For many years, Hodge Park has served Kansas City area golfers who wish to learn how to play and those simply looking to improve their game. The 6181-yard, par 71 course located to the northeast is designed as training grounds for players wanting to improve in all areas of performance, and it’s also a fun course for a quick round of golf.
Teaching the game is what Hodge’s Head Professional and Manager, Tim Underwood, loves to do most.
“I do a lot of instruction,” he said. “It’s my passion in the business, especially with Hodge, trying to get people good in the game. We see a lot of beginners and a lot of people trying to lower their handicap, looking to break 100 or break into the 80s.”
Hodge Park also is trying to expand the golf footprint in the area.
“I want to get more people playing golf,” said Underwood, who has been at Hodge Park for about 12 years. “It will help the course out revenue-wise. It’s been my main focus to get people playing more golf.”
Hodge Park sees a variety of players from those just starting out in the game to those that are accomplished. Whatever their skill level, all find Hodge Park to be a great place to enjoy a round of golf.
“At this golf course I see a lot of players [scoring] over 100, or in the 90s or 80s,” Underwood said. “We get some players that shoot in the 70s. It’s a good course to develop your game. A lot of players develop their game here and once they are good, they move over to Shoal Creek, which is an even more challenging course. It’s longer, has more hazards, more bunkers, more water.”
Part of developing a solid game is learning about shot placement and Underwood believes Hodge Park does a good job of teaching players to hit with control.
“If you’re an 80s, 90s, or 100s player, it’s very challenging,” he said. “If you’re new to the game or aren’t a real good player, it’s a challenge.”
“Personally, I think this course is almost as challenging as Shoal Creek, but in a different way,” said Hodge Park regular John Johnstone. “It may not have the traps, but it has the severe doglegs. You have to think about where to put the ball for the next shot. There are a lot of holes for my drive that have me way past the dogleg. You can’t just stand back and hit it. Number 10 is a real challenge for me because it’s a severe dogleg. If you don’t put it in the right place at the 150 (yard) marker, you’re treed up. There’s a challenge to this course and the course is always in great shape. I’ve never been out here when the course is not in good shape.”
The comparison to Shoal Creek isn’t unfair, as Hodge Park is attracting more and better players, particularly since they upgraded to zoysia fairways and bent-grass greens four years ago.
“We’re starting to add better players,” Underwood said. “They’d rather hit off zoysia fairways and not blue grass because they can spin it better. We are starting to see better players here and it’s a very good price point for the conditions. For a guy that doesn’t want to pay the price of a high-end course, he can play at Hodge and still get the feeling of a high-end course without paying the higher price.”
Course management felt it was important to upgrade the grass at Hodge Park.
“Our promotional budget is not as big as Shoal,” Underwood said. “Our biggest advertising is through word of mouth. Golfers are pretty smart. They talk a lot. When they hear courses are in great condition they’ll come out. When you give them great course conditions they’ll come out and play. Since we added the zoysia grass and got the greens in better shape we’ve had more tourneys, more daily play, more league players. We’ve had more walk-on traffic across the board.”
“I like the layout,” said long-time regular Mark Hogan. “It’s heavily wooded and has got lakes and a lot of things you don’t find in a municipal course. I’ve been playing the course for a long time and I’m impressed with the improvements. It’s a very friendly environment to go after work and hit some balls. It’s a relaxing environment and they’ve always been very eager to make it a good experience. They’ve got this awesome location and the hills, the ponds, the trees, everything. With all the new zoysia and new greens, I could go play at a $100-per-round course and I won’t find a better layout than those 18 holes out there.”
The investment in zoysia fairways has been well-received.
“If you lived here four years ago and played this course, then moved out of town and came back and played it now you’d think you’d made a wrong turn,” said Jim Gibson. “It’s totally different than it was four years ago. The fairways, the zoysia, has completely saved this course. The greens and the tee boxes are much better than they used to be. Everything is nicer.”
“It’s in real good shape this year,” said Dave Bales. “The fairways are great. The greens are good. You call up here and get friendly service. And it’s a challenging course. Some of the holes are very challenging.”
That challenge includes the course’s most talked about hole: par 4 number 10. A downhill tee shot has to be accurately spotted at a landing zone for a reasonable second shot to the green. When players talk about problem holes at Hodge Park, it is usually number 10 they talk about.
“Number 10 is probably the most challenging (hole),” Underwood said. “You have to hit the ball to the 150 (yard) mark or close to have a clear approach to the green and you have to hit the ball to the middle of the fairway to have an angle to the green, otherwise you’re blocked out.”
The front nine presents its own challenges.
“Number five is difficult,” Underwood said. “It’s an uphill, downhill par 4 with good length, a long hole (446 yards) and you’re usually faced with a downhill lie on approach.”
The next hole, par four, 304-yard number six, forces players to make a choice.
“There’s a good risk/reward on number six,” he said. “Long hitters can hit over the pond, turning the hole into an easy birdie. But, hit it crooked and it’s an easy double bogie.”
Two dogleg par 4s, number eight to the left and number nine to the right, round out a 3126-yard, par 35 front nine which also contains one 452-yard par five and a pair of par threes.
After the severe test on number 10, the 3055-yard, par 36 back nine includes two more par fives and another pair of par threes, which present their own challenges.
“The par threes, all four, have some pretty good length,” Underwood said. “Par is a good score. The two par fives are reachable for long hitters. Even the shorter hitters are probably coming into the green with an eight or nine (iron) or wedge, which makes birdie a possibility.”
Doglegs will again challenge players on the back nine, beginning with par 4, 388-yard number 13, a sharp dogleg right which goes uphill.
“With trees to the right, a good slice will find the middle of the fairway,” Underwood said. “This hole will give you everything that you’d want for a challenge. If you blew it on 13 you can still save yourself on 14. It’s 276 (yards) from the blues, making it a driveable, fun par four.”
One of the prettiest holes on the course is also one of the most difficult. Par 4, 338-yard number 15 requires shorter hitters to lay up in front of a pond then thread the needle between a pair of large, intimidating oak trees. Hodge Park’s frequent wildlife visitors often make an appearance here at one of its more aesthetic holes.
After the longest hole on the course, par 5, 518-yard number 17, the course wraps up with one of the easiest, the 302-yard, downhill, par 4 number 18.
“Hopefully you’ll end your round with a good score, making your drive home pleasant or the beer taste better,” Underwood said.
Hodge Park also features many amenities to improve a player’s experience, including leagues for men, women and seniors, and special events throughout the season.
A popular series of events is when they run an event associated with each major championship, pairing pro scores with amateur scores. Night golf, which the course operates three times a year is “probably the most popular event,” according to Underwood, and the turkey scramble is also very popular.
There are a lot of reasons to play at Hodge, whether you are just starting out or looking to improve your game, or want an enjoyable round of golf.
“The golf course is well-manicured and fun to play,” said Jim Baker. “Overall, the clubhouse, the food, and the hospitality are great.”
For more information, contact Hodge Park at 816-781-4152 or visit their website at hodgeparkgolf.com