Okay, well, “masterpiece” is probably an exaggeration for the courses I played today, but it works better for the headline.
Sometimes it pays to trust your gut. I’ve been very indecisive on my course choices for the Kansas City area, especially on the Missouri side of town. I was pretty confident in my Kansas choice, Sycamore Ridge Golf Club in Spring Hill (just a little southwest of KC). I had already locked in my tee time for the morning (8:00, first group off the tee). I was hoping it would be a relatively quick round because I needed to play another round in the afternoon and also drive all the way here to Kearney, Nebraska.
I got out to the course early (around 7:15 or so). The weather was gorgeous in the morning without a cloud in the sky. I was the only one there. I checked in and asked if they could let me out a little early by myself. I had to wait around a little bit for the maintenance workers on the course to do all the prep work they needed to do. But ultimately, he let me go out around 7:45. I zipped around the course in just over two hours, so it was a perfect start to the day.
I wasn’t 100% sure what to expect at Sycamore Ridge. I had seen pictures on their site that looked nice, but you don’t always know until you get out there. I was pleasantly surprised because this is an excellent course.
The front nine is what I would hope for in a Kansas course. Pastoral setting, links style layout, rolling dunes/hills and long native grasses framing each hole. This describes the first six holes. Then holes 7-9 take you into a slightly more woodsy area and the 9th hole is a beautiful one along a little lake.
Then the back nine takes a major turn. I knew there were some nice tree-lined holes out here, but I had no idea what the back nine held in store for me. Lots of elevation changes through a heavily wooded area. Creeks winding throughout the holes and creating beautiful natural hazard areas throughout the course. I didn’t expect it to be this dramatic, but it was a fantastic layout. The funny thing is when I went back into the clubhouse after my round, I saw a little flyer that said “like two courses in one.” I laughed to myself because I had the same thought about this course. It was an unanticipated treat, so I was glad I stuck with my gut on this one.
The course was in good shape. It was still really wet out this early in the morning, so the fairways and rough were quite soggy. Lots of divots out there. Rough was super deep and difficult to hit out of (especially when wet). Luckily, I never hit into the long native grasses or I wouldn’t have found my ball. That stuff was thick and nasty looking. The greens were a bit pock-marked because of soft conditions, but rolled smoothly and at a good speed, so no real complaints there.
Some pictures from Sycamore Ridge Golf Club (5/9/12):
I headed back northeast toward the Missouri side of town. I had already decided overnight that Swope Memorial Golf Course was my top choice. It may not be the premier course in town, but it has a lot of history and character. My only major worry was that it would be a cheap, run-down and over-crowded muni course. When I stopped by last evening for a quick preview, those concerns were removed. So again I stuck with my gut and it paid off.
The course was designed by legendary course architect A.W. Tillinghast, who is known for a number of incredible “major” courses like Bethpage Black, Winged Foot and Baltusrol, and was opened in 1934. It was once host to the Kansas City Open on the pro tour way back in the day. So I was enticed by the history of the course.
I also knew it had some great views of the Kansas City cityscape in the background of some holes, so I was looking forward to some photo opportunities. This is a fun course that’s like a roller coaster ride (should be called “Slope” Memorial if you ask me). It winds up and down the property without hardly any flat lies on the course. Trees frame every hole and there are plenty of nice elevation changes. The layout is not long, but it is tight and tricky enough to provide plenty of challenge. It reminded me a lot of some Bay Area courses in its old school design and hilly terrain. I really enjoyed the course and it really had its own character that made it worth playing. My take on it is that Swope Memorial is kind of the course that the locals love to hate. It is a funky layout that not everyone would love and it probably does get crowded on certain days.
Personally, I liked it a lot. And the views were great on several holes with the KC skyline in the background on a clear day like today.
I got out there around 11:00 and it wasn’t too crowded. I didn’t have a tee time because I didn’t know when I’d finish my early round, but it was no problem. I was able to go right out on the course and join up with another twosome. The pace was decent–right about four hours, which was nice because it allowed me to hit the road toward Nebraska much earlier than I ever would have anticipated.
The course was in decent shape. The greens were nice. The fairways were nice (perhaps a bit shaggy). The rough was deep (I guess those Kansas City golfers like their rough to be thick and punishing). Overall the conditions were green and lush, and it was a gorgeous afternoon.
Some pictures from Swope Memorial Golf Course (5/9/12):
A little hard to see in the photo, but there’s the KC skyline in the background of the hole above. Very great view on the course.
Between the golf and the Royals game last night, I really enjoyed my time in Kansas City. Though I wasn’t completely sure about my course selections and how the timing would play out with two rounds and a lot of driving, everything worked out about as perfectly as possible!
The rest of the day was pretty uneventful. I hit the road pretty much immediately after my round at Swope and it was a less-than-interesting drive through Northwestern Missouri, a small chunk of Southeastern Iowa and then about halfway through Nebraska. I’m staying in Kearney tonight and will be playing Wild Horse in Gothenburg tomorrow morning. I may also get in a bonus round tomorrow afternoon, so I’ll tell you about that if everything works out.
DAY SEVEN: 406.6 Miles
TOTAL: 2734.8 Miles
Previous Day: Forest Ridge (OK)
Next Day: Wild Horse (NE) and Fossil Trace (CO)