The official visitor’s guide to Kansas City, Missouri welcomes visitors with this statement…”Kansas City has a way of surprising you”. After my first time visit to Kansas City, known as the “City of Fountains” because it has more fountains than any other city in the world except Rome, I have to agree. The city and the surrounding Metro area definitely caught my attention as there are outstanding golf courses, an abundance of wonderful dining options, museums galore, and for shopping enthusiasts a multitude of shopping areas.
My wife and I traveled to Kansas City to play four of the more than thirty courses listed in the 2014 GOLF KC Kansas City Golf Guide, and to attend a Web.com Tour event at the Jack Nicklaus designed Lionsgate County Club in nearby Overland Park.
When in Kansas City, we stayed at the Raphael Hotel, recognized by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as a Historic Hotel of America and by the 2013 Forbes Travel Guide as one of the Finest Four Star Properties in the World. It was conveniently located to all four courses we played and was just across the street from Country Club Plaza, a 15 square block outdoor shopping and entertainment district home to more than 200 shops, restaurant and cultural attractions. With its Spanish design influence, the Plaza area has been described as “one of the country’s architectural and cultural treasures”.
Our first venture into Kansas City golf was at the semi-private Hillcrest Country Club, the only Donald Ross designed course in Missouri. Opened in 1916, Hillcrest is a true parkland course with every fairway bordered by tall, ball-swallowing oak and maple trees. From its opening hole, a 243-yard downhill Par 3 to the lengthy 10th hole, a 621 beauty, it has all the flavor and feel of time-honored courses of the past.
Excellent carts with Uplink GPS systems guide you over rolling Zoysai fairways to smooth relatively small Bent Grass greens. A hint when playing Hillcrest…if you hit into or around the trees, identify in your mind which tree your ball is headed toward as the rough, although not tall, is thick. With three sets of tees playing from 5554 yards to nearly 6700 yards, Hillcrest is both challenging and fun.
The second course we played was Sycamore Ridge in Spring Hill, Kansas a semi-rural former dairy and farmland area just 30-40 minutes from downtown Kansas City. The course has a split personality. The front nine is a links style nine with wide receptive fairways and few trees while the back nine is definitely a parkland style with holes carved through a vast forest. The back nine requires more delicate shots as there are a number of shallow intimidating ravines to hit across, numerous blind shots, and several of the elevated Bent Grass greens are fronted by rock creeks. PGA and Champions Tour professional Jim Colbert did a masterful job in using the land available when he designed the course which opened in 2000.
Our third course, Shoal Creek, an upscale championship public “Daily Fee” course owned by Kansas City Parks and Recreation, was also just minutes from downtown. It is Along with Chambers Bay, site of the 2015 US Open, is one of over 100 courses operated throughout the United States by KemperSports.
Ranked the #2 Public Golf Course in Missouri by Golf Week’s America’s Best 2006 through 2014, Shoal Creek is a Par 71, 5500 to 6900-yard beauty with lush manicured and sculptured Zoysia fairways and Penn G-2 Bent Grass greens. With receptive and undulating fairways, and a number of elevation changes, it is an interesting course that is player friendly. It is easy to navigate as it has excellent carts with GPS systems showing each hole layout with distances clearly marked.
Playing from the Whites, my favorite holes were two Par 4’s which happened to be the only two water holes on the course, the 343-yard 15th and 287-yard 16th. Since my golf game often requires a scuba diver to retrieve shots from lakes and ponds, and I didn’t hit into the water on either hole, these two holes automatically became my two favorite holes.
The fourth and final course we played was Deer Creek, a delightfully lush semi-private, open to the public course located in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park, Kansas. It was just a long Par 4 distance from our clean, comfortable and convenient hotel, TownePlace Suites which made it very easy to get to the course for a morning tee time after enjoying the hotel’s complimentary continental breakfast.
A Robert Trent Jones, Jr. design, Deer Creek, with four sets of tees ranging from 5100 to 6800 yards, was an enjoyable course to play and an excellent test of golf. Although there were no blind shots to worry about, it did have numerous challenges with densely wooded areas, left and right dog legs and a meandering creek that came into play on a number of holes.
We spent our final day in Overland Park watching future PGA TOUR players compete in the Web.com Midwest Classic at Lionsgate Country Club. Watching both young bucks and seasoned veterans compete was a true delight particularly when we realized that since its inception in 1990, the tour has graduated 433 players to the PGA TOUR who have produced 365 TOUR victories including 18 majors and five PLAYERS Championships. It is interesting to note that more than three out of four PGA TOUR members, including Tom Lehman, Ernie Els, Jim Furyk, Zach Johnson, Bubba Watson, Matt Kuchar, Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson have Web.com Tour roots.
When not golfing in the Kansas City Metro area, there is plenty to do for one and all. Here are some recommendations based upon our brief stay in the Kansas City Metro area, home to the American League Kansas City Royals, the NFL Chiefs and golf icon Tom Watson:
Enjoy a delicious breakfast in Kansas City at the Classic Cup Café at W. 47th street. We did and loved it. Have a great brunch, lunch or dinner at café SEBASTIENNE in the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art at 4420 Warwick Boulevard. Whether you eat inside or on the patio, artwork abounds. When finished with your meal, visit the museum’s three galleries. Admission and parking is free.
For a romantic dinner with music seven nights a week, dine at Chaz in the Raphael Hotel where beef, pork, lamb, poultry and seafood specialties are paired with wines from the Chaz’s award-winning Wine Spectator wine list.
Lovers of Italian food or PBS viewers who have seen famed chef and author Lidia Bastianich on TV, will enjoy the delicious and plentiful dinners at Lidia’s Italian Restaurant at 101 W. 22nd Street.
A must for BBQ devotee is Fiorella’s Jack Stack BBQ located at 4747 Wyandotte Street. Rated one of the top barbeque restaurants in the country by Zagat’s, in addition to beef, pork and lamb ribs, salads and seafood dishes are also house specialties.
In Overland Park, the newly opened Prairiefire district, just blocks away from the TownePlace Suites and the Deer Creek Golf Course, has a number of restaurants including Pinstripes Bowling/Bocce/Bistro, Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley’s Rock & Brews, Wasabi Sushi, Newport Grill, Paradise Diner and Cocobolos Wood Fired Grill and Cantina where we enjoyed Southwestern and New Mexico cuisine dinners along with cool, refreshing Margaritas.
The Prairiefire district, which opened this past May, is a bustling entertainment, shopping and dining district. It is also home to the Museum at Prairiefire, which is housed in the most unique, beautiful and dynamic glass building I have ever seen. The museum, which has one of only three replicas of “Lucy”, the first Tyrannosaurus rex dinosaur ever discovered, is a collaboration initiative with the American Museum of Natural History in New York. It has something for young and old alike.
Another restaurant to be enjoyed in the Overland Park area is North at 4579 W. 119th Street in Leawood, Kansas. Located just across the street from Overland Park, and again just minutes from Deer Creek and the TownePlace Suites, North features delicious Northern Italian cuisine.
When not playing golf, shopping, dining, or listening to great jazz, the Kansas City Metro area has outstanding museums and cultural activities to enjoy. A couple of suggestions…visit the World War 1 Museum, Union Station and the Money Museum (all within a one mile radius and all celebrating their 100 year anniversaries this year), the fore-mentioned Kemper Contemporary Art Museum, the Harry S Truman Presidential Library described by the Dallas Morning News as the “Best Presidential Museum”, and the magnificent Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts which houses the Kansas City Ballet, the Kansas City Symphony, the Kansas City Opera and hosts Broadway plays and top musical performers.
Each of the courses we played, Hillcrest, Sycamore Ridge, Shoal Creek and Deer Creek, had reasonable rates and each was outstanding in its own way…and…Kansas City and Overland Park were wonderful cities to visit. For more information about golf, places to stay, dining, shopping and the myriad of activities available in Kansas City, Overland Park and the Kansas City Metro area, visit www.VisitKC.com and www.visitoverlandpark.com.