Shoal Creek – One of the Best

My approach to the No. 7 green at Shoal Creek was a bit long, which left me with a short chip to try to save par. But it wasn’t an easy chip. My ball had found the thick rough on the back side of the green, with little room to work with before the pin on a downhill slope. If I didn’t hit it hard enough, I’d leave myself a difficult putt from the fringe. If I hit it too hard, it would roll way past the pin.

So I channeled my inner Tom Watson, lobbed it a short distance to the fringe, and watched it bounce onto the green. It curved to the right and dropped in the hole. I raised my hands in the air and ran around like I had just clinched the 1982 US Open at Pebble Beach. My playing partner laughingly said, “Way to go, Watson!”

That was one of my highlights of playing one of the highest-ranked courses in the state of Missouri. The biggest highlight—other than the course itself—was playing the round with legendary Kansas City sportscaster Jack Harry.

Shoal Creek Golf Course

Jack has been extolling the virtues of Shoal Creek for quite some time. A long-time resident of the Northland, Jack plays at Shoal Creek a lot, and for good reason. I’ve known Jack for about 30 years, as we’ve covered a lot of the same teams and sporting events. We spent most of our time talking about many of the great people we’ve met—like Watson—but we also had a great day on a great course.

Shoal Creek is a beautiful 7,011-yard course (from the gold tees) off Highway 152, just west of Liberty. The conditions feel more like “country club” than “city-owned municipal course.” And there is plenty of variation to the terrain, leaving some spectacular views and challenging shots.

“Credit goes to our superintendent, Duane Sanders, and his staff,” head club pro Rhett Fregoe said. “I would say the conditions of our course rival any private club in the city.”

Shoal Creek Golf Course

Among the accolades for Shoal Creek are the No. 2-ranked public course in Missouri by Golf Week’s “America’s Best You Can Play”; a 4-star rating in Golf Digest’s “Best Places to Play”; the No. 1 ranking among courses in Missouri by Golfadvisor.com for 2017 and 2018, and the No. 1 ranking among public course in Missouri by the Golf Card Traveler.

But you don’t need someone else’s opinion to recognize quickly that you are playing a great course.

Shoal Creek was built in 2001 by architect Steve Wolford. It is owned by Kansas City Park and Recreation, and, like its neighbor Hodge Park Golf Course, it is operated by KemperSports Management. Club Car Carts are equipped with the Visage GPS yardage and navigation system. Zoysia grass tees and fairways, and Penn G-2 bent-grass greens are kept in immaculate condition. The reads on those greens are true.

Shoal Creek Golf Course

Every hole will give you shots to remember, whether you’re a duffer or the club pro.

“My favorite is 15,” Fregoe said. “It’s a good-looking hole. It has the fountain and the pond short of the green on the left. We could set it up to be very difficult by putting the pin on the left side of the green, making you carry the pond and the bunker.”

While there are challenging holes, the multiple sets of tees make it playable for any level of golfer. I had my best round of the season—I think, because you don’t waste time writing down numbers on a scorecard when you can be swapping stories with Jack Harry. The conditions made it easy to recover from bad shots.

Another highlight for me was No. 4. A dogleg right, I went too far right on my drive and was in the woods, though I did have sight of the green. Unfortunately, I didn’t hit it well and I still left myself a longer approach than I first realized. Jack had earlier driven the cart to the green when I told him that I had the clubs I needed.

Shoal Creek Golf Course

So there I was, about 20 yards beyond the range of my pitching wedge, but that—and my putter—were my only options. So I swung my wedge as hard as I could and almost holed it. It rolled a couple of feet past the hole for an easy tap-in. As I stood there in amazement, a guy in an SUV driving on the road behind the hole shouted, “Great shot!” This place even provides galleries! I had to admit it was a lucky shot, but it’s the type of shot that keeps bringing you back.

Especially to a course as nice as Shoal Creek.

By David Smale

Hodge Park May Not Be Long, But Still Can Pose A Challenge

So you don’t hit the ball as far as you used to? We have a solution.

Hodge Park Golf Course, which measures just 5,707 yards from the white tees, and just 6,181 from the blue tees, offers a good place to test your short game while still being challenged to stay away from the prairie grass that borders most of the fairways.

And with water in play on almost every hole, safety is best found in the wide fairways. The nuances of the course make it a challenge for every level of golfer, including the 300-yard driver.

Hodge Park Golf Course

“This course plays longer than the yardage indicates,” says Tim Underwood who has been the course manager and club pro for the past 20 years. “There are so many doglegs that you can’t really measure it from tee to green. There are a lot of meandering fairways and slopes that make the course play much longer than the yardage on the scorecard.”

One of those holes is No. 10, which is almost a double dogleg. To play this hole well, you need to place your drive in the middle to right side of the fairway to have a good angle at the green. You still may be looking at anywhere from 130 to 170 yards to the green. That leaves a tough approach, as the fairway narrows the closer you get to the green.

The course was built in 1973, so the trees are mature. There’s a large lake in the middle of the course, so keeping the zoysia fairways green is not a problem for greens superintendent Duane Sander and his staff.

“The course is always in good condition, which makes for a fast-paced day,” Underwood says. “It’s easy to walk the course, because it’s not too hilly. And there is plenty to challenge even the best golfer.”

Hodge Park Golf Course

One of Underwood’s favorite holes is the 376-yard 13th hole. Your drive climbs about 50 feet in elevation to the ideal landing spot, where you can finally see the pin. It also doglegs to the right, meaning the opportunity is there to cut the trees and have a short chip for your second shot. But that’s not something that very many golfers challenge successfully. The trees are thick and tend to swallow golf balls.

“If you can hit it over the trees you can cut about 30 yards off the distance, but most people don’t have that in their bag,” Underwood said.

Other hole that presents a challenge, even to regulars at Hodge Park, is No. 15. Two big trees in the middle of the fairway make almost every second shot difficult. The trees sit at the bottom of a valley between two pretty steep hills, so it’s hard to drive it past them. They’re both full of leaves and they sit within 100 yards of the green—that sits back up a hill—so hitting over them is difficult. To make it even more treacherous, the lake on the right eliminates the opportunity to avoid the trees altogether.

For the most part, if you can keep your drive in the wide-open fairways, the course is pretty forgiving. There are only three sand bunkers on the whole course, so “straight” is the most important club in your bag.

Hodge Park Golf Course

Hodge Park and nearby Shoal Creek are both owned by the city of Kansas City and managed by Kemper Sports Management. Hodge Park is just west of Liberty, just north of Highway 152.

Monday-Friday walking rates are $28, with seniors just $21. Between 1-4 p.m., regular rates are $22. After 4 p.m. the regular rates drop to $17. You can opt to play just nine holes for $16.

Weekend regular walking rates are $31, from 1- 4 p.m. they are $22 and after 4 p.m. to $17. You can play nine holes for $20 prior to 1 p.m. After 1 p.m. that drops to $17. After 3 p.m., seniors pay $17.

To ride a cart for 18 holes it’s $16 per person, and for nine holes it’s $10 per person. It’s okay to ride two in a cart now.

Hodge Park also has a “Play Until Sunset Rate.” The price varies based on the time of the year (check the website for current rates), but golfers can play until about 15 to 20 minutes before dark. Great for after work.

Bring your short game and enjoy a round at Hodge Park.

By David Smale

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.

A Hint of Paradise: Smithville Golf Complex Provides Plenty of Options

 

You wake up to a seasonably warm Midwest day. There’s nothing pressing on the schedule, so you decide to take the day off. Like many people in the Kansas City area, you might decide to choose to spend your day either on the golf course or at one of the area’s beautiful lakes.

How about both?

Paradise Pointe is a 36-hole golf complex nestled into the coves of Smithville Lake, with many of the holes giving you only slightly obstructed or completely unobstructed views of the lake. You probably can’t enjoy water sports while teeing it up, but you can enjoy the sights and sounds of one of the area’s largest lakes meandering around the course.

“The entire complex is scenic with two great tracks that are both in excellent condition,” Paradise Pointe club pro Eddie Hall said. “You have a links-style course with the Outlaw and a more traditional course with the Posse. Both sides have great lake views.”

The proximity to the lake gives the complex an unlimited source of water, so the entire complex is always green, even during a typically hot and dry Kansas City summer. So far in 2020, we’re not too far behind average rainfall, so Paradise Pointe hasn’t had to use its built-in sprinkler system too often.

Smithville Golf Complex

The morning I played it there was some standing water in some of the lower-lying areas because of early morning rains. I’d like to blame my poor play on that, but journalists never lie, right? The course was in excellent condition.

Hall credits Clay County, which owns the courses, for that. “If you put a good product out there, people will talk about it,” he said. “The County Commission does a great job of maintenance. We’ve always had good superintendents, but the current one is a step above. He’s in his second year, and everything you see is a result of him looking forward.”

There are two courses at Paradise Pointe. The Posse is narrower and a little more challenging with more elevation changes on the fairways, while the Outlaw is wider and a little more forgiving.

“The biggest difference is the undulation in the fairways,” Hall said. “The Posse is a little narrower and the shots are more demanding. It’s more about ‘position golf.’ If you’re not on the correct side of the fairway, you’ll have a little more difficult shot.”

Smithville Golf Complex

One of the unique features of the Outlaw course is that it’s one of the few courses in the metro where the turn is not at the clubhouse. In fact, the green at No. 9 and the tee box at No. 10 are at the furthest point from the clubhouse on the course.

Lest you think you have a pack provisions for an 18-hole excursion, Paradise Pointe uses an app called “918” to supply food to golfers on both courses.

“I think it’s the only course in the area that doesn’t finish the turn at the clubhouse,” Hall said. “We love that design.

“The app allows golfers to order their food and drink and we’ll deliver it to them wherever they are on either course. The best thing about it is they can go right to our menu, pay for it on the phone and have it delivered right where they are. It works out great, because golfers don’t have to sit and wait at the turn to get their food.”

Neither course is particularly long by today’s standards, though you can play from the back tees and get your distance fix from either one, as both sides measure over 7,000 yards from the back tees. Outlaw is shorter and the fairways are wider. But even on that side you still have to hit shots.

Smithville Golf Complex

“Most courses today are being built well over 7,000 yards to accommodate the big hitters,” Hall said, “But let’s be honest, most of my guys—and most of John Q. Public—is not playing off the back tees because they’re not hitting it 300-plus yards off the tee.

“Off the tee, Outlaw is more forgiving. You can pick the tee set that best matches your game. Whatever tee set you play from, we’ve found that there are challenges and excitement on every hole.”

The next time you wake up facing that recreational decision, consider the drive up to Smithville. After all, just remember the old car dealership commercial from a couple of decades ago, “Smithville is only a 10-minute drive from downtown…if you drive 180 miles per hour.”

— By David Smale

Spring Golfing in the Alamo City

Now that Super Bowl LIV has seen our hometown team’s return to a championship and the parade is but a memory (and a hazy one for some), thoughts are starting to center on golf. Glimpses of 40s and 50s send cabin fever-ish golfers to the range or the course, ready to get the season started. But many are also looking forward to trips to warmer climates to really enjoy a start to their golfing year.
While many think of Arizona or Florida as prime destinations, some also look to Texas. And we recently spent some time in the Lone Star state and submit for your consideration, San Antonio. At the time of this writing, its hovering in the mid-30s here in KC, while the Alamo City is enjoying a high of 77 with sunny skies. In other words, it’s perfect for golfing.
While San Antonio has a wide range of golf courses, we’ll focus on a pair of golfing gems that lie north of the airport: Canyon Springs Golf Club and TPC San Antonio.

Canyon Springs Golf Club

Canyon Springs club

When Canyon Springs opened in 1998, it immediately garnered a lot of attention – and it still does. That year, it was named as one of the top new public golf courses in America by both Golf and Golf Digest magazines. The exceptional Texas Hill Country course can play as short as 5200 yards up to 7000 yards. It is impeccably maintained and a great layout with varied challenges all along the way, including the double-fairway on #6 which leaves you plotting and planning before you pull the trigger on the tee box.
The course is under the care of GM, Chris Fink, who used to manage a number of Kansas City’s top courses before moving to Texas a few years ago. “We focus on the experience here,” he said, “whether that means our top notch golf or the numerous weddings and other events we host every year.”

Canyon Springs club

The course opens up with a very manageable dogleg par four. The perfect start to a round of golf with a bit of interest in the dogleg while providing a generous fairway. From there, the course continues on throughout the natural terrain with few houses and lots of natural beauty. It all culminates on the eighteenth green backed by a massive waterfall cascading down natural cliffs into the river below. The site is popular as a wedding site because of all its beauty, and the facilities on-site for hosting such events does not disappoint.

Canyon Springs club

And there’s a bit of history there too. The springs and cool river make for somewhat of a natural oasis that once was a stagecoach stop, with the old buildings still standing and a definite feel of Texas complete with a couple of longhorns in a pen near the clubhouse with horns that stretch over six feet. Add all that up, and blend in a very reasonable green fee (a fraction of what you’ll pay at the courses we talk about next), and Canyon Springs is a must visit when in San Antonio.

TPC San Antonio

As lifelong Marriott points earners, we stayed at the resort that annually hosts the PGA Tour’s Valero Texas Open. This resort is a vacation in itself with an on-site water park and two nationally recognized golf courses. The AT&T Oaks course plays host to the PGA tour event each year, while the AT&T Canyons holds its own as the “other course” at TPC San Antonio.
If you’ve watched the tournament on TV, you know a bit of how it plays. First, it can play long, stretching to over 7400 yards. There are four other sets of tees though, so you can pick your poison from 5500 yards on up. Designed by Greg Norman with help from Sergio Garcia, it provides a natural look with rugged bunker edging and a routing that blends in well with the Hill Country terrain.

Canyon Springs club

Tee to green, the golf course is not overly difficult, partly owing to a lot of bail out areas that later become green spaces and grandstands for the PGA tour event. But the green complexes are it’s main defense. Difficult bunkering and tiered, fast greens make for a good challenge that don’t discriminate much based on how far you hit it.
The AT&T Canyons course is a much different golf course, which makes a stay there so enjoyable. It is much more hilly, winding up and down the scrubby Hill Country terrain. The course requires a lot more strategy from tee to green, but the green complexes are more manageable, at least for us they were. The Canyons course is no slouch in terms of its history and challenge, having previously hosted PGA Champions tournaments.

Canyon Springs club

The resort itself has numerous on-site dining options, an expansive workout facility, plenty of room and maps for a long run, spa amenities and more. Frequent guest Carl Jackson shared his thoughts, “Our whole family loves this place. The kids enjoy the lazy river and water slides while I get a chance to play some world-class golf. The staff is awesome, and I think our favorite thing of all is the brunch!”
Insider Tip from Jill Faulk: “Get to the waterpark early during summer months and claim your spot – it can fill up quickly. But if you go in the shoulder months like in April or May or later in September or October, you’ll have far fewer crowds to deal with and plenty of warm weather.”

Visiting the Area

Of course, San Antonio has a lot more to offer and a lot more golf courses. Bring your appetite, the food is excellent at both Canyon Springs as well as at the JW Marriott and TPC San Antonio. But if you venture into the city, you’ll find lots of excellent Tex-Mex choices like the famous Mi Tierra. For a wide range of cuisine and a bit of fun, make sure to visit the Pearl District too. And for other sites and attractions, always remember the Alamo.

Tiffany Greens – 20 Years of Great Golf

Tiffany Greens Golf Club observed its 20th birthday in June and a lot has changed at the course and in golf over those years. Tiffany Greens opened as a high-end championship caliber course and for four years was an annual stop on the prestigious PGA Senior Tour. Today, the course is still highly rated for its unique design and setting, but it is slightly less demanding and a little more laid back than in the past.

“Golf has become more relaxed in the past 20 years,” said Kyle Hurst, general manager and PGA Director of Golf at Tiffany Greens in the Northland. “The wearing of slacks and collared shirts tucked in is still out there, but that has been relaxed here and on other courses. I think that’s a good thing because it makes golf more inviting.”

Tiffany Greens course

With growing competition for the entertainment dollar, golf has also become less expensive. Green fees are about $10 lower at Tiffany than when the course opened, Hurst said.

“Golf had such a stigma as a stuffy sport and one you couldn’t play if you didn’t have money,” Hurst said.
“That was a barrier to a lot of people.”

Another barrier for some clubs such as Tiffany was the difficulty of the course. Two years ago, Tiffany Greens created 14 forward tee boxes to enable shorter hitters to reach greens in regulation after a study found the course to about 1,000 yards too long for most players. Tiffany now has five sets of tees on each hole.

The course also reduced the size of or sodded over most of its 42 sand traps, which tended to have dauntingly high lips. Some of those traps would also wash out in heavy rain, creating maintenance issues. The rough was cut shorter and some tall native grasses cut back, enabling players to more easily find their ball and put it back in play. Overall, the course is firmer, faster and faces golfers with less trouble than in years past. Feedback has been positive, Hurst said.

Tiffany Greens course

“You get a lot of roll, and people like that,” Hurst said. “It’s more playable and fun. If you don’t succeed at something, it’s not going to be a hobby for very long.”

But the golf course still gives the best of players all they can handle at 6,648 and 7,055 yards from the two back tee boxes, respectively. The course is undulating, requires some careful woods and irons shots to ideal landing areas and has speedy greens.

Tiffany’s front nine is a scenic journey into the woods and meadows. None of the holes border each other. The front nine is memorable from the start. The first hole, a dogleg par 5, runs downhill toward a small lake, leaving an interesting second shot. Many players lay up to left of the water but better players can try to reach the green over the water in two. “It’s really a risk-reward shot,” Hurst said.

The back nine at Tiffany closes with standout holes on 16, 17 and 18 – a par 5 and then two par 4s. All three are doglegs that reward skill and course experience in shot placement.

“People love the layout,” Hurst said. “They see it as challenging but fair.”

Tiffany Greens course

Designed by renowned course architect, Robert Trent Jones II, Tiffany is a par-72 layout located at 5900 Tiffany Springs Parkway a few minutes south of Kansas City International Airport. Tiffany Greens has become increasingly popular for league and social group play. It also hosts club and corporate tournaments and has a special program for players between 30 and 40.

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. The pro shop can be reached at extension 208.

With a spacious clubhouse, featuring a restaurant, bar and banquet space, Tiffany Greens books many weddings, reunions and other social events in its ballroom, A dining area and deck for after-golf food and beverages overlooks the course, and the club can host events for up to 200 people. Krissy Frewin is food and beverage manager. She can be reached at 816-880-9600, ext. 224 or at kfrewin@tiffanygreensgolf.com.

Tiffany Greens course

Tiffany Greens has one of the area’s largest selection of golf apparel and equipment. Lessons and club fitting are available from club professionals.

Hurst can provide more information on course offerings over the phone at extension 223 or via email at khurst@tiffanygreensgolf.com.

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.

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