When it comes to standout sports venues in Wyandotte County, Sunflower Hills Golf Course is the golfing equal of the NASCAR track and the new soccer stadium.
Opened in 1977, Sunflower Hills is among the most scenic and challenging golf courses in the Kansas City area. It is a rolling, wooded layout where no two holes are alike. The course will test a player’s accuracy and distance, but it has five sets of tees to suit everyone’s game.
The course is set up virtually the same as it was 35 years ago, but got a makeover in 2003 with zoysia fairways, new cart paths and a new watering system, said Jeff Johnson, manager and PGA pro at Sunflower since 1981. The course is in top condition, with true putting surfaces and manicured fairways.
Sunflower Hills is just north of Interstate 70 east of Highway 7 in Bonner Springs. It is only a few minutes from the freeway exit yet offers golfers the feeling of being in a more remote location, especially on the secluded front nine. Public land, mostly woods, surrounds the course. “That’s one of the things we hear a lot from people about why they come out here – no houses on the golf course,” Johnson said.
A Roger Packard design, the course has large greens, but many are elevated and require smart approach shots, according to Johnson. “The biggest thing is to keep the ball below the hole,” Johnson said. “If you get above the hole, it gets tricky.”
Sunflower is also about course management off the tees and fairways due to the number of doglegs (six) and the abundance of trees. A ball put in the wrong place can require punch-out shots rather than open shots to the green. Johnson said trouble is especially prevalent along the left side.
Sunflower is long off the back tees at 7,032 yards and no cinch from the next set at 6,659 yards. The other two mens’ tee sets are 6,030 and 5,838 yards and the women’s tee is 5,107. Slope and course ratings are relatively high.
The first two holes are flat, unlike the rest of the course. No. 1 is a straightaway but long par 4 followed by a slight dogleg par 5 second hole that Johnson says is the easiest par 5 on the course. A long par 4 and relatively short par 3 and par 4 follow. These first five holes are the place to score at Sunflower.
“From the 6th hole on is where the course really starts,” Johnson said. Fairways get tighter, longer and hillier. But each tee box gives players a good view of the best landing areas. For the most part, drivers can be used off the tees even though there are plenty of doglegs.
On the back, Johnson calls holes 12 through 17 “our amen corner” because they are difficult. The holes are generally long and undulating. “Our most difficult hole is 15,” Johnson said of a hole the plays either as a par 4 or par 5. It is 480 yards from the back tee and 432 to 464 yards from the other four mens’ tees. The green has a lot of breaks in it and is a challenge to read, he said.
There is water on holes 13, 14, 16, 17 and 18. The 18th hole, though, gives players a chance to finish strong after the six tough previous holes. The hole is a par 4 that measures just 260 or 270 yards from the forward tees and 350 or 361 from the two rear tees.
In general, Johnson said golfers who have played Sunflower before have an advantage over newcomers – more so than on some courses. “Its about knowing where to miss it and reading the greens,” he said.
Sunflower offers a rustic clubhouse to kick back and review the round over beverages and food. A large deck overlooks the ninth hole. Sunflower has a large practice range just a few steps from the first tee. Lessons are available.
A wide range of affordable green fees are offered at Sunflower, listed on the website of the course at wycokck.org. Seniors, juniors and patron card holders get discounts. Sunflower has the largest senior golf league in the area, with about 160 participants, Johnson said. Seniors not only enjoy the course but the pace of play, Johnson said. The course also hosts group outings, tournaments and special events.
Since 2001, Sunflower has had a six-hole par 3 course for youths and beginners. Players check in at the Sunflower clubhouse. The small course is a very short drive away. Green fees are just $5 for adults, $1 for kids. Johnson said the course has proven to be a very popular alternative to the main course for kids and players just starting out.
Sunflower’s pro shop has a full line of golf clothes, equipment and supplies. It also offers club repairs, new grips shafts and other services.
Sunflower Hills is owned by Wyandotte County. Its phone number is 913-573-8570. The address of the course is 12200 Riverview Avenue, Bonner Springs, KS 66012.