GreatLife Breathes New Life Into Liberty Hills

Liberty Hills

Golfers who give Liberty Hills a try will be pleasantly surprised. In over two years of new management by GreatLife, the 6,530-yard, par 70 course located a few miles east of Liberty, in a pastoral setting off Highway 69, has undergone important renovation. And membership is growing.

“It’s definitely increased from last year,” said manager Carmen Titus. “We had a lot of Excelsior Springs members come down. It’s great. We’re growing every minute.”
The affordable membership plans begin at $49.99/month and the family membership is just $69.99/month.

“That will get you unlimited golf,” she said. “You can go to most any of the other GreatLife golf courses, basically for a cart fee. The family membership also includes our pool.”
The pool opened Memorial Day weekend and provides a great opportunity for a fun family outing.

“Why not?” Titus said. “Go play a little golf, go to the pool. Have a great day.”

Titus believes being a part of the GreatLife family is helping to increase interest in Liberty Hills.

“It definitely helps grow our membership, absolutely,” she said. “We’re kind of out in the middle of nowhere, trying to compete with Shoal or Tiffany or Staley or Hodge, even. There’s just enough courses around, that to draw people out here it definitely helps to have a nice membership that then has a good reciprocity with other clubs.”

Liberty Hills

The golf course has an easy-going atmosphere.

“Everybody seems to know everybody, and really get along,” Titus said. “It’s very family oriented which is kind of nice. It’s a cool family atmosphere out here. Everybody gets along with everybody.”

The facility features other amenities, such as the Pavilion, available for weddings, graduation parties, and banquets, plus men’s and women’s leagues, and, for the first time ever, Liberty Hills is participating in the Kansas City Cup. But it’s really the golf course itself which gives Liberty Hills its charm.
“I feel it’s kind of an old-style course,” she said. “It’s tighter; it’s not super long. What makes it tough is you’ve got to hit the fairways. The greens have some cool character. A lot of the courses tend to be flat, just sloped back to front. These have really, really nice character. You’ve definitely got to pick your spot out there. It’s fun.”
Titus enjoys the challenges on numbers 8, 9, and 18.

“Number 8, a par three, you’ve got to hit it over the water,” she said. “There’s some par threes that are tough, usually they have some water around them. Number 9 and 18 are cool. You have to hit two good shots or it’s easy to make a big number.”

“There’s a couple really tough holes out here,” said member Jeremy Zimmerman. “Hole 2 would travel to any course in the Kansas City area. It’s still up towards the top among the toughest holes. You’ve got out of bounds left. You’ve got a lateral hazard nature area to the right. It’s a narrow fairway, and then it plays 460 yards from the back tee box.”
“And if you miss it right, you’ve got a trap that’s about eighty or ninety feet long,” added member Al Neal. “It wraps from the front all the way to the back.”
Number 2 used to be a par five, Zimmerman explained.

Liberty Hills

“They converted it to a par four and did the same on hole 11 out here, so it made it a par 70,” he said. “It put some teeth into the course. It’s not a long course. At a par 70 it makes it the equivalent of maybe a 6800, 6900-yard par 72 course.”

Other holes have some challenge, too.

“Hole 7, it’s out of bounds to the right; from the back tees it also plays pretty long,” Zimmerman said. “It’s uphill the whole way and 450 (yards). There’s fairway and green-side traps the whole way so it plays really well. And hole 8 is a 200-yard par three that has a trap out front. It slopes towards the water and has water on basically three sides of the green. Playing from the back tees it plays 200-205 yards, depending upon where the pin’s set. That’s all you want.”

“They ought to blow up Number 18 because it’s so darned hard,” Neal joked. “It’s got water, but it rarely comes into play.”

Both Zimmerman and Neal joined Liberty Hills in October.

“It’s tight,” said Neal of the fairways. “You’ve got to be able to hit your tee ball. Out here, everything plays off your tee ball. If you don’t hit a good tee ball, you struggle. If you hit a good tee ball, then you have a pretty good opportunity at par. The tee shot is the key here.”

While there are challenges along the course, there are also chances to score, too.

“The course sets up nice for your typical amateur golfer,” Zimmerman said. “It has the amenities that allow for their optimal scoring opportunities. If you can get off the tee and hit it in the fairway, you have a really good opportunity to score out here. If you’re playing the appropriate tee for how far you’re going to be hitting the ball, you’re looking at a lot of short to – at most – mid-irons in. So, your amateur golfer that’s playing the appropriate tee for how far they can hit the driver, they’re going to have a lot of chances to hit wedges and make some birdies.”
“Or is looking to at least relax a little bit, from the strain,” Neal added. “You don’t want to have 18 hard holes.”

Liberty Hills

Liberty Hills has something to offer a wide variety of golfers.

“The USGA course rating out here has us one and a half shots harder than par, from the back tees,” Zimmerman said. “It’s a decent challenge for your amateur golfer. A competition-ready college player or your typical club pro, they should be able to walk around this course under par fairly easily. But your typical once or twice a week Sunday golfer, they’re going to have a challenge out here, but still have the opportunity to score. It’s a fun course to play.”

One of the things which impressed the pair is the consistency of the course.

“For me the first impression is the tees are mowed, the fairways are mowed, the greens are mowed,” Neal said. “The greens are at a good speed and you can count on that before you leave your house. Those four minimum things are going to be done. It’s got good green speed, somewhere around eight or nine most days and with the undulations on the greens, that’s a good speed.”

Both Zimmerman and Neal like what they’ve seen so far.

“I’d say give it a chance,” Zimmerman offered to prospective Liberty Hills players. He considers it a good place “if you’re looking for somewhere that plays well and has a reasonable membership rate.”

“We gave it a chance,” Neal said. “It goes back to what are your expectations. Be consistent so that every day you go out it’ll be the same.”

For more information about Liberty Hills, visit their website or call 816-781-3636.

Avoiding a Lateral Slide

pro tips feature

Sliding in the golf swing occurs when the lower body moves laterally toward the target during the downswing.   If a lateral slide occurs during the downswing it is difficult to stabilize the lower body and eliminates potential power and speed. During the correct sequence in the swing, power is effectively transferred from the lower body up, not the upper body and down.  Therefore, the correct sequence starts with the lower body transferring energy to the upper body while the upper body, arms and club uncoil through the forward swing.  Without a stable lower body players lose power and inefficiently develop speed and power incorrectly.
Many players think about the rotation of the pelvis by imagining their body in a barrel. The barrel prevents a lateral sliding motion, however it allows a hip rotation throughout the swing. The proper rotation of the hips eliminates a lateral slide.

A lateral slide in the golf swing can be the result of a swing fault or physical limitation.  There are several causes that lead to a physical limitation.  The player must have the ability to rotate into the lead hip without any joint or muscular restrictions.  Without the proper rotation a lateral slide will dominate the swing.  Second, the lower body must create separation from the upper body.  The correct separation creates a stable lower body and the correct rotation of the hips and upper body.  Finally, the glutes help stabilize the lead leg during the downswing. The following drills and exercise will help teach the proper hip rotation and eliminate a lateral slide.

avoiding a lateral slide

PGA Tour pro Sean O’Hair demonstrates the proper stabilization of the lower body and lead leg throughout the swing. If there is a lateral slide the lead leg and hip would pass the yellow line.

Impact Fix Drill

Begin by addressing the golf ball in your normal set up. Next, open the hips and upper body slightly and allow the right knee to bend slightly and move a little closer to the left knee. This drill starts in the correct impact position, which begins with the left leg straight, left arm straight, firm left wrist and shaft leaning slightly forward. Next, simply swing the arms back and return to impact in the same position.

Lead Leg Drill

Preventing a slide requires stabilizing the lead leg so the body rotates properly. Begin by taking your set up, however, place your right foot back and on the toe while the majority of your weight stays on the lead leg. Next, make a few swings and feel your hips rotate and maintain stable. The lead leg acts as a post while the front pocket rotates counter clockwise. If you try to sway during the drill you will lose balance and begin to fall forward toward the target. The Lead Leg Only Swing will help improve balance and prevent you from sliding during the downswing.

Body Turns

This is a good exercise to feel the correct sequence and finish position of the golf swing. Place a club behind your neck with your hands on both ends. Stand with your feet shoulder width in an athletic set up position and rotate the left shoulder under the chin to simulate a backswing. Next, rotate the right shoulder to the left so the chest faces the target and the left leg is posted up in a straight line. The left leg should remain straight while the left hip rotates to the left. The upper body turns, left leg stays straight and left foot remains flat while the right heel comes up off the ground and the body turns to the left.

Sunflower Hills Has It All

sunflower featured

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.”

sunflower course

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.”

Sunflower hole-16

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.”

sunflower golf course

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 water

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 or call the clubhouse: 913-573-8570.