Formed in 1896, Kansas City Country Club is one of the oldest country clubs located to the west of the Mississippi River. The club’s original course was laid out at nearby Loose Park – site of the Battle of Westport during the American Civil War – but the club moved to its current position at Mission Hills in 1926, with A. W. Tillinghast called in to set out a new 18-hole layout.
Interestingly, polo was also played at both these golfing locations but interest in the sport waned after World War II and land set aside for its use by subsequently relinquished. Down the years, the club has hosted many important regional events, including the first Trans-Mississippi Amateur, and it’s also home to none other than multi-Major winner Tom Watson.
In Daniel Wexler’s book The American Private Golf Club Guide he describes the hilly, tree-lined Kansas City course as “easily the top classic facility in Kansas City” and one that “would rank in the upper echelons of courses in the great majority of American cities.” The author also mentions that the “design retains most of its original routing and a great deal of Golden Age feel“.
I have been lucky enough to play Kansas City Country Club roughly a half dozen times. The experience is always quite enjoyable. I think many consider this club the premier private club in the Kansas City area and in fact it was the home course of Tom Watson in his younger days. Tom actually played in a group behind me during one of my rounds here many years ago.
Each time I played, I found the course to be in pristine condition and I doubt it ever falls too much out of such a state. A parkland style course, as most are that I have played in the Kansas City urban area, the most unique characteristic of the this traditional A.W. Tillinghast design is the way the routing works with the trees. They have certainly grown tremendously over the years since the course was built in 1896 and assuming many of the larger trees are still original, Tillinghast is a genius to imagine how they might play an integral part in the design over 120 years after his original creation. This is the type of golf course where hitting the fairway does not necessarily give you an unimpeded line to the flag.