Opened for play in the late 1980s, the course at Shadow Glen Golf Club is an early design from the partnership of Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish, with input from local golfing hero Tom Watson. Although the holes are routed around a substantial residential development, there are sufficient numbers of trees lining the fairways to block out the housing.
“Like most Weiskopf designs, it features a great variety in its hole lengths,“ writes Daniel Wexler in his book The American Private Golf Club Guide, “with the more engaging shorter end being typified by the 146-yard 4th (played over a valley to a green fronted by deep bunkers) and the uphill 285-yard 14th, a driveable, heavily-bunkered par four.”
The author continues: “Full-sized standouts include the 410-yard 9th (played downhill to a pond-flanked green), the downhill 260-yard par three 12th, the 477-yard two-shot 13th (with Cedar Creek curling in front of the putting surface) and the distinctly reachable 506-yard 18th, whose green lies behind a small, overgrown ravine.”
America's heartland is often underappreciated and undervalued when the subject of quality golf courses and architecture is discussed. No question, people have rightly heard about the virtues of such renown courses such as Sand Hills and Prairie Dunes, to name just two. But, there are a number of others that often fly under the radar screen and a few of them are located in The Jayhawk State.
Shadow Glen came about early in the relationship between Jay Morrish and Tom Weiskopf. The layout features housing -- so what else is new -- but the routing is beautifully done and the variety of holes, in conjunction with the solid routing, makes for an engaging round of golf.
What you get at Shadow Glen is the emergence of the driveable par-4 which became a major element in the efforts brought forward by the Morrish / Weiskopf partnership. Unlike other architects, the duo favored challenges that went beyond a heavy reliance on extreme lengths for holes.
One of the major assets with Shadow Glen is the overall property. Far too many people have this wrongful assumption that Kansas is flat -- devoid of undulation. That's so in the far western area of the State but the area in and around Kansas City has a good number of hills and Shadow Glen is blessed to have this added element.
The lone drawback is a personal one -- I have never been a fan of zoysia grass and in this part of the USA -- it's not uncommon for the most recent golf courses to use this type of grass. Zoysia is great in dealing with the unrelenting heat and humidity during the summer months and its tentacle roots provide an ideal coverage. The downside? Far too often the "carpet" has little real bounce to it and, as a consequence, much of the golf is played through the air.
The front nine is a constant change of pace type holes and direction. Players have to demonstrate a good bit of skill and ball movement off the tee.
The inward side works its way to Cedar Creek and has one scintillating hole after another. The par-3 12th plays 260 yards but is considerably downhill. You then come to a first rate par-4 at the 13th. The hole features the closeness of the creek to one's left and does turn in the drive zone. The creek winds back near the green and when the pin is cut tight to the left side you have to pay close attention on the approach. The short par-4 14th plays 285 yards and tempts the big play. Sure, the green can be driven but only with an effort that marries length and accuracy to a green that is utterly devilish because of its limited size and internal contours.
The conclusion is done well and with the 18th a par-5 you have one final opportunity to end in grand style before heading for a libation at the 19th hole.
Shadow Glen is rarely mentioned by many so-called architectural aficionadas. As I said, at the outset, the heartland of America has a number of top tier courses that often get little attention. The Morrish / Weiskopf connection -- in tandem with local hero Tom Watson, did a stellar effort. If this course were in the New York or LA metro areas it's overall standing would have garnered more attention.
As a side note -- the overall facilities are first rate and the Midwest hospitality is as good as it gets.
Kansas City does not get much attention many times in the broader golf circles but if you can wiggle an invite when in the area you'll relish the time at Shadow Glen.
M. James Ward