One hundred years have passed since Hillcrest Golf and Country Club, designed by famed architect Donald Ross, opened in southeast Kansas City. A century later, not much has changed as Hillcrest continues to provide golfers a classic, rolling layout surrounded by woods and without a house in sight.
Ross, a Scot born in 1872, has designed some of the most fabled golf courses in America, including Pinehurst No. 2, Congressional, Oak Hill, Inverness and Oakland Hills – every one of them a host to major tournaments.
It is no wonder Hillcrest embraces Ross as much as possible in promoting the course.
“It definitely has become advantageous for us to do that,” said Shawn McGuire, general manager at Hillcrest. “It is our ace in the hole.” Hillcrest is formerly private, but now open to public play while still offering memberships.
Hillcrest has some classic Ross traits, such as so-called turtleback greens, which are usually elevated, with drop-offs to the rear.
“Most of the holes are in front of you, but the greens are the tricky,” McGuire said. Being in the right part of the green for the first putt is important, he said. Greens can be deceptively fast but are kept at reasonable speeds for most golfers, McGuire said.
The course covers rolling terrain with a few doglegs, but greens and desired landing areas en route are usually visible on each shot.
“We have some nice elevation changes you’ll see all around the course,” McGuire said. “Hole number 5, for example, is relatively, short but you are hitting up the hill. It has some unique characteristics that make it the classic Donald Ross style.”
Hillcrest helps players navigate the course by providing not only a GPS on each cart, but also pro tips that suggest where to aim the next shot. The course just received a new fleet of carts, McGuire said. He also pointed out a number of recent course improvements, including better drainage of some traps and leveling out of the 6th fairway – all of which improve the overall golfer experience.
Hillcrest has four total sets of tees, allowing anyone to enjoy the historic layout. It is not an overly long course, stretching to 6,781 from the tips and playing as short as 5,452 from the forward tees. In between are the white tees at 6,328 and the gold tees measuring 5,860 yards.
Improvements to the golf course and clubhouse, along with bargain monthly dues, have helped Hillcrest more than double its membership in the past 20 months or so. As of late May, Hillcrest had 254 members, up from 118 previously, McGuire said.
Monthly dues for golfers under age 40 are just $150. Over 40, fees are $200 per month and family memberships are $300 monthly. There is a one-time application fee of $150. No minimum spending is required in the pro shop or dining areas.
Memberships include power carts, 14-day advance tee times, unlimited range use, merchandise and event space discounts, club storage and full use of the expansive locker rooms in the historic clubhouse. When play at Hillcrest is restricted due to events, memberships are honored at Prairie Highlands Golf Course in Olathe.
Hillcrest also has highly competitive daily fees, ranging from $25 to $40 weekdays and $30 to $50 weekends, including cart, that vary by time of day.
The club spent $50,000 over the winter to renovate the banquet hall, which helped in the booking of over 30 weddings this year, McGuire said. Other rooms in the sprawling clubhouse can host many other types of events, large and small. The club renovated the upper lounge and patio, which overlook the course, and has a smaller lounge with pool table on the lower level.
The boost in membership has prompted Hillcrest to sponsor more social and golf events, such as revival of the Big H member-guest tournament, McGuire said.
Hillcrest is located at 8200 Hillcrest Road in Kansas City, just west of Interstate 435.
More information on the course can be found on the Hillcrest website, Hillcrestkc.com, or by calling the club at 816-523-8601.