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Swing into Swope

Swing into Swope

Kansas City muni is a must play

By Jerry Slaske

All I knew about Swope Memorial Golf Course when I recently visited Kansas City was that it was an old muni in an 1,800-acre urban park named, what else?, Swope Park, that also included the zoo. Oh yeah, and A.W. Tillinghast, the famous golf course architect, was associated with it. Well, that was enough for me to make the 20-minute drive from downtown to give it a shot.

Passing through the course's stately stone arch entrance and traveling up and up and up a winding road through thick trees to the understated clubhouse, you have a feeling you're someplace special.

And indeed I was. It turned out to be such a wonderful course and experience that I came back the next day to play it again. And if I lived in Kansas City, this is where I'd play every day.

Built in the early 1900s and re-designed in 1934 by Tillinghast, Swope is golf at its finest. Someone appropriately described it as Bethpage Black (another muni by Tillinghast and site of the 2002 and 2009 US Opens), but not on steroids.

Like Kansas City, Swope is extremely hilly (a great cardio workout if you walk & carry, which I did both days). Hundreds of towering and magnificent chestnut and oak trees line each fairway, and small greens, most of which are multi-tiered and some with steep falloffs on at least one side, are closely surrounded by sand traps.

The thick and juicy rough is Kentucky Bluegrass; the greens a mixture of Bent and Poa. Zoysia fairways assure that your ball will sit up nicely, but the grass's coarseness and its tendency to grab your ball makes Swope play much longer than its just under 6,300 yards (128 slope) from the tips.

A good rule of thumb - as the affable starter pointed out to me - is to play to the right side off the tee. Even if you're able to do that, you still have a blind next shot on most holes. Accuracy, not length, is the key here. If I had to pick a favorite hole, I couldn't because they're all great.

Swope is meticulously maintained and a treat just to look at. From the 12th and 17th tees, you get a panoramic view of downtown KC. And at $25 (weekdays) and $32 (weekends) to play ($20 for me as a senior), you won't find a better golf experience anywhere at any price.

For those big hitters...or those golfers with big egos...who think Swope isn't worth their time at only 6,274 yards, keep in mind it was the site of the PGA Tour's 1949 Kansas City Open, and if it was good enough for Ben Hogan and Sam Snead, well...

Revised: 10/02/2014 - Article Viewed 30,283 Times - View Course Profile

About: Jerry Slaske

Jerry Slaske KEY Milwaukee is a tradition in Wisconsin's largest city. As the leading visitor guide in Southeastern Wisconsin, we're distributed in hotels, motels, restaurants and visitor centers throughout the metropolitan area, beginning at the Illinois-Wisconsin border.

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