An Up and Down Day at Sunflower Hills

If your out-of-town friends think that because you live in Kansas that your home course is parking-lot flat, take them to Sunflower Hills Golf Course in Bonner Springs. They’ll leave with an entirely different opinion.

Sunflower Hills borders I-70 on the north between I-435 and K-7 in Bonner Springs, but unless you hear the traffic going by on the highway, you could be anywhere with hills and valleys. It’s one of the most challenging and affordable courses in the Kansas City area.

Sunflower Hills Golf Course

Opened in May 1977, Sunflower Hills is an 18-hole championship golf course designed by renowned architect Roger Packard, who used the existing topography to create the hilliness of the course that seems out of place to the outsider who thinks of Dorothy and the flatlands of western Kansas.

“(Packard) moved hardly any dirt to form the fairways,” said Jeff Johnson, the club pro at Sunflower Hills since 1981, which makes him the most tenured club pro in the metro. “It’s a natural layout. We’ll get comments from people playing it for the first time saying it’s hillier than they expected.”

Measuring over 7,000 yards from the back tees, Sunflower Hills has five sets of tees, large rolling greens, zoysia fairways, and numerous bunkers and water hazards.

Like a lot of courses in the Kansas City area—and around the country for that matter—the pandemic slowed things down for Sunflower Hills. But the drop off has hardly been noticeable at all, certainly not as drastic as it could have been. Johnson gives credit to a loyal base of customers.

Sunflower Hills Golf Course

Sunflower Hills closed for just three days to regroup and figure out how to abide by the guidelines and still provide an opportunity for people to get exercise and enjoy the beautiful course.

At first golfers were only allowed to walk the course, which was difficult for some because of the hilliness of layout. When carts were allowed in late April, each golfer had to have his or her own cart, which limited the number of golfers to the number of available carts.

It wasn’t until June that two golfers could share a cart.

“We were concerned at the beginning of the pandemic that it would cause play to really drop off, but I was pleasantly surprised with the number of people who were willing to walk the golf course,” Johnson said. “When we got carts back, we couldn’t tell a difference from past years because we were so busy.

Sunflower Hills Golf Course

“One of the safest places to be is on the golf course because you’re outside in the fresh air, usually separated by several feet from other players.”

A big part of the loyal base is the over-55 crowd. While that’s not unusual with golf courses, because the ability to play instead of work fits that age-group well, Sunflower Hills has a particularly strong senior group.

A Wednesday league garnered 150 entries, with a range of 115 to 130 golfers most weeks. There’s a second league on Mondays with smaller numbers.

Many of those golfers know each other by name, because they play more than just on Mondays and/or Wednesdays. I played on a Thursday with a group of men 10 or more years my senior, and they all schooled me. As we were putting out on our 10th hole, another group was finishing their 14th. One of the men in that group hollered over that he was 2-over after 14 holes.

Sunflower Hills Golf Course

That’s pretty good on a hot humid July day, especially when you consider that he’s 94 years old. One of my playing partners said that guy had shot his age more times than he could count. I could only reply that I really feel good when I shoot his age.

Johnson has seen a lot of changes in his 39 years, but he’s not going to rest on his—or the course’s—laurels. There are plenty of people from well beyond Kansas City who depend on that.

“I’ve seen a lot of highs and a few lows, but the course has matured very well over the years,” Johnson said. “The thing that makes Sunflower Hills challenging is that very rarely do you have a level lie. The comments we get from visitors are that it’s a very nice golf course, especially for our very reasonable rates. And we get a lot of visitors.

“We have regulars from as far away as Pennsylvania.”

And until the out-of-towners play it, they probably think it’s going to be flat.

— By David Smale

Golf Anytime with True Aim Indoor Golf KC

Golf anytime, regardless of the weather or time of day, including PGA Golf Instruction – True Aim Indoor Golf KC offers this and much more at its new location on the west side of Metcalf Avenue just north of 151st in Overland Park. The facility opened in March and features three hitting bays utilizing Uneekor QED 4K Ultra HD golf simulators that provide overhead video and hyperspeed cameras to capture a multitude of club head and ball measurements. The wealth of data on each ball strike is incredible, providing, among other metrics, club face angle, club head path and speed, ball speed, back spin, side spin, carry distance, apex and total distance. It’s a unique virtual experience where Golfers can practice on a driving range display or play any of thousands of golf courses including many of the PGA Tour and TPC courses.

True Aim Indoor Golf

About a year ago, it was an unexpected health scare that lead owner, Tom Aguilar to his decision to open True Aim. As someone who rarely has been sick in his life, he was surprised to come down with pneumonia that led to sepsis and a seven-day hospital stay that saw him in a dire situation with liver and kidney functions that nearly shut down before he started to get better and eventually recover.

It was that experience and 35-years of corporate life in the insurance industry that prompted him to re-think his career. After considering many different options, he realized he wanted to turn his passion for golf into a business venture. Mr. Aguilar felt drawn to a golf simulator business concept he’d been researching for some time and decided to build his own indoor golf studio.

True Aim Indoor Golf

Mr. Aguilar is looking forward to hosting private corporate, small business and other group events. “Soon after opening, we had the opportunity host two small business groups, a birthday party and one larger fundraising golf group and it was a lot of fun to have them here with catered food and available beverages,” he said. “They all said they had a great time and would love to come back. We also plan to add some men and women’s leagues along with competitive play events,” he added. True Aim has implemented the published COVID-19 guidelines issued by the state of Kansas and Johnson County.

True Aim Indoor Golf

True Aim Indoor Golf KC is currently open 6 days a week, Tuesday through Sunday, and by appointment only on Mondays. “We offer a lot to golfers of all abilities. The swing analysis provides immediate practice feedback you can’t get at an outdoor range. They can play simulated rounds of golf at thousands of courses. We also have golf instruction with our own in-house 25 year PGA teaching professional, Jim Powell,” Mr. Aguilar stated. “We have a fantastic place to play and practice indoors and it’s never too hot, too cold or too wet so the weather is always perfect,” he added. He also points out that many golfers appreciate the ability to precisely see how far they hit each club, learning their distances and their gaps as they work through their bag on the simulators.

True Aim Indoor Golf

Our staff recently gave it a shot, comparing the distances we thought we hit our clubs with what the simulators told us. Overall, we felt it was far more accurate than we had seen at other local retail shops, but with multiple swings with our own clubs, the dispersion and the ranges of each club was eye-opening. One of us who claims to hit his 7-iron “about 170”, saw solid hits reach 177 yards while slightly off-center strikes only reached 162 yards. In retrospect, he felt that was probably about right and was tantamount to coming up a little short or barely reaching the green or really catching one solid and flying a bit past the pin. Of course, he asked us not to include or comment on a few bad swings with poor contact where the results varied quite a bit more.

True Aim Indoor Golf

Currently, an hour of golf costs $39 for up to 4 players in a hitting bay but golfers signing up for a $50 annual membership enjoy a $6 discount each time they play or practice. Juniors 17 and Under and Seniors over 62 also enjoy a $10 discount. Gift Cards are available for any occasion. True Aim Indoor Golf KC is located at 14870 Metcalf in Overland Park in the Heatherwood Village shopping center and can be reached at 913-283-7044, or check them out on Facebook, Instagram and Google. We would recommend giving them a call to check on tee time availability, private and catered event rates, and PGA Instruction.