When Kansas City-area golfers talk about a good place to play, Sunflower Hills is always in the discussion, and for a number of reasons. The friendly staff boasts more experience than any other course in the city and as a municipally-owned course, it has maintained a clientele-friendly pricing system. Most importantly though, the course offers plenty of challenges for a wide variety of golfers.
“Most of the skilled golfers in town that play a lot of golf, they realize what a good test of golf Sunflower is,” said Head Golf Professional Jeff Johnson. “It’s the length, the difficulty of the lie, and because we have a lot of uneven lies, the size of the greens. The greens are big.”
The par-72 course, located at 12200 Riverview Avenue in Bonner Springs, near the Kansas Turnpike, measures 7,032 yards from the championship tees and features rolling zoysia grass guarded by several hazards.
“Some of the fairways are tight,” Johnson said. “We have some tight holes and, obviously, water hazards as well.”
Unlike many area courses, Sunflower is not situated in a housing development.
“One of the features of our course is we have no houses on our golf course,” Johnson explained. “That’s one of our selling points. All our trouble is trees and water. We’re a very challenging golf course with a lot of hills, rolling hills, and big greens.”
The course can be challenging enough for golfers of any level.
“We’re often compared to Shoal Creek and Alvamar in terms of the quality of golf,” Johnson said, “and we’re quite a bit cheaper than they are on weekends.”
Players will find the most challenge from #6, a par five and the longest hole on the course at 551 yards. It’s also rated as the toughest. But if that’s not enough for golfers in search for a challenge, they will also enjoy taking on #15.
“Our fifteenth hole is our toughest, meanest hole,” Johnson said. “It’s a long par four; from the back tees it’s 480 yards and you have to hit a very good drive. And on your second shot you’ll typically have a long iron or a fairway wood off a downhill lie to an uphill green, so it’s a very difficult second shot. One of the tougher shots in golf is to hit a downhill long iron to an uphill target. That’s probably our toughest and most players think about that hole a lot.”
Other holes present their own challenges.
“Our eighteenth hole (par four, 361 yards), although it’s not long, you have to hit a very good tee ball to carry the water,” Johnson explained. “And then the other holes on the course, number seven (par four, 426 yards), is a very picturesque hole. It goes down a hill and meanders through the trees. It’s a very pretty hole.”
Although the greens are large, their elevation changes and rolling style make for an interesting putting challenge. The challenges presented by Sunflower make it a popular place to play, as does the competitive pricing.
“For the quality of golf course that we are, our fees are such that anyone can come out and play and have a good time without paying too much money,” Johnson said. “We’re very reasonably priced.”
Being owned by the government of Wyandotte County, the course strives to be accessible to all players.
“We have maintained our pricing over the years,” Johnson explained. “We have to make it attractive for all skill levels and all levels of people being able, with the money they have, to play. Our weekend rates are, for the quality of golf course, much cheaper than a lot of the golf courses we’re compared to. We typically have a Sunday special. On Sunday afternoon after 12 o’clock, we have greens fees and cart for 27 bucks.”
To make the course especially accessible, Sunflower has five sets of tees.
“We’ve embraced the shorter tee,” Johnson explained. “We have a set of tees for beginners and juniors and a set of tees for seniors, and for men’s regulars and championship tees. With five sets of tees people can fit themselves in to the right set of tees that they need to play from.”
The combination of good golf and good prices, along with having a variety of tees, have made the course attractive to players of all ages, as reflected in the large number of seniors and juniors who play at Sunflower.
“We have a huge senior play and seniors are very price conscious,” Johnson said. “Our senior rates are very competitive and very fair.”
Sunflower hosts a large senior league with 160 members playing on Wednesdays and another 30 on Mondays.
“We’ll have anywhere from 110 to 135 play every week (on Wednesdays),” Johnson said. “And we have a ladies league on Thursdays, and then we have company leagues in the evenings.”
The course is also a popular place for youth golf.
“We’re part of the First Tee program of Kansas City and we have a very active junior golf program,” Johnson said. “We’ve had as many as 900 kids in our program. We have an adjacent six-hole junior golf course in the park and we do all of our junior lessons over there and have leagues for them to play in, and it is open to the public on weekends when we’re not having lessons. We play host to many high school tournaments and teams. In the spring we’ll have seven different boys’ teams and in the fall three or four girls’ teams.”
Sunflower is also host to one of the best and oldest local tournaments, the Wyandotte County Open. The tournament is open to everyone and will be celebrating their 40th year in 2016.
“It’s open to anyone that plays the game,” Johnson said. “All they have to do is come out and shoot the ball and we’ll place them in a flight. We have a wide variety of golfers for that. It’s our signature event and we go after a wide variety of people. We have men’s championship flight, five flights for the men and two flights for the women. We get anywhere from 90 to 110 players every year for that.
Another reason for Sunflower’s popularity is the well-maintained course and experienced staff. Johnson has worked at the course for 35 years and the grounds crew is one of the most experienced in the city. That experience reflects itself in the condition of the course.
“Our maintenance crew does one heck of a job of keeping the golf course in good shape,” Johnson said. “We pride ourselves on keeping the golf course in good condition.”
For an enjoyable round of golf, it’s hard to do better than Sunflower Hills.
“We’re a very challenging golf course, well-conditioned, and for the money it’s a great value,” Johnson said. “We pride ourselves on good conditions and difficulty of the course and at a very fair price. And the only house you’ll see on our course is the clubhouse.”
For more information about Sunflower Hills, visit www.sunflowerhillsgolfcourse.com or call the clubhouse: 913-573-8570.