Kansas City golf legend Tom Watson recalls the days when he developed his game as a young boy on an executive course in south Kansas City, and now players of all ages are enjoying the game on shorter courses.
Junior golfers, seniors and players in between are enjoying par-3 and executive courses in Kansas City and surrounding areas.
Watson is involved in The Watson 9, which opened last year at Mozingo Lake Recreation Park in Maryville, Mo. The nine-hole course was selected one of the top 15 hybrid courses in North America by Golf Digest.
The course offers a lot of instruction programs for juniors, but the course draws players of all ages who might like it better than a full-length course.
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“It’s going well,” Watson said. “They are doing a lot of rounds with the youngsters. It’s a fun golf course with greens that are a little bit tricky. It’s being well utilized. Kids are coming from a distance pretty far away to participate in the juniors program.”
Watson said he remembers playing the former Santa Fe Hills course at 85th and Holmes Road as a youth. It had 12 par-3 holes and six par-4s.
“As a kid, it was good to play a course where you feel like you can make a birdie,” Watson said. “I remember it very well. I couldn’t hit the ball very far, so it made the game more fun.”
One of the more popular par-3 courses in the metro area today is at Sykes/Lady Overland Park Golf Club. The course attracts beginners and senior players as well as youths, general manager Curt Nelson said. Last year, there were 17,500 rounds played on the course.
“It’s more popular recently than in past years,” Nelson said.
Some of the popularity in short courses is attributed to golfers being able to play them faster. And at Overland Park, Nelson said a new program that allows players to get a pass for unlimited play for $50 a month has led to an increase in play there.
Watson said it is important for golfers to be playing on a course that they can succeed on. If golfers don’t hit the ball very far, he said, they should try an executive or par-3 course with shorter holes.
“The distance factor is important,” Watson said. “If you don’t hit the ball far enough to get a birdie putt, perhaps you should consider a shorter course.”
That advice even goes for professionals. The Legends of Golf uses the scenic Top of the Rock par-3 course near Branson during the PGA Tour Champions tournament.
“How do you get it any prettier than this,” pro golfer Lee Trevino said. “(with) all the water and beautiful trees.”