Heritage Park and Tomahawk Hills offer challenging holes, scenic courses

Golf-JoCo-Parks

APRIL 2015 – Johnson County is home to two of the area’s best public courses:  Heritage Park and Tomahawk Hills.

Heritage Park, which is along Lackman/Black Bob Road in Olathe, offers challenging links play and beautiful views.

The par 71 course plays at 6,876 yards from the blue tees, with Zoysia grass fairways and bent grass greens.

The par four No. 14 was recently chosen the toughest hole in Kansas City.

“It’s 460 (yards) uphill, into the wind,” said Rob Wilkin, PGA, Heritage manager of golf operations. “There’s no roll going uphill, so you’ve got to move it. There’s a blind second shot. You can see the top of the flag, but there is a grass pot bunker on the left and a sand bunker on the right which you can’t see.”

Said ladies league president Kerry Bruce, “You get to that hole and think ‘are you kidding me?’  But, the hardest for me is number 15. It’s a par 5 (at 599 yards, the longest on the course) and long enough that it’s hard to get there in three. Number 9 is hard, too; I can’t hit it far enough to get past the trees.”

Three lakes and a creek create water hazards on 11 holes.

Sponsor-Golf“It’s a very challenging course,” Bruce said. “There are a lot of water carries. And the holes are very different and interesting. The front nine and back nine are different. The front nine plays tighter. The back nine is longer, more wide open.”

Said Wilkin, “We have a proposal in process to turn our 16th green, a difficult hole, into an island green like at TPC Tallgrass. It will be voted on in May. We’re crossing our fingers. It will be kind of exciting.”

Heritage Park isn’t just a challenging round of golf.  It also provides a splendid view, as seen on number 3.

“It’s visually stimulating,” Wilkin said. “It’s relatively short, but there’s a lake to clear, with trees on the right and lake on the left. It’s 330 yards, 170 over the lake and the green is a little uphill. It’s a beautiful hole that scares you.”

The course layout and maintenance have been very satisfying for course regulars.

“Our annual (members) love the layout,” Wilkin said. “They’re happy with the way we put money back into it. The course is within the park. There’s no housing around it and that’s kind of unusual. There’s a lot of wildlife. It’s a nice, open links style course.”

There are leagues for a variety of players, including men’s, women’s, seniors and juniors, and some tournaments.

“We run a few corporate charity shotgun tournaments, but not many,” Wilkin said.  “We want to keep it open for members.”

The course also supports 16 area high school golf teams.

“For a month and a half in the spring and fall, if you come out here on a weekday, you’re going to see a lot of high school golfers,” Wilkin said. “High school grows lifetime golfers. Even if they move away or join a county club they are still going to play golf. Everyone who played high school golf is still playing today and we want to support that. That’s part of our philosophy.”

The course offers two different memberships. Annual members pay an upfront fee for unlimited golf and are also permitted to play Tomahawk Hills at a reduced cost, while Patron members get discounts off golf and greens fees.

“I work there as a starter on Saturdays,” Bruce said. “I see quite a few annuals and it’s like seeing family on the weekends; all the regular guys play out there. The group of volunteers and inside staff are great. We’re close and play together.”

Bruce considers the course one of the best in the city and well worth a visit.

“It’s definitely worth the drive, depending where you live,” she said. “Even from the other end of the city, it’s a must play.”

Another visually stimulating course is Heritage Park’s sister course:  Tomahawk Hills.  Drivers on I-435 south of Shawnee Mission Parkway are familiar with it as they have seen the view of the stunning “cliff holes.”

“They are the last holes on the front and back nine,” said Jay Lispi, head PGA professional. “From the back tees they are almost 200 yards (No. 9 – 194 yards, No. 18 – 197 yards) but there’s a big elevation change so you don’t know what club to hit when there’s wind. I’ve hit as much as a three-wood and as little as a nine-iron.”

Like Heritage Park, there are no houses surrounding the par 70 course. It is relatively short, just 5,978 yards from the back tees, with Zoysia fairways, bluegrass rough and bent grass greens.

“It’s an old-style course,” Lispi said. “It has tree-lined holes with small greens. It’s a different experience because of the way the course is set up; it’s totally different than what most people are used to playing. The undulating fairways kind of brings back the feel of a ‘70s or ‘60s style course.”

Tomahawk Hills is the oldest course in the metropolitan area, built in 1910, but it has been updated in recent years.

“We’ve added 10 or 11 bunkers we didn’t have before, green-side and fairway bunkers, and we have a new driving range and clubhouse,” Lispi said. “The flattest holes are one, two and three, and the rest of the course is undulating. The course has an upper half and a lower half. The front nine plays up, finishing with the cliff shot on number nine.”

The course is on Midland Drive, bordering Shawnee Mission Park. It boasts some of the area’s best scenery and a healthy share of wildlife.

“There are all kinds of animals – turkey, deer, coyote,” Lispi said.

As with Heritage Park, Tomahawk has a variety of leagues and also offers annual and patron memberships. They also sponsor corporate charity tournaments, but not many overall. The biggest tournament is their annual challenge against their sister course.

“We restarted the Tomahawk versus Heritage grudge match three years ago,” Lipsi said.  “We had it a long time ago and then it stopped for a while before we restarted it. We won it the first year but they’ve won the last two.”

This year’s grudge match will be July 25 at Tomahawk and is open to annual and patron members.

For more information about both facilities, visit their websites:

tomahawkhillsgc.com  heritageparkgc.com

Article by Marc Bowman

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