Downtown Kansas City is known for many things, but up to now golf has not been one of them.
The urban landscape’s potential for chipping and putting was tested out Saturday by about 1,000 people who signed up for the Downtown Open Urban Golf Tournament and Pub Crawl.
Teeing off from rooftops, pitching from sidewalks and putting on street corners, the golfers made their way up and down a course laid out along the new streetcar line, from Washington Square Park to City Market.
If the idea at first calls to mind shattered windows and car alarms, fear not. The golf tournament uses special, limited-flight foam balls just a little heavier than the whiffle variety.
The tournament was organized by the KC Crew recreational sports league, the Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department, and LiveKC, a corporate initiative to make living in Kansas City more fun for young people. Kansas City’s streetcar cooperated by transporting people up and down the course laid out along its route.
Most of the urban golf holes clustered around the River Market, the Central Library, the Power & Light District and the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. At the library, golfers putted the ball into an oversized book with a hole in it. At the Kauffman Center, they putted into a tuba.
Many of the stops were arranged around bars and pubs to make sure all the golfers could have something to drink.
The game, while scaled down, wasn’t as easy as it looked, according to some players. Most of the holes were meant to be played in one shot.
Ethan Downs of North Kansas City said it more often took him three or four swings.
“Not great,” Downs said. “Could be better. But we’re here. And you get beer, so that’s a positive.”
While new to Kansas City, urban golf, or pub golf as it is sometimes called, has been popular in other cities such as Seattle and London.
Organizers in Kansas City said they considered the event a success here. Tickets to play in the tournament were sold out.
After the tournament, players and spectators gathered at Washington Square Park, where music, food trucks and more games continued until 6 p.m.