You can feel at home playing Shiloh Springs. The 6,339-yard par 71 course located a few miles east of Platte City prides itself on providing a small-town atmosphere.
“I would say if you want to feel at home, play golf here,” said General Manager and Head Professional Jason Rudolph, PGA. “I got offered a great opportunity here and I was made to feel at home, and that’s what I want to do for everybody else.”
Rudolph took over the GM spot in July last year, working with Kemper Sports.
“The big question when Kemper Sports came last year was if they’re going to try to change, try to make it this high-end golf,” he said. “What I told the staff the first day I met them is ‘Shiloh Springs is Shiloh Springs’. We’re just going to improve what Shiloh Springs is, letting people know we’re not going to go to a $100 rate. That’s just not us. It kind of calmed some nerves.”
Primarily, he has a goal to raise awareness of this “hidden gem” of the Northland. Admitting it has become one of his biggest challenges, Rudolph went on to explain that once golfers try Shiloh Springs, they remark what a great course it is. That, he says, leads to some really positive word of mouth marketing. He sees golfers come back often – and they usually bring their friends along for their first visit as well.
Shiloh gains repeat customers and a lot of really good word of mouth because of their quality golf offering, but also because they treat their guests like family. “One thing we do differently is our outside service people are up here at the top of the ramp with a cart,” he said. “And when somebody pulls in we go out and ask them ‘can I load your clubs for you?’ I’ve had so many people come to me and say ‘there’s nobody else in town that does that’, at least at a public golf course. First impressions are everything. If you start things off well, it makes for an enjoyable round for the person to play and then that’s repeat business, too.”
Rudolph doesn’t focus all his attention on the first impression though. He is acutely aware and wants the whole experience to be a good one, all the way to the parking lot at the end of the day. “When people are leaving, all of our staff, including myself, we say thanks for coming out and we hope to see you back.”
It’s the kind of personal, small-town touch that leaves an indelible positive impression on customers. “Maybe it is kind of corny to do something like that, because people don’t expect it, but it’s Shiloh Springs,” Rudolph said. “It goes back to taking care of our customers. That’s what it’s all about.”
As part of their focus on customer care, Shiloh has completely renovated its restaurant, with great assistance from GSCAA Superintendent Mike Shriner. “We finally got done with it the end of February,” he said. “Everything in here is new, from chairs and tables to flooring, walls are brand new.”
The remodeling project has been well-received by members and guests.
“The one thing that I noticed is that after (Tuesday’s men’s league), nobody would stick around,” Rudolph said of the restaurant prior to renovation. “They’d get in the car and go home or wherever. But this year, I’ve noticed they’ve started sticking around. One is because we’ve remodeled and it’s more inviting to be here, but then we’re starting to offer more things. It’s to get kind of a lunch crowd, kind of like it used to be. People used to come out here for lunch. It kind of went away for years and that’s what we’re trying to bring back. We want it to be a community family feel.”
Food & Beverage Manager Roger Rose has upgraded the menu, adding Taco Tuesday and Burger Thursday – with a new and different offering each week – along with the occasional Steak Night, when Rose will fire up the grill while golfers are out on the course.
“Now everybody’s sticking around,” Rudolph said. “It’s great to see so many people, whereas last year we might have a table or two and that’s it.”
Shiloh is also doing some non-traditional things to help bring folks to the course, even if it’s not to play golf, by hosting a variety of events in their banquet room.
“I just hired a marketing person and she’s a rock star,” Rudolph said of Sales & Marketing Manager Justina Cox. “The idea was to get more events to come. What we’re really focused on is getting weddings and banquets. We’re kind of focused on smaller, intimate weddings, where people don’t want to go and rent a big hall for a hundred people. We’re the perfect place to do something (on a smaller scale).”
In addition to offerings of weddings and banquets, Shiloh provides seminars for charities to teach them how to run a successful fundraising golf tournament. Another popular offering are their vendor events which permit vendors to use table space for showcasing their goods and services.
“One thing for us is it gets more eyes on the golf course,” Rudolph explained. “It gives you eyes for future graduation parties, future weddings, future business meetings. That’s what we’re focused on; getting more eyes on the golf course.”
And it’s a course which deserves more eyes. “One thing I like about the course, it’s not like when you get up on a lot of other golf courses, all of the par threes are basically the same distance,” he said. “Our par threes really vary. You do have a couple that are kind of similar, but it goes back to how windy it is that day because as we all know it’s going to affect what club you pull out. But, that’s what I love about the golf course. It’s not cookie cutter.”
Designed and built in 1995 by Gary Martin – who still lives on the golf course – Shiloh Springs has enough variety to keep regulars interested and challenge golfers of every stripe.
“It’s not an overly long golf course by any means,” Rudolph said. “But it is challenging. It’s what I call more of target golf. You have to hit certain spots – it’s about more than just getting up on the tee box and whaling away.”
The slightly shorter distances make for reachable greens.
“It’s not 7000 yards where you have to have the big hitters,” he said. “There are some holes that bigger hitters, on par 5s, can get there in two. But there are also some par 5s that are shorter than can allow the average golfers to get there in two to make it possible to get a birdie, or even better. I like that aspect. I’ve played many tours and I’ve played all the long golf courses and it kind of gets a little daunting with hitting drivers or hybrids all the time.”
Shiloh players should be prepared to make quality shots with every club. “With this course you’re going to use every club in your bag,” Rudolph explained. “There are some holes where you’re going to use a driver and a four iron into a par 4. But, there are also some where it’s an eight iron and there are some where it’s all the way down to a pitching wedge. The course gives you a variety of shots out there.”
Players have to think through how they want to approach each hole. “The way I look at it, it’s all about placement,” he said. “The way I attack the golf course when I play it, it’s where do you want to be for your second shot. It’s not ‘I’m going to bomb it out there’. Sometimes you need to bomb it out there, and you might hit it in the fairway, but it might be on the wrong side of the fairway from where you want to go to the hole, or it puts you in a bad position where you’re in between clubs. That’s what I like about it.”
Overall, it’s a course that requires precision shots with a front nine that is more target golf – requiring those precise shots and positioning the ball to attack the greens. The back nine, then, works it’s way from the hills to the valley portion of the land the course sits upon. Once back here, it can be a different kind of target golf. “The front nine you’ve got more of the hills,” Rudolph said, “It gives you the variety. It almost makes you feel like you’re playing two different golf courses between the front nine and back.”
Just as with the friendly staff, the course itself makes a great first and last impression with par-four #1 and par-three #18, both of which require long shots over the pond.
“You don’t really see finishing par-three’s on a lot of golf courses,” he said. “On the first hole, you have to tee off and go across the pond, but then on the last, you have to tee off on a par-three and finish across the same pond. It’s not your traditional finishing hole, which I think makes it kind of unique out here. Most people love it. Some people don’t like it because they want to finish on a par five or long par four. But, I like it because it kind of winds you down after your long round.”
And there are few places where it’s easier to wind down than the home-town feel of Shiloh Springs.
For more information about Shiloh, visit www.shilohspringsgolf.com or call 816-270-4653.