a good drive and get a good second shot, you can actually make it on the green and have a chance for eagle.”

There are interesting challenges in several areas.

“Depending on what tee box you go off of, it’s not a small course, by any means,” Parsons said. “We have a par 5 that’s pretty close to 600 yards, and a very challenging par 3, one that’s about 165 yards from the whites.”

clinton golf course

“There’s some length to the course,” Browning said. “The signature par 5 on the back, Number 14, is 577 yards. Got to take that one seriously for the length. 16, 17, and 18, they’re tough; they play on the back edge of the course.”

Browning sees it as ideal for most golfers.

“It’s for an average, everyday golfer who loves to find a quiet place to play,” he said. “They’re on their way to the lake and they want to find a place to stop and play eighteen holes of golf and have a good time, enjoy themselves, a nice challenge.”

And it is extremely accessible.

“The course is always open for play,” he said. “If they’re heading down on a Friday, that’s a great time to stop and play. The weekends are, generally-speaking, open, particularly in September and October, there’s lots of open tee times.”

It’s also very affordable with greens fees at $28 any day of the week for 18 holes with a cart. Memberships are available as well and pricing is very reasonable and varies depending on the nature of the membership.

The club features men’s, women’s, mixed and senior leagues during the week, and has quality clubhouses amenities.

“There’s good people there,” Browning said. “The clubhouse is nice. There’s a good place to eat. We’ve got plenty of carts and storage. A driving range, a putting green, a pool. We have a full bar, a restaurant. We have a dining area and party room available for private banquets.”

“Our clubhouse facility had a restaurant, bar, a dining room,” Parsons said. “Our clubhouse manager would love to accommodate anybody who’s having a meeting. It’d be great, in the afternoon, o turn around and have a round of golf after the meeting.”

Whether you’re planning to stay all day to play, or just drop in on your way to or from the lake, Clinton Country Club can be an idyllic experience.

Browning encourages prospective guests to visit the club’s website (www.clinton-country-club.com) or Facebook page (facebook.com/clintoncountryclub/) for up-to-date information about Club events and course availability, or call the clubhouse direct: 660-885-2521.

“One of the things we want to encourage, to keep folks up to date, is through our Facebook page,” Browning said. “If they go to our Facebook page they can find out if there’s anything happening that day. Our clubhouse number is available if they have any questions. If they’re on their way down and they want to stop and play, just give us a quick call and we can tell them what’s happening.”

Prairie Highlands -Scottish Links Golf in Olathe

Prairie Highlands Golf Club, already a destination course in Olathe for its links-like feel, is becoming even more attractive as one of the newest members of the GreatLIFE Golf & Fitness group of courses in the Kansas City area.

Prairie Highlands became a GreatLIFE course at the start of the year and is in good company in the Classic Plus tier of courses that includes Deer Creek, Falcon Ridge and Hillcrest. All four courses can be played for $179.99 per month, including cart. Classic Plus members can play nine courses in two lower tiers and have access to the four courses in the Legend group.

“It’s a great thing for the golfer,” said Paul Hooser, Prairie Highlands general manager and club pro. “If an event or something is going on at your golf course, you can play one of the others that day.”

Prairie Highlands, designed by Craig Schreiner, opened in the year 2001 to glowing reviews. Course developers likened Prairie Highlands to course in Scotland because of its mostly open layout, gently undulating terrain and some tall prairie grass. Many streets in the subdivision surrounding the course are named after famed Scottish venues, including St. Andrews.

pairie highlands course

True to the heritage of golf in Scotland, the course was also built for walkers, with short distances between most tees and greens. The front nine is laid out like a links course with only two fairways – 7 and 9 – paralleling each other.

The course has four sets of tee boxes to challenge golfers at all levels. The championship tees measure 7,066 yards and play to a 73.8 course rating, but the blue tees measure 6,481 yards, the white 5,770 and the women’s tees 5,122.

“The course is very pleasing to the eye,” said Hooser, who came to Prairie Highlands after four years at the Alvamar public course in Lawrence. “It looks challenging, but in the final analysis you can hit it a little here and a little there and still score. Overall, I would say it’s very playable but there a few holes where you just have to hit a good shot. Holes 7 and 9 come to mind.”

Hole number 7, the No. 1 handicap hole, is a par 4 well over 400 yards from the black and blue tees while number 9 is a par 5 well over 500 yards from those tees. Water borders both holes.

pairie highlands course

Carts at Prairie Highlands come with GPS devices the mark distances to the front, center and back of the greens and to the pin. They also feature detailed maps of every hole and what lies ahead.

Not a course with severe hills, there are few blind shots at Prairie Highlands. But there are some 60 bunkers, some of them out of view and ready to pounce. The traps, suffering from wear and washouts over the years, are scheduled to be rebuilt in the near future and some along fairways may be removed, Hooser said.

The greens at Prairie Highlands are putting smoothly and pretty fast this summer after falling into some disrepair last year.

“Our superintendent, Ethan Shamet, has done a great job getting them back in shape,” Hooser said. “The course was looking a little ragged around the edges.”

Woods borders some of the holes, especially on the back nine. Houses line many of the fairways but are set back far enough to be well out of play on most holes.

pairie highlands course

Prairie Highlands draws most of its play from the surrounding Olathe neighborhoods but is starting to draw players from other areas since its affiliation with GreatLIFE, Hooser said.

Prairie Highlands has a clubhouse offering sweeping views of the course from the deck and dining area inside. A separate building has banquet space, used mostly for golf events but sometimes for birthday parties or other social events, Hooser said.

The bar/restaurant has Taco Tuesday and Burger Friday, to go along with other menu offerings.

Prairie Highlands is located at 14695 Inverness Street, in southwest Olathe. The phone number is 913-856-7235 and more information is available at www.prairiehighlands.com

Wedges – The Unsung Heroes of Your Golf Bag

They are the unsung heroes.
You can drive for show and putt for dough and stick the irons all you’d like.
Truth is, the wedge is arguably the most valuable club in the bag, used in a variety of situations ranging from necessary bailout to setting up a much-needed birdie to rescuing from bunkers and thick rough or saving a round-altering par.

And this crop of wedges is grooved and grinded and milled in dozens of manners, creating for a smorgasbord of customizations tailored specifically to whatever type of game each golfer players. There are wedges for swings steep and shallow, for diggers and pickers, for bunkers and deep rough, fairways and fringe.

Callaway MD3 Milled

Callaway-MD3-Milled-Wedge_960
In a word, the Callaway MD3 can be described as groovy. Not in the Austin Powers sense, but in the sense that this wedge features three different types of grooves for three different lofts. The lower lofts feature more narrow grooves, while the middle lofts have steeper grooves to create spin on full swings, should you need one, and the highest lofts – think 56-60 degrees – are wide grooves to give you feel around the green.

Beyond the grooves, too, are what Callaway is calling three separate “grinds.” There is the “W-Grind” which is supposedly ideal for softer conditions, bunkers, or for players with steeper swings.
The “S-Grind” is, as Callaway states, “great for a wide range of conditions, shot types, and swings.” When in doubt, it seems, go for the “S-Grind.”

Last, there’s the “C-Grind,” which is the counter to the W. It’s made for firmer conditions and a variety of shots, whether it be opening the face for a little extra loft or closing it for a punch-and-run with some spin.

Cleveland RTX-3 Blade/CB

cleveland-rtx3
No wedge list could be complete without an appearance from Cleveland, that bastion of short-game necessities. No company has dominated the wedge game like Cleveland, and its latest edition, the RTX-3, is another in a long line of fine short-game tools.

Consistency is key when it comes to touch around the greens, and Cleveland focused on manufacturing a club that produces consistent spin, distance and feel, doing so by moving the balance closer to the heel. Nine grams were removed from the hosel and redistributed to the head of the club, which shifted the center of gravity more towards the middle of the clubface.

As for the club’s eponym, the “Rotex” face – hence, the RTX – it is in its third generation, and Cleveland has rolled out a new micro-milling pattern, which it claims optimizes spin performance, not just in volume of spin but in its consistency as well.

Ping Glide

Ping-Glide
Aside from Callaway’s Mack Daddy wedge, Ping may have the best name of the lot with the Glide. It has similar features to both the MT3 and the RTX, namely in that it offers multiple grooves and sole options, only in even more abundance than its two competitors.

The grooves have sharper edges, an improvement from the original Glide to the Glide 2.0, which produces more spin – reportedly up to 400 rpm. Generally, more spin is favorable to those who like putting a little finesse on the ball, and if spin is something you enjoy as a player, the Glide may be the wedge to put in the bag.

What differentiates the Glide from most other wedges not named Vokey is that it offers four grinds as opposed to three or even two.

Players can opt for the “SS Grind” which Ping describes as “ideal for moderate attack angles and divots. Fits most golfers.” It is, simply, Ping’s one size fits all grind.

Then there is the WS, TS, and ES grinds. The WS is catered to steep swingers, the TS for the shot-makers, and the ES for optimal bunker performance. Given that menu, it might not be the worst idea to carry a few different grinds.

Titleist Vokey SM6

sm6-tour-chrome
The Vokey series has been around seemingly as long as wedges themselves. The eponym of wedge guru Bob Vokey, this has been Titleist’s bread and butter when it comes to short game tools.
How much the Vokeys can continue to be improved is tough to say, but Titleist claims it has advanced its wedge game, improving in “precise distance gapping, shot versatility and maximum spin.”

One of the originals in spin-milled grooves, the SM6 features a new parallel face structure, which supposedly produces a sharper, more consistent edge in the grooves.

Of course, the Vokey offers an abundance of different grinds, which is why you can find a number of players with multiple Vokeys in a single bag. They have wedges for the shallow swinger, the steep swinger, the sweeper, the neutral. They have wedges for bunkers, wedges for finesse, wedges for the layman, wedges for the digger and divot maker.

There is, per usual, a wedge for every type of golfer in the Vokey arsenal.

Mizuno S5

Mizuno-wedge
The first thought that comes to mind when standing over the S5 is, simply, round. Unlike the S4, the latest in the Mizuno wedges is a little larger, significantly rounder, and therefore more forgiving.

This is a wedge with mass appeal, as the size and forgiveness will find a market for high-handicappers, but let us not forget that this is a Mizuno club – the elite ranks can use it quite well, too.

There are up to 15 – 15! – different lofts, enough to make even Phil Mickelson, the man of many wedges, raise an eyebrow. Adding to the customization options are five grinds and grooves that fit each loft.

It’s a complicated way of saying that the S5 – however many of them you’d like in your bag – will be a fit for virtually all distances and circumstances in which you’d typically pull out a wedge.

Hodge Park Brings Fun and Beauty to the Game

As the old adage goes: A bad day on the golf course beats a good day in the office. If you disagree, you’re either playing the wrong sport, or (much more likely) you need to revisit your course(s)-of-choice. Because, for every time this fickle game brings us to the brink of insanity, there’s a silver-lining waiting to be seen. In golf, this silver lining comes in the form of perspective. Without perspective, the beauty that this game exudes will never be realized. This is where the old adage rings true. No matter how poorly you’re playing, take a moment to enjoy the beauty of your surroundings, and let me know how the view compares to the inside of your office cubicle. If the world famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, dabbled in golf course design, I imagine his courses would resemble a stretch of land in Kansas City that so perfectly blends in with the surrounding environment, it’s as if Mother Nature laid the blueprint herself. For those in need of a little perspective, allow me to introduce Hodge Park Golf Course—the silver lining in the Midwest.

Hodge Park

Hodge Park Golf Course is more than just an 18-hole layout; it’s a scenic getaway: With three lakes, a creek, beautifully manicured zoysia fairways, bent grass greens, blue grass rough, rolling undulations, and natural wildlife to boot. The experience is a golfer’s dream come true. But don’t let the surrounding beauty lull you into serenity. The course–while playable for golfers of all skill levels—is far from a walk in the park.

Hodge Park is a par 71 and offers three tee boxes to choose from: (in descending order of distance) Blue, White, and Red (Ladies’ Tees). Golfers should play from a distance that suits their particular skill level. Here’s a quick rundown of each tee box’s distance/level of difficulty: The Blue tees play 6,181 yards; the White tees, 5,707 yards; and the Red tees, 5,293 yards. The slope (a measure of difficulty) for each: 117, 110, and 115 (respectively).

Course features to note: 10 out of the 18 holes feature some degree of “dogleg”, which forces players to keep the ball center-cut from tee to green. The rolling undulations create an added challenge for most shots—on the fairway and long grass alike. Pay close attention to your stance at address: Is the ball above your feet or below? Downhill lie or uphill? If undulations had a voice, they’d likely chant “OB” in middle of your downswing. Pace yourself on the first four holes, because the fifth is the #1 handicap for all three tee boxes. To say this hole is a challenging par 4 would be a huge understatement. From the Blue tees, it plays 446 yards—lengthy by a majority of golfers’ standards. Though this is one of the straighter holes on the course, you’re forced to keep the ball on the fairway, or risk finding yourself in an unplayable position to go at the green. Leave this hole with a par, and you can call it a successful round before you even approach the 6th hole.

Hodge Park

Aside from a great golfing experience, the course offers a variety of special deals to provide a bigger bang for your buck, though their regular rates hardly break the bank. For reference, playing Monday-Friday will cost $24 to walk, $40 to ride. Aside from their standard rates, Hodge Park offers three specific “specials” to aid in providing the best golfing experience for players of all skill levels (they even offer a special rate for non-golfers). The below information can be found by visiting Hodge Park’s RATES page on their site:

Parent Junior Special after 6:30 Monday – Thursday, after 5pm Fri-Sun. $13 for parent and $13 for Junior ages 17 and under

Player Development Special after 6pm Monday – Sunday after 5pm Friday – Sunday. $19 per player (Special rate for new players and their friends, includes the cart. New players are defined as anyone who can’t break 100 for 18 holes or 50 for nine holes)

​Spectators rider fee $15 for eighteen holes, $ 9 for 9 holes can putt or chip, Juniors 10-12 junior fee of $15, ride for free. All players are expected to keep a four hour pace for 18 holes, or 2 hour pace for nine holes. Onesomes have no privileges to play through, twosomes, threesomes and foursomes do. Food and beverages must be bought at the clubhouse.

Hodge Park

The course offers added value by providing a plethora of services and amenities, offering more of a private country club feel than that of your run-of-the-mill public golf course. Added services and amenities include: Individual and group lessons by their dedicated PGA Professional, junior programs, a driving range, two putting and one chipping green, club fitting, club rentals, handicap trackers, a fully stocked pro shop, snack shop, and lockers. Stay in the know on upcoming events for the 2017 season by checking in on their special events page.

As is the case with any notable course, it’s all about the experience. Hodge Park offers an experience that every golfer should witness. Beauty aside, the course has clearly made an effort to provide a country club “feel”, and, in my humble opinion, they did just that. If I haven’t made you a believer, the course certainly will. Your day job isn’t going anywhere, and neither is your cubicle. Step out for a day, and experience golf the way it was meant to be played. Experience Hodge Park Golf Course.