This is the second of a multi-part post on various golf courses that I have played over my 50 years of playing golf.
Follow the links to Google Maps to see what these courses look like now. Be sure to look at them in Satellite view.
We moved from Puerto Rico to Belton, Missouri in 1960. Belton is just south of Kansas City. We moved there because my dad was assigned to the Army Air Defense Command in Kansas City but flew out of nearby Richards-Gebauer AFB. Belton was a really small town and there was only one golf course within the vicinity. Southview had 18 holes and a lighted 9 hole par-3 course. It was owned by an Italian-American family from Kansas City who everybody suspected to be part of the Kansas City crime family.
Southview was a daily-fee modest blue-collar course. The fairways were un-irrigated, and mostly dandelions and weeds–it wouldn’t even qualify as a cow pasture. The very clay soil cracked in the summer time and you could lose a ball in the cracks. The greens were modest in size, not too sloped, and had a foot at fringe at most.
IMHO, the Kansas City climate has got to be really bad for golf courses. It’s too hot in the summer for traditional blue or bent grass, and too cold in the winter for common Bermuda to survive. High humidity in the summer encourages crabgrass growth. Although the area averages 35″ of rain a year, it usually comes in torrents in late-afternoon storms during tornado season. I noticed that some courses were starting to experiment with newer varieties of Bermuda and Zoysia which is more cold-tolerant. Suburbanites were starting to replace their lawns with Zoysia which they dyed in the winter.
After I went off to college, I stopped playing at Southview. I returned to Belton for my 20th high school reunion (the reunion actually occurred 22 years after graduation) and played the course. Irrigation has been installed, but the course was in about the same shape as before. The only difference I noticed was that the little bushes used as 150 yard markers were now about 15 feet tall and came into play.
As the area around Belton grew, additional courses were built including a course at the airbase, and Southview succumbed to the competition last year.
Kansas City had a great junior golf program in the summer. Junior golfers played at the ritzy private clubs on caddy day (Monday) and had several tournaments during the season. My mother was working as the librarian for the Belton library so my dad hired a guy to chauffeur me to these events. He dropped me off, went off to do whatever, and came back to pick me up in the afternoon.
The private courses were 180 degrees away from Southview in terms of almost everything. They had fancy big club houses, grass, very few weeds, manicured greens with huge fringes, closely-mown collars and raked traps.
As is usual with most private clubs, the clubs wouldn’t accept cash for purchases so that anything we bought had be charged back to our “clubs”. The manager of Southview didn’t quite know what to do when he started getting bills from the private clubs for my soda and snacks charges.
The most exclusive clubs we played are on Kansas side of the state line (although they didn’t start on that side of the line). Kansas City CC and Mission Hills are quite close to each other. Both clubs are historic and very private. Both clubs are parkland courses. Tom Watson’s family were members of the KCCC and he learned his golf there. Tom’s teacher was Stan Thirsk, head pro at the club. Thirsk had a reputation of being the best teaching pro in that part of the country and I was privileged to take one lesson with him.
Blue Hills was the most exclusive club on the Missouri side of the line. It was established about the same time as Kansas side courses. It had significantly more trees with some fairly sharp doglegs.
The Black population was growing significantly on the Missouri side in the late 50’s (as part of the Great Migration from the South) and the once exclusive neighborhoods surrounding the course were turning. Club members felt uncomfortable about the change (Missouri still had Jim Crow laws when we lived there in the early ’60s) and decided to sell the course to a developer after we left the area. It used the proceeds to build another course quite close to Mission Hills. The only remnant left of the old course is a neighborhood called Blue Hills and a small public park.