Birdies (Eagles?) at Tiffany Greens

As Jim Colbert walked up the 18th fairway in the first round of the 2000 T.D. Waterhouse Championship at Tiffany Greens Golf Club in Kansas City, the crowd roared. Colbert, who spent much of his youth in Kansas City, had birdied the first eight holes of the back nine, tying a Senior PGA Tour record for consecutive birdies.

The crowd sensed history and Colbert wanted to oblige. No Senior PGA player ever had birdied every hole on a side.

Colbert’s 12-foot birdie putt lipped out, leaving him with a course-record 61, but missing his goal.

“When people asked me about the back nine,” he said that day, after shooting the best round of his life, “I wanted to say, ‘I birdied it.’

“That’s golf in a nutshell right there. I shot 11 under, and I was mad. That’s the game for you.”

As my buddy, Neal, and I walked up the 18th on our day at Tiffany Greens, I could hear the crowd roaring. I hadn’t birdied a hole all day, but I just needed to lose the hole by less than five strokes to win the day against Neal. I took a seven (I had a couple of penalty strokes) while Neal took a five.

I accomplished my goal.

It was a great day for Neal and me. We’ve been friends for more than 20 years. Neither of us are good golfers, but the beautiful mid-80s day in early July gave us the opportunity to enjoy each other’s company and a nice round of golf on one of our city’s best public courses.

“It’s a fun course to play, regardless of how well you play,” general manager Steve Meyer said. “We’re not catering to the guys on the PGA Tour. But we’ve got some really good golfers out here, and it’s still challenging and fun.”

There’s no way I’ll ever feel like Colbert did that day, either with my game or the sense of approval from a large gallery. But one of the beautiful things about golf is that “average Joes” (or Davids or Neals, for that matter) can walk the same path and play the same course as the great ones. With Tiffany Greens’ very reasonable rates, anyone can have the opportunity.

“Our prime rates $58 for 18 during the week, $68 on the weekend, including carts,” Meyer said. “The rates go down at 3 p.m. The best time to come is after about 2 p.m., especially on weekdays.”

There are also memberships available for $2,800/year, which includes unlimited golf with a cart, unlimited range balls, club storage and discounts at the pro shop. The course hosts a couple of dozen corporate tournaments each year.

It’s certainly true of all golf courses that any level of player can play, but Tiffany Green is challenging for the good player, and manageable for the novice. Ranging from just over 7,000 yards from the “Tiffs,” which is what they call their longest tees, to 4,310 from the reds, the course plays to the level of the player.

The wide fairways are forgiving for the golfer who has trouble hitting it straight, but there are enough challenges for the Jim Colberts of the world to find it entertaining. There’s plenty of water in play as well.

The par-3s are the course’s signature holes, as three of the four par-3s are over water.

I’m not sure what grows from golf balls at the bottom of lakes, but there will be a bumper harvest this fall, thanks in no small measure to our foursome.

Neal and I were joined by Nick and Noah, and we may have set a record for balls in the water on the day we played. They had an excuse, as Nick was playing his first round ever and Noah wasn’t too experienced either. Neal and I have been playing for decades, but we looked like beginners at times.

Tiffany Greens has been around for a little more than 20 years, opening to the public in 1999. The Robert Trent Jones-designed course has matured well, with plenty of trees and rolling fairways. The greens are challenging, yet fair. The course is in immaculate condition, making for a very enjoyable day.

But the highlight—other than “hearing” the roar of the gallery walking up 18—happened as I was teeing my ball on No. 14. As I was putting the tee into the ground, Neal started shouting, “Eagle, eagle.”

Two thoughts ran through my mind. First, I was just teeing off; Neal was a bit early with his encouragement. Second, had he not been watching me play for the first 13 holes?

But he kept saying it. Finally, I looked up and about 30 feet above my head was an American Bald Eagle. He was close enough we could see the hairs on his white head. We quickly forgot the rough rounds we had had to that point. We had seen our national bird closer than either of us ever had before.

You never know what you might encounter at beautiful Tiffany Greens Golf Club. You might see a string of eight straight birdies, and even an eagle on occasion.