Sunflower Hills – Scenic Beauty in Wyandotte County

Sunflower Hills benefits from location and unique design
By David Smale

They are common terms around golf courses. But “traffic” and “up and down” have different meanings at Sunflower Hills Golf Course in Kansas City, Kan.

Traffic, in this case, has nothing to do with how many people walk through the doors with the intention of playing golf. Located at the intersection of Interstate 70 and Highway 7, 40,000 to 50,000 cars pass by the road that leads directly to the course. That puts Sunflower Hills in the path of plenty of traffic.

There is another type of traffic that is very evident from the course, and we’re not talking about the holes on the course that border I-70 close enough that a very errant tee shot could end up on the interstate.

Kansas Speedway and its millions of dollars in tourism continue to benefit the course and the surrounding area, the constant hum of 40-plus 850-horsepower engines less than a mile away on race weekends notwithstanding.

“The Speedway development was very beneficial for us,” said Jeff Johnson, the course professional at Sunflower Hills who has been there for 38 of the course’s 42 years of existence.

“The people who helped build the speedway, Turner Construction, built our six-hole junior course, which is in the park adjacent to the course. They did it at no cost to us. They were very benevolent. That’s a good feature for us to help kids learn how to play.

“The Legends development has been good for us as well, because they put in at least six new hotels. We get a lot of people who come to our course when they come to town.”

Sunflower Hills course

The Speedway opening initially hurt Sunflower Hills on race weekends. Johnson said that people were fearful of the traffic surrounding the race. “Once people learned how to manipulate around the time and traffic pattern,” he said, “that’s no longer the case.

“We do see quite a few fans who come over and play, either the Thursday or Friday before or the day after the races. We don’t get the NASCAR drivers as much as we get a lot of the support people to come over and play. We do see a lot of the same faces a couple of times every year.”

The stability at Sunflower Hills goes beyond Johnson and his clubhouse manager, Chuck Ettinger, who has been there since the course opened. It traces back to the Unified Government of Wyandotte County. Johnson said that the Unified Government has been on the course’s side from the beginning.

“We have a commitment from the Unified Government to have a very nice product for the public,” Johnson said. “It’s not a typical municipal golf course in the respect that we really pay attention to the condition of the course. We try to keep the greens in the best condition possible. The same with the fairways. They’ve always had that commitment, and they’ve done a good job of supporting us. We have the same budget problems that everybody else does, but we’ve been able to have a good reputation of having a well-maintained course.”

Sunflower Hills course

It’s also a course that takes “up and down” down a different path.

“The challenge is that you never experience a level lie,” Johnson said. “There’s always some sort of pitch to your lie, which makes it tricky. When the course was built, they just took the terrain they had. The only dirt they moved was to level out the greens and the tee boxes. They didn’t do a whole lot of shaping of the fairways.

”Up-and-down can be used to describe your day on the course. It’s a good walk. We do have some people who walk the course, but most use carts.”

Designed by famed golf course architect Roger Packard, the course uses some of Packard’s more successful designs. Packard and his father designed a well-known course in Tampa called Innisbrook Golf Resort. Johnson, who has played Innisbrook, sees plenty of similarities.

“The terrain is the hilliest in Florida, though there aren’t a lot of hills in Florida,” Johnson said. “There are four or five holes that have a big similarity to holes on their course. There’s a par-5 that looks just like our hole No. 1. They have a par-4 that looks just like our hole No. 7.”

One of those Packard designs that’s evident at Sunflower Hills is in the form of large greens. That’s good and bad for golfers.

“The greens are big, so you have to be good at putting,” Johnson said. “Big greens are good, because it’s easier to hit them. But if you’re on the green, you might leave yourself some really long putts.

Sunflower Hills course

“Also, the way the course sits, most of the holes are cross-wind. The prevailing winds come out of the south or the north, and all but four holes lay out primarily east to west or west to east. That makes shots a lot more difficult.”

Though not patterned after Augusta National, Sunflower Hills has its own “Amen Corner” that challenges golfers through a difficult stretch of holes. It starts on hole 13 and runs through 17.

Hole 14 is Johnson’s favorite. “It doglegs to the right and has a couple of ponds on it,” he said. “It’s a longer hole, but it’s not so long that you can’t reach it in regulation. No. 15 is our most difficult hole.

“If you can get through that stretch without too many bogeys and double-bogeys, you’re doing pretty good. That’s where the challenge is.”

Wrapping up the round is hole 18, with its forced carry over the water. “From the red tees, it’s a pretty good poke to get it over the water,” Johnson said. “Some golfers will lay up, but some try to beat the challenge.

“If people are looking for a good test of golf, regardless of their level, this is it. The beginner, all the way up to the very good golfer, will get a challenge. By shortening up the course, we’ve made it so that the beginners can have a good time. The hills and the cross winds make it a challenge for the best golfers.”

A challenge for the best golfers on a municipal course. There’s another new definition that applies at Sunflower Hills.

Important Updates at Paradise Pointe

Golfers who value lush conditions will have another reason to play the Paradise Pointe Golf Complex in Smithville north of Kansas City.

A new irrigation system is going in on every hole of the 18-hole Posse and Outlaw courses and the four-hole Academy practice course. The $3 million project began in the second week of May and will take six months.

Each sprinkler head will be individually controllable, allowing selective watering for uniform turf conditions instead of some areas being too wet or too dry, said Eddie Hall, general manager and director of golf at Paradise Pointe.

“It’s going to be easier to water everything, and more importantly, to water correctly,” Hall said.

The work is being done without interrupting play, with no need for temporary tees or greens during excavation. No more than four holes will be worked on at a time.

updates paradise pointe

The work is being paid for as part of a Clay County-approved bond issue and requires no tax or golf fee increases, Hall said. Hall manages Paradise Pointe under a contract with the county.

Hall said Paradise Pointe is fortunate that the Clay County Commission and administration keep investing in the courses.

“These improvements at Paradise Pointe not only will benefit our local golfers but golfers across the Midwest,” Hall said.

Another project going on during the irrigation work is the conversion of fairways at the Posse into Zoysia grass. Zoysia strips are being laid as irrigation is completed on each hole. The Outlaw course already has Zoysia fairways.

The two courses at Paradise Pointe lay along Smithville Lake, with some holes surrounded by water in a setting unique to the Kansas City area.  All the water for the courses comes from the lake.

updates paradise pointe

Paradise Pointe, at 18212 Golf Course Road in Smithville, opened in 1982 with the completion of the Posse. In 1994, the Outlaw opened adjacent to the Posse. The course names derived from Jesse James, the outlaw who had lived in Clay County.

Play at Paradise Pointe is up from a year ago, Hall said.

I”m seeing a lot of new faces, and as a golf course new faces equals more play,” Hall said.

Hall said Paradise Pointe, 20 minutes north of downtown Kansas City, draws from a wide area and is a destination of visitors from Iowa and other states to the north, especially when the weather is colder up there.

“People come back to Paradise Pointe because we have two unique golf courses, and because of the experience we give them here,” Hall said. “Our goal is that when they come here they will have fun and that their day is better when the leave than when they arrived.”

The condition of the course is also paramount to the players and big reason they return, Hall said. Each course gets about the same amount of play, he said.

updates paradise pointe

Both courses are hilly with plenty of trees. The Posse is a traditional layout while the Outlaw is links-style, with a front nine that does not return to the clubhouse. Each course is a par 72. They are both about 6,500 yards from the back tees and there are four tee boxes. Both courses can be walked.

The signature holes are those along the water, especially the 4th on the Posse, where the fairway borders the lake on the left and the green is on a peninsula. The next hole, a par 3, requires a tee shot over water.

Water borders the left of the 9th hole on the Outlaw, almost surrounds the green on 10 and runs along the 11th.

The four-hole Academy course for practice has two par 5s, a par 3 and a par 4.

Paradise is popular for banquets, weddings, reunions, other social events and more than 100 tournaments annually. Charitable or corporate outings for groups of 16 to 144 players or more can be accommodated and the complex has a 4,000 square foot banquet room.

updates paradise pointe

Paradise Pointe continues to be known for its wide selection of golf equipment in the pro shop. Hall and his staff fit clubs on the practice range to find the best length, shaft stiffness and loft for particular players.

Lessons at Paradise Pointe have helped many players with their games.

“I believe that a lot of problems can be solved if you go back to basics, and that goes back to alignment, grip and things like that,” Hall said. “Players stray away from that without even knowing that they are.”

Information the golf course, green fees, leagues, memberships, lessons and social events can be found at paradisepointegolf.com or by calling the pro shop at 816-532-4100.

Start Your Golf Year at the Kansas City Golf Show

Kansas City Golf Show

There’s nothing like the annual Kansas City Golf Show to get people hyped about spring and the upcoming golf season. This year’s three-day show starts on Friday, Feb. 15 at the Overland Park Convention Center, and features the newest models of golf clubs, racks upon racks of used equipment, golf clinics, and dozens of sponsor booths. All that you maybe knew – but did you know it also offers up to 17 rounds of free green fees  just for buying a ticket?

“That’s a record amount of free golf for this show,” said Brian Beaky, director of communications for Varsity Communications, Inc., a spokesman for the show.  “If you wanted to, you could walk in the door, buy a ticket, walk out and get 17 rounds of golf.”

Tickets and other important details:

  • Tickets are $15 for adults and $13 for seniors over 60, veterans, police and firefighters.
  • Kids 12 and under are free.
  • Saturday is kids’ day at the show, where they’ll find giveaways, a junior putting contest and drawings for free lessons and other prizes.
  • Hours of the show are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday the 15th, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday the 16th, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday the 17th.

golf show

The free rounds include one at a Champions level GreatLIFE KC course, one at Mules National Golf Club in Warrensburg, Mo., one at Old Kinderhook at Camdenton, Mo., and 13 on the Lake of the Ozarks Golf Trail courses. The 17th round is at Brookridge Golf & Fitness for the first 400 attendees each day. An additional round at a GreatLIFE course is available for people who buy a ticket online at kansascitygolfshow.com. The free golf generally covers only green fees, with cart fee required. The golf also must be played within certain time frames. The restrictions are detailed on kansascitygolfshow.com.

Finally – a couple other bonuses:

  • Everybody attending the show also gets a $10 coupon for Topgolf and a $25 credit for the TeeOff by PGA tee time service.
  • A three-day package ticket for $49 buys admission all three days, a bonus 13 Lake of the Ozarks Golf Trail passport, a round at Lodge of the Four Seasons, $10 in coupons for games at the show, and other extras. The total return is worth $962, according to show organizers.

Long, though quick-moving, lines are expected at the show’s 11 a.m. Friday opening, Beaky said. The next busiest time is about 1 p.m. on Saturday, he said.

“More than anything else, people want to come out and see the new golf clubs,” Beaky said. “The cool thing is that the Kansas City show is shortly after the PGA merchandise show, so golfers in Kansas City are some of the first in the entire country to see the newest drivers and other clubs.” All the new clubs can be tested in nets set up by vendors at the show. Representatives of all the top brand names will be available for consultation and club fitting.

golf show

A big trend at the show in recent years has been higher amounts of used clubs and other equipment being sold. “We used to have complaints that there was not enough of it,” Beaky said. “Now there are racks and racks of drivers, irons, shoes and tons of other apparel.”

The show also features putting, chipping, long drive, and closest to the pin contests for fun and prizes. The weekend-long event typically draws about 8,500 people over the three days, Beaky said. Weather can dictate turnout, with cold weather sending people to the show, and balmy conditions having a dampening effect, he said, because people hit the course instead.

The continued strong turnout for the show belies the notion that golf is waning in popularity due to competition for everyone’s entertainment time and money, Beaky said. There is a trend, though, toward corporate ownership of multiple courses as opposed to “mom and pop” course, he said. Golf has received a boost from Topgolf, such as the one on Nall Avenue just north of Interstate 435. At Topgolf, people can hit balls at a variety of outdoor targets from covered tee boxes flanked by restaurant and bar seating.
“Topgolf has been one of the huge growers of the game for the past five years,” Beaky said. “The CEO told us that 70 percent of the people who go to Top golf have never played golf before, but that most of them later go out and play a round of golf.”

golf show

Topgolf is among more than 100 sponsors and exhibitors at the show. Many local and regional golf courses and golf resorts will have booths at the show, with special rate promotions. There will also be booths for home, garden and landscaping improvements, as well as fitness, health, recreational offerings.

“There is really no end to the amount of things you can get out of the show,” Beaky said.

For more information, checkout the Kansas City Golf Show’s website…and we’ll see you at the Show.

Off the Tee: A Review of Current Drivers

The old adage: “Drive for show, putt for dough” only works if your driver works. If your driver is a “no show,” the dough is long gone before you get to putt.

With that in mind, there’s never been a better time to find a driver that fits your swing. Instead of trying to change your swing to fit the driver you bought, it’s time to buy a driver that fits your swing.
You’re a golfer who “grips it and rips it”? Find a driver that helps you control aim and trajectory. You’re more of a cautious driver who doesn’t get too far down the fairway? Find a driver that will not take away from your accuracy but will help your distance? If you’re happy to be able to find your ball after your drive, there’s a driver for you too.

The trend among many golf-club manufacturers seems to be toward forgiveness, at least if you listen to the marketing. A lot of the manufacturers are adding enhancements, or changing designs, to benefit the “at risk” golfer.
Manufacturers are still pouring millions of dollars into advertising their drivers. They know that every hole starts with your drive, and therefore your feelings about that hole, or maybe even your entire round, will be affected by how you’re doing off the tee.
They have some creative names for those drivers, like “King Cobra” and “Launcher,” which remind you that “size matters” to some technical names like the Ping G400, Calloway GBB Rouge Series and the Titleist TS2 and TS3 drivers, which don’t tell you anything about the clubs. You’ll have to believe them that it will work for you.
Here are just a few drivers that are grabbing attention of solution-seeking golfers.

cobra king driver

King Cobra
Technically called the Cobra King, the F8 and F8+ drivers’ precise weight-saving tolerances are designed to lead to better performance. Cobra uses automated computer milling to form its titanium face inserts. This saves weight and allows the face to feature subtle curvature for more speed and higher launch on mishits. The high-launching F8 and low-spin F8+ have lightweight carbon-composite crowns and movable sole weights.
“The KING F8 Driver introduces COBRA’s first CNC milled driver face paired with 360° Aero™ Technology, bringing you COBRA’s smartest, fastest, most precise driver ever,” according to the company’s web site. “(It has an) oversized shape for maximum forgiveness.
“The KING F8+ Driver (has) tour-preferred shape for maximum workability.”

cleveland launcher driver

Cleveland Launcher
Cleveland is one of the major manufacturers that is thinking about the average golfer as much as the professional. The design of the Launcher means the club has no moving parts. There is no adjustable hosel and no movable weights. It might seem basic, but the simplicity serves a purpose.
Cleveland engineers believe that most golfers need forgiveness on mis-hits and a higher launch. Any feature that doesn’t work toward those objectives is a waste of material and unnecessarily confusing. Here, all the weight saved from not having adjustable features is pushed low and deep for higher launch and added forgiveness for off-center hits. A stepped crown and sole are designed to enhance the flexing of the face for better distance.

TaylorMade M4 driver

TaylorMade M4
The new M4 driver is the more forgiving and non-moveable weight relation to the M3. It replaces the M2 version from last year. It bears the same facial features as the M3, with the latest “Twist Face” design, a new take on the age-old “bulge and roll” design of woods. This vertical and horizontal curvature of the face creates a gear effect that puts opposite spin on the ball. The effect of that spin aims to cause mis-hit drives to head back towards where they were intended.
What TaylorMade has done is re-visit this fundamental belief of face design and, through analysis of data from 500,000 shots, saw that most players will miss the center low in the heel or high in the toe.
High-toe shots that come off with less spin and a draw bias hopefully will have a higher launch with extra spin than before because the contour of the Twist Face adds this. The reverse is true for the heel area where a delofted area takes spin off and changes the face angle to stop the ball from going high and to the right.
The difference between the M3 and the M4 is slight. The M3 features the Y-Track, which has a simple and intuitive system to move weight and personalize ball flight for draw/fade/high/low. Tracks are connected for the first time, allowing for an unrestricted movement of 22g of mass. The back Y-portion provides forgiving draw and fade options. Splitting the weights provides the ultimate in forgiveness.
The M4 features is shaped for a solid and more explosive sound. It also has a reduced sole volume enables a larger, more forgiving face.

g400 driver

Ping G400
Ping also is trying to push the limits of how to make your worst misses more playable. The G400 comes in four models, including its standard model, the low-spin LST, the slice-fighting SFT and the new oversize Max that is designed for stability.
The large front-to-back shape and thin crown work with a tungsten weight deep in the sole to make these Ping’s most forgiving heads ever, even though all but the Max are smaller than any G-series driver in history. All four designs feature Ping’s familiar drag-reducing ridges on the crown to make the large head glide through the air like a much smaller driver.
The Ping web site describes the Max as “a great fit for players looking to add distance through unprecedented stability and forgiveness. Longer, straighter drives result from the highest total MOI ever in a PING driver, the function of extreme tungsten weighting and a higher-density backweight in the multi-material 460cc design.”

callaway rogue driver

Callaway Rogue Series
“A Golf Digest 2018 Hot List Gold Medal Winner, the Rogue Driver delivers exceptional ball speed from the combination of our new Jailbreak Technology and X-Face VFT plus increased MOI for a breakthrough in driver performance.”
The Callaway web site is quite proud of the new Rogue driver, and, starting at $499, the cost reflects that.
The Rogue driver comes in various shapes and sizes, including the Draw Custom Driver and the Sub Zero Custom Driver. They all feature a series of technologies that work together to promote faster ball speed. Two in particular—Jailbreak and X-Face VFT (Variable Face Thickness) technology—support each other in an especially critical way.
Jailbreak’s function remains the same. The bars’ position inside the head, behind the face, effectively stiffens the body to prevent the crown and sole from deforming and bulging outward at impact. That changes how the face behaves at impact, allowing it to focus more energy on the ball. Callaway calls that “Energy Lensing,” and it promotes more ball speed for longer distance.
What has changed about Jailbreak is the shape and weight of the bars. Their new, hourglass shape makes them 25 percent lighter than first-generation Jailbreak bars.

ts3 driver

Titleist TS2 and TS3
Titleist’s brand new TS series seems to be focused on the high-level players. The drivers were just made available to the public this month. According to them: “It began with a challenge from the game’s greatest players. A mission to solicit speed from every detail of the driver, embarked on by a collection of uniquely-gifted R&D minds. The TS Project is a peerless pursuit of speed where every micron and milligram matter.
“Our new Speed Chassis is the result of a two-year mission to deconstruct the driver and then design greater speed into every detail. Now available in two designs, each born to bring the future of Titleist speed to your game.”
Titleist claims the thinnest titanium crown in the game, which “allows weight to be shifted lower and deeper.”
There is a difference between the TS2 and TS3. The TS2 lets you swing aggressive with maximum forgiveness across the face, while TS3 offers an adjustable sweet spot for speed-tuned performance.

By David Smale

Hodge Park – Brains Over Brawn

One of Kansas City’s best golf values is Hodge Park Golf Course in Kansas City, Mo. The 5707-yard course (from the white tees) is not long, but there are plenty of challenges, with lots of risks and rewards. A smart player has a good chance to win over a masher.
The best example of that is the 10th hole. The 371-yard par 4 is actually much shorter as the crow flies. But going for the green is not a wise idea. In fact, probably the best play is an iron off the tee to a little right of the middle of the fairway that leaves a 150-yard shot to a wide-open green. But most golfers won’t take the best angle, instead opting to cut the corner.

Thick brush to the left makes it impossible to see the green, and difficult to find your shot if you don’t clear the trees to the narrow fairway beyond. Even muscling up will leave you a difficult approach because of woods on the far side of the fairway.
“I try to draw it over the trees to the right to fit it into the right side of the fairway,” said Tim Underwood, the general manager and club professional of Hodge Park. “Most people are trying to draw too close to the trees to the left. You’ve got to get it near the 150-yard post to have a shot at the green.”

hodge park golf course

Hodge Park has been part of the community since 1973. There are plenty of elevation changes, especially for a course in the Midwest. The fairways are green and lush, and the greens are smooth and fair. Underwood says that they use creeping bent grass on the greens, which tends to heal more quickly than most bent-grass greens.
One of the reasons the course is in such great shape, according to Underwood, is that his team works really hard. He’s been there for 17 years, as has most of his staff. Consistency in the staff really makes a difference.
“Every golf course has personality,” he said. “If you stick with the same staff, you can get some pretty good results, because they know and can attack the problem areas.” And having a standard maintenance routine allows them to be a step ahead of the trouble, instead of just reacting.
With the 18-hole course measuring significantly less than 6,000 yards, it’s no surprise that there are plenty of short holes. There are three par-4s under 300 yards, and all the par-4s but one are under 400 yards. But nearly every “short” hole has major punishment if you’re not perfect with your drive.

hodge park golf course

For example, hole 6 is 269 yards on the scorecard. It’s mostly downhill approaching the green, with the green uphill a little from the lowest spot. But first-time players may not realize that there’s a lake at that lowest spot, a lake which stretches from the rough on the left to the trees on the right.
If you hit your drive between 220 and 240, you’re wet. If you’re right or left, you’ll risk losing your ball in the rough. Even if you drive the green, you’d better have some back spin, because prairie grass behind the green has an insatiable appetite for golf balls.
“In order to drive that green, you pretty much need to be able to drive it 280 yards (from the back tees),” Underwood said. “You’ve got trouble left, trouble right and trouble behind. You don’t have a lot of room. So it’s not a smart shot to go for the green. It’s a fun shot, but not a smart shot.”
The greens are relatively large and flat, appropriate for the shots that are expected to land there. Hole 1 has a large green, because most golfers will require a long iron or a fairway wood to reach it on their second shot. The green on hole 2 is smaller, because a driver and a wedge will get you there, and most golfers have better control of their wedge.

hodge park golf course

The course is designed for the average golfer, which has served Hodge Park well over the years. Underwood says that once golfers consistently shoot in the low 80s or high 70s, they’ll move on to longer, more-challenging courses in the area, like neighboring Shoal Creek, also owned by Kemper Sports Management. But there are plenty of golfers for whom Hodge Park is a perfect fit.
“It doesn’t play 5,700 yards,” Underwood said. “We have a lot of meandering dog-legs, which makes it play tougher. The only really drivable holes are 6 and 14 for your regular player.
“When they built this course, it was built with the guy who is not a good golfer in mind. You’re going to get a little confidence playing this course. It’s not going to beat you up.”
The greens fees are very reasonable, fitting for a course designed for the casual golfer. Daytime fees are $24 walking and $40 riding, and the course is walkable for most golfers. Weekend rates are $28/$44, with senior rates (over 60) $18/$34. All the rates are available at the course’s web site: hodgeparkgolf.com.

hodge park golf course

Hole 10 certainly is a signature hole for Hodge Park, but it’s not the only one. How many courses do you know where there’s a large tree positioned at 180 yards off the tee right in the middle of the fairway?
Hole 15 has that, which hides the fact that the northern edge of a large lake that meanders through the course juts into the fairway. If you go around that big tree to the right, you’re wet again. Another hidden tree behind the first one makes approach shots difficult because you have to elevate quickly to get over it. The only safe tee shot is to the left of the big tree, leaving a high loft approach to the elevated green.
Hodge Park has a very inviting 18th hole. It’s more of a bend to the right than a dog-leg. The cluster of trees in the right rough blocks your view of the green from the tee box. But other than that, those trees don’t affect shots. A nice fade (for righties) that starts left will leave an easy approach to the large green.
But at 277 yards there’s a tug on the ego to try and drive it. Underwood has a word of caution if that’s your choice.
“You can drive it all the way to the green if you’re long,” he said. “In a match yesterday, I just hit an easy drive short of the green. My opponent tried to hit it hard and he hit it into the gunch on the right. He lost his ball, and the match.
“It was a case of brains winning out over brawn.”

-by David Smale

Paradise Pointe – A Full Golf Experience

For the full golf experience, it’s hard to beat Paradise Pointe Golf Complex in Smithville.

Paradise point is unique in Kansas City for having two 18-hole golf courses, plus a four-hole practice course.  The two courses are built along Smithville Lake, offering not only sweeping views of the lake but several holes where water lines fairways or surrounds greens.

Just as the courses are memorable, so is the pro shop. Paradise Pointe prides itself on having the largest and most varied selection of fitted clubs and other golf equipment in Kansas City.

paradise pointe golf course

Paradise Pointe is also set up to host large golf events, with a 4,000-square-foot banquet room for post-golf activities as well as wedding receptions, reunions, large parties or public presentations.

The person at the controls at Paradise Point is Eddie Hall, general manager and director of golf. He has for many years held the contract with property owner Clay County top operate Paradise Pointe.

paradise pointe golf course

Hall has a simple way to measure whether Paradise Pointe has a winning model: people come back.
“We get a lot of repeat business because the course is in very good condition and we take care of our customer when they come in,” Hall said. “They have a good all-around golf experience.”

Paradise Pointe, at 18212 Golf Course Road in Smithville, opened in 1982 with the completion of the Posse. In 1994, the Outlaw opened adjacent to the Posse. The course names derived from Jesse James, the outlaw who had lived in Clay County.

paradise pointe golf course

Both courses have rolling, wooded terrain. The Posse is more compact while the Outlaw is links-style, with a front nine that does not return to the clubhouse. Each course is a par 72. They are both about 6,500 yards from the back tees and there are four tee boxes. Both courses are walkable.
While the Outlaw has slightly higher course and slope ratings, Hall says scoring is roughly the same on each course.

“To me, there is more shot-making required on the Posse because of the undulating fairways that are more narrow,” Hall said. “The Outlaw has wider fairways. You can still get into trouble but not as much as the target golf of the Posse.”

The signature holes are those along the water. Especially memorable is the 4th on the Posse, where the fairway borders the lake on the left and the green is on a peninsula. The next hole, a par 3, requires a tee shot over water.

paradise pointe golf course

Water borders the left of the 9th hole on the Outlaw, almost surrounds the green on 10 and runs along the 11th.

The Outlaw has zoysia grass, the Posse bluegrass. The dry summer has taken a toll on area golf courses but Paradise Pointe benefits from drawing its water out of Smithville Lake, Hall said.

The woods and water that surround Paradise Pointe make it popular with wildlife. Golfers commonly see deer, wild turkey, bobcats and variety of birds on the course, Hall said.

paradise pointe golf course

Paradise Pointe, about 20 minutes north of downtown Kansas City, not only draws players from the metro area but from other states, especially ones to the north such as Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota, Hall said.

Golfers like being able to play two courses at the same location, especially if they come in from out of state, Hall said. The four-hole Academy course for practice has proved popular, Hall said. It has two par 5s, a par 3 and a par 4. Golfers can practice a variety of shots long and short. It’s popular with beginners and experienced players, Hall said.

With its banquet room and dual courses, Paradise Point pulls in more than 100 tournaments per year, Hall said. Charitable or corporate outings for groups of 16 to 144 players or more can be accommodated.

paradise pointe golf course

In the clubhouse, Paradise Pointe continues to have a wide range of golf clubs and other equipment at a time when many other courses have given way to big box stores by trimming their inventory.

“We are not cutting back and we are very competitive on price and selection,” Hall said. The club has periodic sales, including a customer appreciation sale in October.

Hall fits clubs using the latest technology to find the best length, shaft stiffness and loft for particular players. He observes players hitting on the range to do the fitting.

paradise pointe golf course

“The best thing about our clubs and the reason people keep coming back is they do not hit into a net during the fitting,” Hall said. Customers and Hall can observe the shape, trajectory and length of various clubs in a way not possible when hitting into a net, he said.
“A lot more people today understand the need to get fitted for clubs rather than to get something off the rack,” Hall said.
Hall said there is a continuing trend in what players want most out their clubs.
“People are still chasing that distance,” he said. “They always have and they always will.”

Information the golf course, green fees, leagues, memberships, lessons and social events can be found at paradisepointegolf.com or by calling the pro shop at 816-532-4100.

Tomahawk Hills – Blending the Old and the New

The next time one of your out-of-town buddies tells you that Kansas is flat and boring, take him to Tomahawks Hills Golf Course in Shawnee.
The 5,978-yard course (from the blue tees) is more like two courses played at different elevations. The course is still in Kansas, so we’re talking about differences of a few hundred feet, but there’s a definite separation.
With numerous hidden greens and sloped fairways, the par-70 course is challenging but fair. The challenge mostly revolves around the uniqueness of almost every hole. Many of the visible greens are crowned, making perfect approach shots almost necessary.
“This is totally different than any other course in Kansas City,” head pro Jay Lispi said. “It’s hard. There are a lot of trees and you have to hit it straight. On most of the greens, the best place to miss it is short.”

tomahawk hills golf course

Tomahawk Hills challenges you right from the start with a 550-yard par 5. It’s a straight hole with big trees on both sides that make the fairway seem narrower than it really is. A par-3 second hole and a par-4 third hole lead you to an apparent dead end.
But after a sizeable climb up the hill, you’re on the “second course” for the rest of the front-9. Well, most of it, as you’ll leave the upper portion on your tee shot on No. 9.

Hole No. 4 is a simple 410-yard par 4, followed by a reachable 269-yard par 4. The challenge on No. 5 is that you can’t see the green from the tee box and there’s sand around the green. Do you blast away and hope you’re straight, or do you lay up for an easy approach shot? Welcome to Tomahawk Hills.

A deceiving uphill par-3 plays longer than the 141 yards listed on the scorecard for No. 6, followed by the second par-5 on the front nine, a straight, narrow 476-yarder with trees tight on the left side most of the way.
No. 8 is another par-4 that appears reachable, but your tee shot must be crushed. The 315-yard measurement is as the crow flies, but the terrain goes downhill before it goes back up, with the green a little higher than the tee box. It’s a fairly safe hole, however, as the fairway is wide and the rough is spacious.

tomahawk hills golf course

Tomahawk Hills is unique in that both sides conclude with par-3s, the third par-3 on each side, accounting for the par-70 for the whole course. But simply calling 9 and 18 “par-3s” is like calling Dustin Johnson “long.”
The tee box at No. 9 allows you to see the green and the landing area in front, but very little in between. You’ll start at nearly the highest elevation on the course and if you land it properly you’ll be at nearly the lowest. The 194-yards plays more like 164 as gravity adds to your drive. The sister green of No. 18 lies to your left, giving you plenty of landing area.
There’s plenty of distance between the 9th green and the 10th tee, giving you a chance to see the refurbished clubhouse. Tomahawk Hills, built in 1910, is the oldest golf course in the Kansas City metro area. But the clubhouse—the only “house” on the course—was redone in 2011.
Tomahawk is owned by Johnson County Department of Parks and Recreation, which also owns Heritage Park Golf Course in Olathe. Tomahawk’s clubhouse is a modern facility that has a banquet room, lounge, dining area and large wrap-around front porch that overlooks the 9th and 18th greens and practice area.

tomahawk hills golf course

Just like the front nine, the back nine starts with a challenge. No. 10 is just 365 yards, but a creek running through the fairway about 200 yards off the tee, and plenty of rough and trees, force you to make a tough decision right away. If you choose the driver, you have to hit it perfectly to avoid trouble. If you lay up but stay too far right, you’ll have to hit over a large group of trees to a hidden green.
Another uphill par-3 follows and plays longer than the 170 yards on the scorecard. With a big drop-off to the left and out-of-bounds to the right, the only choice is straight, which is easier said than done.
Another winding uphill climb takes you back up to the upper course. You might see more than you expect on a public golf course in Kansas. “You are going to see a lot of wildlife out here, including deer and turkeys,” Lispi said. “It’s a pretty course and most holes are kind of individual. Only a couple of them border each other.”
Holes 12 and 13 are both par-4s with slight bends to the fairways. No. 12 turns slightly to the right going steadily uphill, while No. 13 bends back to the left on another reachable par-4. The 282-yard hole is another one where the green is not visible from the tee.
Reachable is in the distant past as the next two holes are dueling par-5s, the only two on the back nine, another unique feature of Tomahawk Hills. No. 14 is 533 yards straight east, with plenty of trees on the right. No. 15 heads back straight west for 539 yards. Multiple elevation changes make No. 15 particularly difficult.

tomahawk hills golf course

After those exhaustive twin holes, a pencil-thin, 185-yard par-3 requires a straight shot to avoid ample trouble. Scattered trees to the right are more appealing than the thick woods to the left. As you’re putting on another crowned green on 16, you can’t help but notice the fairway of hole No. 17 to your left.
The portion of the fairway that’s visible looks more like Turn 2 at Talladega than a fairway in Kansas, but the hole is one of the more unique designs in Kansas City golf. The hole is listed at 405 yards, but if you want to live dangerously and go over the trees, you can leave an easy pitch to the green. Of course, you can only see about 200 yards off the tee, so you have to be good and lucky to find your drive if you choose to live dangerously.

tomahawk hills golf course

If your adrenalin is not pumping after finishing 17, No. 9’s evil twin awaits. No. 18 allows you to see the flag—barely—but even less than No. 9 short of the flag. At 197 yards, it’s not impossible to have a really good shot. My playing partner was three feet from his first hole-in-one. But if you’re off-line, as I was, you’ll have some adventure finding your tee shot.
The staff at Tomahawk Hills, led by Lispi, has done a great job of keeping the old girl looking fresh and inviting. Take the time to visit, just west of Interstate 435 on Midland Road.

By David Smale

Tiffany Greens – Fun is Now Par for the Course

With smaller bunkers, shorter rough and new forward tees, Tiffany Greens Golf Club is trying to make fun par for the course.

While still a challenging 6,648 and 7,055 yards from the two back tees, Tiffany Greens has responded to laments of the average and casual golfers that the course was too long and difficult, said Head Golf Professional Doyle Harris.

The Northland course opened in 1999 during the “Tiger Boom” when golf was peaking in popularity and courses were made longer and harder, Harris said. As years passed, golf started losing business to other recreational endeavors.

tiffany greens golf course

“People were getting frustrated with how tough the game was and we wanted to make it easier and more fun for them,” Harris said.

Research showed that the course was about 1,000 yards too long for most players, so Tiffany Greens decided last year to build 14 new forward tee boxes to enable short hitters to have a chance to reach greens in regulation. Work continues on those tee boxes, but meanwhile tee markers have been moved up and added and there are now five sets intended for players of all levels.

Tiffany Greens also determined that it had too many large bunkers, many with severe lips, that caught too many shots and were too difficult to escape.  The high-edge bunkers also tended to wash out in heavy rain. Most of the 42 traps were shrunk and the lips eliminated. A few traps that were not often in play were replaced with all-grass turf.

tiffany greens golf course

Rough was cut shorter to help golfers recover more easily from wayward shots. Players of all ages and abilities gained from the change.

“We are trying to make the game more family-friendly,” Harris said.

Designed by Robert Trent Jones II, the par-72 Tiffany Greens has always been considered a premier course in Kansas City. The course hosted the U.S. Senior Tour’s TD Waterhouse Championship in the early years. Signed photos and flags from the event are displayed in the lower level of the clubhouse.

Tiffany Greens, just south of Kansas City International Airport at 5900 NW Tiffany Springs Parkway, meanders through woods and meadows on the front nine and through an upscale subdivision of homes on the back. Each hole is unique and provides golfers a good view of desired landing areas off the tee and in subsequent shots.

tiffany greens golf course

“The layout is unlike that of any other course,” Harris said. “It’s a layout you can play every day and enjoy. You do not have parallel holes or holes that are the same. But we don’t get gimmicky, either.”

The course is also known for its smooth and speedy greens, compliments of the ground grew headed by Superintendent Randy Cox.

The beauty and brawn of the course is perhaps most evident on the first hole, a downhill par 5 with a small lake that juts into the fairway from the right and gobbles up many a second shot. Harris said No. 1 is the signature hole and presents golfers with a second-shot choice of laying up to the left of the water or going over in hopes of reaching the green. The wind has a lot to do with how that hole is played, he said.

tiffany greens golf course

“It’s a hole where you can make eagle, it’s a hole where you can make 12,” Harris said. “It’s a hole everybody remembers.”

Harris said the finishing holes, 16, 17 and 18, also stand out. No. 16 is a par 5 and Nos. 17 and 18 and are par 4s.  All three are doglegs. “They are holes where a lot of things can happen,” Harris said.

Tiffany Greens is a course where most of the trouble is the left, with the notable exception of the first hole, Harris said.

In its efforts to broaden its appeal, Tiffany Greens has number of leagues and golf social groups, Harris said. One ladies golf group that had dwindled to ten players is now up to 40 to 50 on most evenings as the course was made more player-friendly and rules loosened, Harris said.

There is still a serious side to golf at Tiffany with leagues, tournaments and a young professional program for players under 30 and under 40.

tiffany greens golf course

Tiffany Greens is popular for weddings, reunions and other social events in its ballroom and dining areas.  The ballroom can host events for up to 200 people, under the guidance of Krissy Frewin, food and beverage manager. She can be reached at 816-880-9600, ext. 224 or at kfrewin@tiffanygreensgolf.com.

A dining area and deck for after-golf food and beverages overlooks the course.

The course sells golf apparel and equipment in the spacious pro shop. Players can be fitted for clubs at no extra cost.

Information on golf programs and memberships at Tiffany, along with green fees and details of the course can be found it its website, www.tiffanygreensgolf.com. The main phone number is 816-880-9600. Harris and the pro shop can be reached at ext. 206 and the pro shop at 208.

Kyle Hurst is general manager and PGA Director of Golf at Tiffany Greens. He is at ext. 223.  Either Harris or Hurst can provide more information on course offerings over the phone or via email. Harris is at dharris@tiffanygreensgolf.com and Hurst is at khurst@tiffanygreensgolf.com.

Shoal Creek – Making a Difference in Kansas City

Since 2001, Shoal Creek Golf Course has been among the top (if not the top) course in the Kansas City area. And that’s not just our assertion, the course has been recognized consistently as a top ten course in Missouri by GolfWeek and last year was the top rated Missouri course on GolfAdvisor.com.

“It’s nice to get that kind of feedback from golfers. [The GolfAdvisor rating] has nothing to do with professional reviewers; it’s just people who come out and want to leave a review. So, that’s really nice to get that bonus,” said Brett Plymell, General Manager.

When asked what resonates most with golfers and reviewers alike, he added, “We try to offer that ‘private club for a day’ experience. We try to offer better service than giving you a cart key and letting you go.  We try to make sure that each person that walks in the door feels like they’re a member for the day.”

shoal creek course

The course is truly a gem in the KC area, stretching to a maximum of 6983 yards, but with plenty of tee box options to accommodate all kinds of players. All carts are equipped with GPS to help golfers find their distance and keep pace of play moving along. The spacious practice facility has plenty of room for anyone warming up for the day or working on their game with twenty-five stations, six target greens, and a sizeable practice putting green measuring 6000 square feet.

Once on the course, golfers notice the attention paid to the routing and layout. No fairways run parallel to each other, and so it gives more of a secluded feel as you make your way around the course. Plymell commented, “You don’t ever see traffic from the other holes. It’s laid out very well – not up and down, side by side, but each hole feels like it’s own entity. When they designed the course they used the land really well, I think, to maximize the spacing and spread the course out more.”

He went on to note that while there is residential development on the course, it is not on all holes, and that all houses have a view only from the outer perimeter of the course, so they only sit along one side. There is planned to be additional residential development along a few holes, particularly on the front nine, but just like the current neighborhoods, they’ll be set well back of the fairways.

shoal creek course

The layout is just one aspect of the course’s allure, though. The pristine conditions are the other. While the course is always in excellent shape, what makes Shoal Creek stand out is the attention to the landscaping throughout the property – around the clubhouse, between holes, alongside the paths, and other areas.

Plymell noted, “Our whole grounds crew does a really good job keeping the whole property in good shape.  Our superintendant, Duane Sander, and his crew do a lot of landscape work around the property that I think makes it look fresh when you pull in.  Same as on the golf course.”

Perhaps it’s exactly the course and level of play that brings a number of events to Shoal Creek each year. They have partnered with the Ronald McDonald house and play host to the Trent Green even the last several years. They run a series of holiday events – most notably their St. Patrick’s day event, a Halloween Spooktacular tournament with an exceedingly tough setup, and an ever-popular Black Friday event when the weather permits.

shoal creek course

Also notable is a new event, the inaugural Rod Yeager Memorial Golf Tournament was held last year and the second iteration is already planned for September 9, 2018. Col. Yeager (USAF retired) was a former KCGA executive who passed away in February of 2017. The tournament benefits the PGA Reach/HOPE foundation that has a mission to provide golf as a therapeutic rehabilitation tool for all military veterans.

“It was the inaugural event last year, to help the foundation and their work offering free instruction or entry to the game to wounded veterans, whether they are suffering from physical or emotional/mental impacts of their service.  The first tournament last year raised $19,000 for the charity, which is great” he added. Goflers can register for this year’s event and support this worthy cause through the shoalcreekgolf.com website.

shoal creek course

He went on to add that there are a number of other efforts the course and its staff take on to help our veterans. “Kind of piggybacking on that are the free clinics we host for veterans throughout the summer.  Tom Watson helped us kick off the first of the clinics and then we do the instruction after that for seven weeks straight.  The PGA of America has gotten involved a lot more and Titlest has become the sponsor, so we have been able to provide a lot of good stuff for veterans throughout the summer this year.”

In addition to those programs, Shoal Creek is also working on growing the game with youngsters through a program called “Youth on Course.” The program provides $5 tee times to kids to make the game more accessible and affordable.

shoal creek course

Plymell share, “It’s a really good program that KCGA is now leading locally.  The way it works is kids can play, at limited times of the day, for $5.  That doesn’t include a cart, but it’s a pretty good deal.  There are several courses involved throughout the Kansas City area, so it’s a nice way to get juniors to go out and play affordable golf.”

Shoal Creek Golf Course is located at 8905 Shoal Creek Parkway in Kansas City Missouri. The course can be reached at 816-407-7242 or through their website: www.shoalcreekgolf.com and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Sunflower Hills – A Mainstay in the Middle of it All

sunflower featured

A lot has changed in western Wyandotte County in the last four decades, but not when it comes to championship golf.

Sunflower Hills, opened 1977, has been a mainstay during the development boom just to the east that includes the Legends shopping center, a casino, NASCAR track and stadiums the Kansas City Sporting and T-Bones.

Visible from Interstate 70 just east of Highway 7, Sunflower Hills is carved into rolling, wooded landscape that stretches over 7,000 yards from the back tees. You won’t find houses on Sunflower, one of its appeals, just a very engaging 18 holes of golf.

“The things we hear most about the course is how challenging it is and that it is so well-maintained,” said Jeff Johnson, manager and PGA master pro at Sunflower.

sunflower hills course

Surely, nobody knows Sunflower better than Johnson. He has been at the course for 37 years, or all but the first four years of its existence. He has a contract with Wyandotte County, to manage the club operations. The county owns the course and hires the maintenance staff.

Johnson grew up in Kansas City, graduating from Washington High School in KCK. He no longer plays in tournaments but has regular Sunday rounds with friends and keeps busy giving lessons to players at the course.

The course layout has not changed much in its 41 years. In 2003, zoysia fairways came to Sunflower, along with new cart paths and watering system. The only changes in recent years have been the removal of some diseased trees, Johnson said.

Two years ago, the course hired Jonathan Bennett, formerly at Kansas City Country Club, as superintendent. Johnson gives Bennett credit for the top condition of the greens and fairways at Sunflower.

sunflower hills course

The course has added some tee boxes on fairways to shorten the long course for some players. In all, it has five sets of tees. Designed by Roger Packard, the course features large but often elevated greens that require smart approach shots, preferably leaving the ball below the hole. The course has six dogleg holes.

“To me, the most difficult thing about the course is you never have a level lie, except on the tee,” Johnson said. “That is challenging to a lot of players.”

Trees are a factor, especially on holes 6, 9, 10 and 11. “Hole six is where the course starts turning a little difficult,” Johnson said.

Water becomes a real factor on holes 13, 14, 17 and 18. “Those four holes in particular really challenge the players as far as forced carries over water,” Johnson said.

sunflower hills course

Sunflower is 7,032 yards off the back tees. The other sets are 6,659 6,030, 5,838 and 5,107 yards. Slope and course ratings are relatively high.

While hilly, the best landing areas can be seen from the tee box. Drivers can be used off the par 4 and par 5 holes for most players.

Like all public courses, Sunflower has seen a steep decline in rounds played over the past 25 years, but play has leveled off in recent years, Johnson said

“It’s not like it was during the golf boom of the late 1980s and early 1990s when we did 55,000 to 60,000 rounds a year,” Johnson said. “The last few years we’ve averaged just over 30,000 rounds per year.”

sunflower hills course

Players at Sunflower typically come from surrounding neighborhoods as well as the Shawnee and Lenexa areas of Johnson County, Johnson said. A lot of players come down from Leavenworth and quite a bit of play is generated from hotels near the Legends, he said.

Green fees have not changed much in the past six or seven years, Johnson said.
The course is one of the most popular venues for leagues, especially seniors.

Sunflower has patron card and other discounts and can host group outings, tournament and special events. Information on all of course offerings are on it course website, www.sunflowerhillsgolfcourse.com.

Sunflower has a cozy clubhouse for drinks and food after golf, and large deck overlooking the ninth hole. The course has a fully stocked pro shop and offers club repair, grip replacement and other services.

sunflower hills course

Sunflower has a six-hole par 3 course for kids and beginners. Players check in at the Sunflower clubhouse. The small course is a very short drive away.

The Sunflower phone number is 913-573-8570. The address of the course is 12200 Riverview Avenue, Bonner Springs, KS 66012.

By Kevin Murphy