The are unfortunately very few A.W. Tillinghast clubs open to the public, so it is less than coincidental that there is a connection between the few that are. Swope Park in Kansas City was pitched to the architect following the opening of his series of courses at Bethpage State Park in New York, and the city likewise used WPA funds to finance the project. The name “Swope Park No. 1” suggests that there may have been other courses in the city’s imagination at the time.
Although Swope Memorial is the only 18 to have come from Tilly’s pen at the park, it provides an admirable counterpoint to the several private clubs the designer also created in the area. Golfers can use the high altitude of the course to consider the Kansas City skyline in the distance, but they must also reckon with the up-and-down nature of its fairways.
Nearly 20 years after its opening, the course hosted the United Golf Association national championship — an event for black golfers, who were prevented from playing in PGA events. Charlie Sifford, who was the first to break the PGA’s color barrier, won the event at Swope Memorial.