The final challenge in my Tee Off With Tait adventure was a fun track in Topeka called Western Hills Country Club.
Different than just about every other course I played during my nine weeks of challenging tee shots, tough greens, intimidating hazards and beautiful scenery, the par-5 13th hole at Western Hills was a test of the most basic aspect of golf — how far can you hit it?
529 yards from the back tees.
The coolest thing about this hole, despite its length, is the fact that there’s no reason whatsoever to be intimidated. Your tee shot is just as straight as it can be, the tee box is big and the fairway is wide open and your goal while standing over your first shot is simple — hit it as far as you can and as straight as you can.
It’s one that PGA golfer John Daly of “grip it and rip it” fame would absolutely love.
I did just that but wasn’t all the impressed with my drive. I think I tried to swing too hard and that broke down my mechanics and caused me to pop it up a little. It still went somewhere – 210-220 yards – and landed just in the right rough a little off the fairway, still 300 yards from the hole.
If you’re going to be right or left here, though, I think you’d rather be right. Less trouble, more space and an easier second shot await.
The only difference between my first shot and second shot was the tee. Standing over my second, the same thoughts played in my head – as long and straight as I can hit it.
My second shot wasn’t anything special either, but I advanced the ball up and through the fairway and had a decent angle into the green from left to right from about 150 yards out.
I can see why they call this a good birdie hole. After two pretty lousy shots, I found myself sitting one good shot away from having a run at birdie on a pretty easy green to read, hit and land on.
Unfortunately, it never came. My third shot traveled about 145 yards and landed in a flat, oversized bunker on the front right of the green. I finally hit a good shot again — a 6 iron to manage the wind in my face — but the wind still ate it up and kept it from reaching the green.
All things considered, it was a pretty easy shot out of the bunker, since it was so shallow, and with the flag in the back of the green, I had plenty of room to get out and let it run.
My bunker shot carried it about 15 yards but didn’t get quite far enough right and sloped back toward the middle of the green in front of the hole. That left a 14-foot putt for par and I finally drained one.
The nice, true greens that roll smooth had a lot to do with that and I finished the Tee Off With Tait challenge at 5-over, with five bogeys and four pars.
No disasters, no do-overs, not even really a hazard outside of the bunker at Western Hills, even though I saw plenty of them.
When I first reached the hole I wasn’t sure why it would have been picked as one of this course’s signature holes. But as I played it, its charm presented itself and No. 13 became more and more fun as I got closer to the green.
Three good, straight shots is all it takes to put yourself in birdie range and the beauty of this hole is even a bad shot or two in there won’t hurt you too bad.
To check out the long par 5 at Western Hills and see the rest of the track, book your tee time today before the weather takes a turn for the worse. And tell ’em Tait sent ya!
Be sure to enter this week for your chance to win a free round of golf at Western Hills Country Club.
Last week's winner of a round of golf at Lake Perry Country Club was Denise Birdsong. Congratulations!
This week's winner of a round of golf, at Western Hills Country Club was Elliott Teters. Congratulations!
Out in the middle of nowhere, somewhere in Jefferson County, sits a sweet little golf course named Lake Perry Country Club.
The drive to get there is peaceful, the scenery on the way in is worth seeing and the feeling you get after parking your car and walking up to the clubhouse goes something like this — boy, this is going to be fun.
And then you hit the course and it really is fun. Lots of fun. The holes are pretty and laid out nicely. The carts are fast and don’t seem to have the speed restrictions that some of the newer carts have. And the course is just hard enough to be a challenge and just manageable enough to make you feel like you can really play the game.
No hole embodies that vibe better than the par-3, 160-yard 14th hole that sits between two rows of country houses and is lined by a pond to along the entire right side.
As for the look of the hole itself, it really is a beautiful setting. There’s a patch of cattails sitting behind the green that catches your eye from any spot on the tee box. The water, when still, glistens in the sun, with only the green moss floating on the surface showing any movement. And the rolling hills behind the green and around the nearby homes seem to protect and frame this hole almost like the perfect frame for your favorite piece of art.
Don’t be thrown off by the course’s layout. It’s rare. I’m not saying I’ve never seen it, but the par 3 on No. 14 immediately follows a par 3 on No. 13. And both are a blast, offering different looks, feels and challenges.
OK. Back to 14.
With all that water on the right but trouble to the left, you really do have to get your mind right before hitting this tee shot.
A lazy swing will put it in the drink and anything too aggressive could put you too far left. After making contact with my 7 iron, I feared the latter. But just as the ball reached maximum height, it missed clipping the trees on the left and started to level off.
As it hung in the air, perhaps sensing my body language, it kept pulling itself back right toward the sizable green that was inviting it back to the flag with every revolution. When it finally came down, it landed just on the left side of the green, a few inches inside of the fringe.
That left me a 15-foot birdie putt on a pristine green that was sloped down toward the water and looked like it would roll true.
It did, but the green was slower than I expected and I missed it on the low side and left myself a two-footer for par.
All in all, I’ll take that. It’s not the distance or the green or even the hazards that make this hole such a challenge. Instead, it’s the way the setup can play with your mind.
With everything leaning and pulling your eye right, it has you thinking, perhaps subconsciously, about going anywhere but right. That generally leads you to pull your tee shot left and that can get you in real trouble.
Mine held on just enough to give me a shot at a good score and I was able to get home in three.
I’m not sure I’d be that lucky every time, but the good fortune of my ball flight off the tee and a decent first putt put me in good position to par this one, bringing me to 5-over par with (5 bogeys, 3 pars) with one hole left to go in the Tee Off with Tait challenge.
Book your tee time at Lake Perry Country Club today to get a look at this hole and take a ride on those fast carts. And tell ‘em Tait sent ya!
Be sure to enter this week for your chance to win a free round of golf at Lake Perry Country Club.
Last week's winner of a round of golf, with cart, at Shawnee Country Club was Kyle Thatcher. Congratulations!
Rolling hills and tons of trees line all corners of Shawnee Country Club in Topeka and those traits were a big part of what makes No. 11 such a fun golf hole.
Standing on the championship tees at what is considered to be the course’s second hardest hole, you really get a good look at all that you’re getting into.
Three or four sets of intersecting hills line your vision before you even see the fairway and there’s a giant cluster of trees dead ahead and all kinds of trees and trouble to the left.
The initial thought I had while taking in the view from the box on this hole was to aim at that cluster of trees and hope to hit a little draw to bring it back to the fairway.
It’s a sound strategy for any golfer and one that most should feel good about given the fact that those trees are quite a ways out there. So at least you’re starting from a good spot with something to aim at.
However, when I went to tee it up, I stepped all the way to the right of the tee box and found a completely different view waiting for me. You still can’t quite see the hole, but you do see more of the fairway from here and it gives you a better glimpse at just where to hit it. The draw into the trees is still a decent strategy, but from this vantage point, you can take a more aggressive approach and try to bang it out there to the fairway.
I did just that, hitting a towering drive that bounced at the end of the third hill and took a huge hop forward and onto the fairway. I loved it.
When I reached my ball after a 240-yard drive, I was still a good 210 yards out, but I was safe and I had a straight shot into the postage stamp green that sits in front of a few tall trees and is protected by bunkers on each side.
My 3 iron is the best club in my bag so I wasn’t at all worried about what to hit or how I would do. I knew I could reach with a perfect shot but also knew that if I didn’t, I’d be right up there and in a good position to go up and down for par.
My second shot did reach but just went right of the bunker, leaving me a good spot to chip from. The bunker was in my line of sight but not enough to worry about it.
With the flag in the back, I wanted to be well right of that with my pitch because of the way everything funnels down from the back of the green to the front. If you don’t hit it high enough, you could easily watch it roll all the way off the front of the green.
My chip was strong — and right — and landed right at the cup and rolled to the fringe in the back past the flag. I’ll take it.
It was a slippery putt and I had to be extra aware of not missing it on the low side or else it might run all the way off the front.
I hit my putt exactly where I wanted to hit it, on the perfect line, but having to putt it through the fringe to start took away some of the speed and left me two feet short. I cleaned that up for bogey and walked off the green smiling — partly because I played the hole exactly the way I wanted to play it from tee to green and partly because it’s just that fun of a hole.
It’s all about the tee shot here. Without a good drive, you’re not going to have much of a chance at par. But if you’re able to get off the tee without any trouble, anything from birdie to double bogey is automatically in play.
The fun is in the challenge in this hole and it really has the feel of one that you could play 100 times in a row and play it differently each time.
Be sure to enter this week for your chance to win a free round of golf at Shawnee Country Club in Topeka.
Last week's winner of a round of golf, with cart, at Deer Creek was Lisa Redwing. Congratulations!
Now six holes into this series of playing some of the signature golf holes at some of the finest courses in the area, I encountered one that I thought was as beautiful a golf hole as I’ve seen yet.
The third hole at Deer Creek Golf Club in Overland Park features a terraced look that subtly takes you from a higher elevation on the tee box to a large and manageable green at the end of the hole, with rolling hills, trees of all kinds and a small creek along the way.
At 422 yards from the back tees, it’s a beast of a hole (longer than it sounds) and you really can’t even see where to hit it and have to trust landmarks to get your tee shot right.
The two upper tee boxes (343 from the gray tees and 383 from the whites) are angled to give you have a better feel for your path and alignment while you’re standing over your tee shot. But with the tips tucked just around the corner behind them, it dramatically changes the look and challenge of this hole.
The good news there is, no matter where you’re standing, the visual aspect of this hole is absolutely beautiful.
There’s trouble all along the left side with next to nowhere to land if you miss the fairway. And if you go too far right, which is preferred to going way left, you’re going to be facing a coin flip chance of having a clear shot through the scattered trees that dot the hills. There is plenty of room there and you’re less likely to lose your ball. But you may find you have to punch out instead of having a clear and clean shot to the green.
I hit a towering drive that made me feel safe as it flew because of its height. Put another way, I somehow managed to hit a drive with some control instead of spraying it.
Because of that bend, I couldn’t exactly tell where I landed but I knew I was safe. When I got to my ball for my second shot, I was just in the rough but in perfectly fine shape right in line with the 150-yard stake in the fairway.
Seeing the creek in front protecting the green messed with me mentally though. And on my second shot I tried to Incredible Hulk it and hit a lousy, low liner toward the creek.
I’m not sure what I did to deserve it or who was looking out for me that day, but I skulled that ball so hard that it popped up out of the creek off of a flat rock on the right side and landed softly on the fringe like I meant to do it.
Like my dad always said, “In this game, I’d rather be lucky than good.” And that was certainly the case on this hole, with my fortuitous bounce leaving me a long look at birdie instead of a terrible shot costing me a stroke.
My dad also used to say, “It’s not how, it’s how many.” And I think that applies here, as well.
From there, it was easy pickings even if my play didn’t improve much.
One thing about being on the green on this hole: If you look back down the fairway, you see just how sloped and beautiful this hole is. It’s a really cool look at the hole’s layout and it feels like a completely different world than it did standing on the tee box. Take the time to take a peek and you’ll see what I mean about the hole’s beauty. You’ll also see more clearly why it’s the course’s No. 1 handicap.
The flag was in the way back, making my putt as long as it could be. But I’ll take it. With a couple of bunkers joining that creek to protect this hole, safe is safe and that’s where you want to be.
My uphill, left to right putt was long and I left it about eight feet short even though I hit it on a good line and with good pace. I just couldn’t tell exactly how uphill the putt really was, probably because my mind was still stuck on the idea of how this hole gradually declined in elevation from tee box to green.
My par putt also fell off, just burning the front edge and leaving me with a tap-in bogey. I’ll take it. Especially after that second shot.
This hole is a blast. It’s hard but fair and it’s somewhat deceptive, too. The length isn’t the problem at all. You just have to be so precise with so many of your shots to avoid the trouble that surrounds you. Beyond that, the green is no picnic to putt, even though it is large and looks inviting from anywhere you’re standing on the fairway.
It’s really all about your drive on this hole. If you hit a good drive and hit it where you want — right center, right side of the fairway — you’ll find this hole to be much easier and you can attack the flag and go for par or birdie.
All in all, I’m more than OK with a bogey from the tips on the hardest hole on the scorecard and I always will be.
For those who might be curious (Hi, mom!), I'm now 4-over (4 bogeys and 2 pars) through six holes in the Tee Off With Tait promotion.
Be sure to enter this week for your chance to win a free round of golf at Deer Creek Golf Club in Overland Park.
Last week's winner of a round of golf, with cart, at Canyon Farms was Steve Scannell. Congratulations!
I started playing golf sometime in my teens and have only increased my number of rounds per year since then.
Conservatively, I’m guessing I’ve played 650 rounds of golf in my life at at least a couple dozen different courses.
Never before have I see a hole that looked so visually appealing and presented such an intimidating challenge as No. 3 at Canyon Farms Golf Club in Lenexa.
The first thing that strikes you about this course is the beautiful condition it is in. The fairways are immaculate, the greens are gorgeous and the clubhouse, which is about a year old and improving by the day, is among the best in a 100-mile radius.
But all of that pales in comparison to the sight of the third hole. A 146-yard par 3 from the tips, there is literally nowhere to put your tee shot but on the green. Left, you’re out of bounds. Right, you’re off a cliff. Long, you’re out of bounds. And unless you’re really short there’s nowhere to land it near the front of the green either. You really have to be perfect with your shot.
As you curve around the cart path past a group of bushes from the No. 2 green, the first thing you see is what looks like a cave across the water. Elevated about 20 feet and across the water on the other side is the green.
I’m not going to lie. My first thought was one of fear — how am I going to play this hole and how high is my score going to be?
But after standing there and taking in the scenery — from the cliffs and the pond to the super cool waterfall that runs in front of the green on the left side just off the cart path — my focus went back to the most simple aspects of golf. Take dead aim, use a nice, easy swing, trust the club and don’t worry about all of the noise and distractions.
Just in front of me was a group of two former college golfers who played the hole first. It helped tremendously to see their shots (both of which landed on the green) because (a) it showed me it was possible and (b) they told me what clubs they hit and how the wind up top affected their shots.
Although the distance seems short, the wind on the day I played it made it play about 170. I grabbed my 6 iron, hit it high and watched my tee ball soar to the front right of the green. It landed soft, hugging the right edge of the green, and gave me an opportunity to breathe a sigh of relief. At that moment, even though I knew that it might still take me three or even four putts to get home because the flag buried all the way in the very back corner of this green, I also knew I was not going to take a 7 or 8 after losing two or three tee shots off the cliff.
So walking up to my ball, I felt victorious already.
When I got up there, I realized that the fringe actually cut back into the green and my first putt was going to have to run through it to stay on its line. That immediately took any ideas of birdie out of my head and I was hoping for a two-putt par.
As tough as it was, I hit a lousy first putt. It was way more uphill than I realized and I left it about 18 feet short and to the left.
I missed that one, too by playing a little too much break. My par putt stayed pretty straight and I cleaned up the last foot for an easy bogey. I’ll take it. From the tips, on a hole like this, bogey is not at all a bad score.
This hole is one you wish you could play again as soon as you’re finished — regardless of what you scored and there’s no doubt I’ll find my way back to Canyon Farms often in the near future.
Book your tee time today at Canyon Farms for a round of golf you won't soon forget. And tell 'em Tait sent ya.
Be sure to enter this week for your chance to win a free round of golf at Canyon Farms and see this magnificent hole for yourself.
Last week's winner of a round of golf, with cart, at Falcon Ridge Golf Course was Caj Kueffer. Congratulations!
Fair, fun and a little nerve-racking.
That’s how I would describe the 16th hole at Falcon Ridge Golf Course, a par 3 that sits right on the water and tests your ability to hit a precise iron shot from a variety of distances.
Three of the four tees on this hole actually make it quite a bit easier, giving you the comfort of having your line of sight include mostly green grass and a straight look at the green ahead.
But, naturally, since this Tee Off with Tait promotion is supposed to be a challenge, the fourth set of tees, all the way in the back, change the view just enough to make things interesting.
From the championship tees, which play roughly 161 yards on a calm day, you’re asked to take your tee shot over the water that protects the left side of the green. It’s not a lot. And it really shouldn’t be much of a factor at all. But it’s there just enough to make you think about it.
On the day I played it, I had the added pressure of having an assistant general manager at Falcon Ridge watching over my shoulder as I teed off. Evidently that was good news. With the wind in my face just a little, I clubbed a 5 iron toward the flag in the front of the green and immediately heard the following words as the ball flew through the air: “Right at it.”
It was. And it landed 10 feet past the hole, giving me an easy look at birdie and a feeling of pride that I didn’t totally embarrass myself in front of one of the course’s executives.
My ball mark on the green actually hit about two feet short of the cup, making me feel even better about the tee shot that I already liked to begin with.
I gave my putt a good run but never really thought it was going in. I missed it just on the right side and had an easy tap-in for par.
This hole is a blast because of the layout. It gives you that feeling of playing one of those island greens but without all of the stress that often comes with those.
Don’t get me wrong. If you go even a little bit left, your ball is going to get wet and you could find yourself in one of those Tin Cup moments that Kevin Costner had where you’re just teeing it up again and again and again and again until you finally get it right.
So if you’re going to miss the green on this one, missing right — anywhere right! — is definitely the way to go. There is trouble over there, with a bunker just off of the green and the terrain sloping up the farther you get away from the green. So playing it from the right side and trying to keep it on the green with the water looming behind it would not exactly be your favorite day at the office. But it’s better than the penalty stroke for going in the drink and it at least gives you a chance to get up and down for par.
Fortunately for me, I hit the green and made the hole as easy as I could make it for another par in my Tee Off with Tait challenge.
On my way home from the course, I was talking to our editor, Chad Lawhorn, on the phone and told him how incredibly lucky I had been to hit such good shots on all of these holes I’ve been playing.
His response: “Maybe you should just tell yourself your score’s going in print every time you play golf and see what that does to your game.”
Not a bad idea.
All in all, this was a great, fair hole on a gorgeous course and one that, once again, really tests your ability to hit precise shots and hit it where you’re aiming. If you can land it on the large, flat green, you’re going to be fine and the worst you’ll do here is bogey.
If not, you could be in for a memorable adventure that you might not necessarily want to relive anytime soon.
That’s golf, though. And you’ve gotta love it.
For more on the holes that surround at No. 16 at Falcon Ridge, check out their website or just take a trip out there to see this beauty for yourself. And tell ’em Tait sent ya.
Be sure to enter this week to win a free round of golf at Falcon Ridge Golf Course.
Last week's winner of a round of golf, with cart, at Prairie Highlands was Jason Ingersoll. Congratulations!
As you approach the back tees on the ninth hole at Prairie Highlands Golf Club, you might think you took a wrong turn and are suddenly standing in the middle of an open field on the plains of Kansas.
With thick prairie grass surrounding all four tee boxes, you almost can’t even tell you’re still on a golf course until you actually reach the tee and get ready to hit your shot.
It’s a fitting scene for a course named Prairie Highlands and it’s a terrific setting for the final hole on the front nine at this fun course in west Olathe.
The beauty of this position is that it offers you fabulous scenery and very little stress. You can pretty much hit your tee shot as far as you can without running into trouble and the wide open fairway allows for all kinds of safe landing spots.
There is a small lake to the right and trees and houses up a bit of a hill to the left, but neither come into play unless you spray your drive dramatically left or right.
That’s exactly the kind of setting one needs to tackle this 570-yard par 5 that’s every bit as long as that distance suggests.
My drive was solid here. It landed in the center of the fairway and looked nice and safe the entire way. The only regret I had was how high it went. There was a lot more wind present up top than I realized on the tee box, and hitting it so high cost me a little distance. Not enough to whine about, though, as I easily carried all four tee boxes and landed well into the fairway, no small feat for a 15 handicap playing from the championship tees.
As I approached my second shot, it was clear that I was going to be able to swing away once again. The best club in my bag is and always has been my 3 iron — I’ve tried hybrids and fairway woods but can’t hit them any better than my oldest friend — so I pulled out my favorite club and let ’er rip.
I knew I couldn’t reach the green in two — I knew that even before I hit my drive — but the shot was solid. It hugged the left side and curved back right settling about 5 feet into the fairway off the left rough about 110-120 yards out.
It should have been an easy wedge into the green from there and a good look at birdie once I was finished. The green is not that big and the pin was up and I had a great angle into it. But the water on the right, which no doubt played a role in my second shot hugging the left side, comes into play much more as you get near the green that is protected by water on the entire right side and a bunker and tall grass to the left and back.
None of that should matter from 110 yards out, but I pulled my third shot left to avoid the water and landed just shy of the tall grass protecting the green on the left about 12 feet off the green.
I was OK with the shot and the result, though, because going right is an automatic penalty stroke and going long puts you on the road between the No. 9 green and clubhouse parking lot. No need to dabble with either of those areas. The wind up top may have been a factor here, too, but it also may have kept me out of that tall prairie grass, so no complaints.
At that point, even though I was standing in the center of all kinds of trouble, I felt pretty safe and it was clear to me that a bogey was the worst I would get.
From there a quick pitch to the front pin — often my nemesis — set me up for a par putt and the ball would have wound even closer to the cup had it not been for some wet and heavy sod just in front of the green that caught my first bounce and forced my ball to check up way more than I expected.
I still had about a 12- to 15-foot par putt that was very makable. I had the line, hit a good putt but didn’t hit it enough and left it 10 inches short for a tap-in bogey.
This was a fun hole on a golf course full of them. It’s a terrific finishing hole and it’s probably best that it finishes the front nine rather than the entire round because if you had to play this beast as your 18th and final hole of the day, you might not have the energy and stamina to conquer it.
So swing away, stay left as often as possible and go grab a snack and a drink as you make the turn after finishing.
It’s easy to see how your performance on this hole could springboard you to a good round after gaining a little momentum for the back nine.
Book your tee time today to take your shot at taming No. 9 at Prairie Highlands. And tell ’em Tait sent ya.
Be sure to enter this week to win a free round of golf at Prairie Highlands.
Last week's winner of a round of golf, with cart, for four OR one hour in the Hidden Springs Golf Course virtual golf simulator was Alan Garcia. Congratulations!
Editor's Note: Part 2 in our 9-part series highlighting some of the signature golf holes from courses around the area.
Standing on the tee box at the ninth hole at Hidden Springs Golf Course in Overbrook does nothing to prepare you for the fun and challenge that lies ahead.
From the tee, this 516-yard par 5 looks pretty easy — long and straight and wide open the whole way.
But that’s hardly the way it plays when you get down the fairway.
Quick tip on the drive: The fairway is pretty wide open and it definitely feels like you can hit it anywhere and be OK. There are trees lining the left side and a few trees dotting the right side, but none of those should come into play. There’s a pine tree just in the right rough where the fairway starts to bend. That’s a pretty good aiming point. If you stay tight to that and just hug it to the left, you’ll end up in a perfect spot in the center of the fairway.
After hitting a pretty typical drive to the left rough and advancing the ball to the 130-yard mark on my second shot, I approached my ball for my third shot and that’s when I saw it — one of the most intimidating and cool-looking trees I’ve seen on a golf course, towering over the front of a small pond protecting the ninth green and begging you to test it.
Knowing that I wanted to keep my score respectable for this blog, I had a decision to make. But, really, there was not much to decide. The distance was perfect for my 8 iron and laying up a second time was not an option. I had to go for the green. And, what’s more, I had to hit it.
With nothing but trouble to the left, a pond protecting all three sides of the front and a small bailout area to the back right, it was either hit the green or card a big number. Even if you land it in that bailout area, there’s no guaranteeing that your next shot will land on the turtle shell green.
Although the putting surface is fair and easy to read when you’re up there, most of it slopes down toward the pond in all directions, which would have made it hard to keep a chip on the green from the bailout area.
Luckily, I stayed down, followed through and hit what I could only describe as one of the 20 best shots of my life. Flying just over the right side of the tree and drawing back toward the flag, I stuck my third shot to within eight feet and gave myself a good look at birdie.
Still overjoyed by the shot — not to mention feeling great about the calibration of my clubs — I drove up to the green on the right side of the pond, feeling like Gary Woodland after his chip on 17 at the U.S. Open. This shot might not have won me millions, and nobody else even saw it, but it was a championship shot and all but guaranteed me at least a par.
The putt was makable and I should have drained it. But I just burned the lip on the left side and had a tap-in for par.
I never would have guessed when I teed my ball up back on the box for my first shot that such a memorable hole would have followed.
I didn’t get to see the rest of Hidden Springs that day, but if any of the rest of the holes out there set up like No. 9, I can see where the course got its name.
It truly is a hidden gem in the middle of the most rural setting. A mile stretch of gravel road off of Highway 56 (18 miles east of Highway 59, south of Lawrence) leads you in and the course winds its way over several acres of farmland.
While that might only be available to play when the weather’s good, Hidden Springs offers you another option even when it’s not.
Their brand new, virtual golf system in an out building next to the clubhouse is locked and loaded just about 365 days a year, allowing you to pick from 100 different courses in a real-life, video game set-up.
Forget Golden Tee. This is the real thing. You use real clubs, take full swings and watch your shots as if you were actually playing. The only thing missing is hopping on and off the cart or the exercise you get from walking 18.
There was a young kid in the virtual room while I was out there and watching him swing away and then following his ball flight on the screen with the red line tracing his ball almost made it feel like I was watching on TV. If not for the loud sound of contact and the thump when the ball hit the screen, I might have thought I was.
I hope to get back out for a full round on the actual course sometime soon. But I can guarantee you this much: Hidden Springs will be the first place I think of during the winter months when I get that itch to tee it up and play a round in the dead of winter.
Book your tee time today to try your luck on No. 9, the virtual golf or anything else Hidden Springs has to offer. And tell ’em Tait sent ya.
Be sure to enter this week to win a round of golf for four, with carts, or one hour of virtual golf at Hidden Springs.
Last week's winner of one round of golf for two including cart at Lake Shawnee Golf Course in Topeka was Rick Glover. Congratulations!
The drive into the Lake Shawnee Golf Course parking lot provides an indication of what you’re in for right away
For those golfers intimidated by trees, rolling hills and even more trees, you might keep your head turned to the right until you park your car.
Known for it’s hilly terrain and the challenge of playing several holes that bring Lake Shawnee into play, this course is a fun track that provides enough of a challenge for even the most talented players and manageable distances for the more amateur players.
No hole brings all of that together quite like the par 4 second hole, which features the shores of Lake Shawnee running along the entire left side and has you thinking safe and right the entire way.
In fact, even before you reach the tee box you’re thinking safety first, with the severe downhill slope of the cart path away from the first green putting you on edge before you even reach the course’s signature hole.
There’s a fairway bunker on the left side that is a good landmark to aim for, but only in terms of picking a spot that you want to be well right of. The fairway is there for the taking, with its narrow, rolling hills. But you have to hit it.
From the first three tee boxes, you can easily see the bunker and your alignment takes you right naturally. From the championship blue tees, you have to stand on the very lefthand side of the box to catch a glimpse of the bunker, but even just seeing it for a moment before you swing can help put your mind at ease.
That’s where I played from to kickstart this challenge and it reminded me of an old joke that former Journal-World Sports Editor Tom Keegan and I used to laugh at whenever we played.
With both of us maintaining handicaps in the mid-teens, we weren’t exactly the first people you’d think of to play from the tips. But every once in a while, depending on the company in our foursome, of course, we’d play a round from the back tees and each time we did we had a blast.
“Golf is a much easier game from the tips,” we’d joke, knowing damn well that the added distance usually would reek havoc on our scores and our stress levels.
But it was always fun to try. And, more often than not, it took the pressure of trying to play the perfect shot completely out of the equation. From the tips, you’re just trying to survive with a respectable score.
That was my approach for No. 2 at Lake Shawnee and I have to say it went quite well.
Measured on the scorecard at 369 yards from the blue tees, my drive went high and stayed right from the minute I made contact. It was the perfect shot for someone who had just stepped out of the car without any kind of warm up whatsoever in that I made good contact and new it was safe the entire time it was in the air.
As I drove up the cart path to get a peek at where my ball had landed, I found it sitting in the center of the fairway, just short of that bunker I talked about earlier.
It was hardly the biggest bomb you’ve ever seen, but on this hole, I would gladly sacrifice distance for safety. Besides, the drive left me about 180 yards from the green, a distance easily reachable with a good shot. I’ll take that drive every single time on this hole.
I grabbed a 5 iron for my second shot, hoping to make good contact and give myself a chance at birdie, but I hit it a little heavy and immediately knew it had no chance of reaching. Again, though, it stayed right and was safe the entire time.
Standing over my third shot from the right side of the fairway, I had about 50 yards to the flag. Although I felt good about where I stood at this point, I wasn’t home yet. With the lake now surrounding three sides of the green — at least from my vantage point and in my mind — I knew I needed to hit a good shot to be in the hunt for a respectable score.
Luckily, that was exactly what came next. I hit a half wedge toward the green and landed it just past the flag. The roll from there carried my ball about 30 feet past the hole, but at no point was I worried about the result.
If anything, I fully expected to come up short on my third shot, simply because the pin was positioned in the front of the green and the water that my mind no doubt had brought into play was looming. For the blog’s sake, though, I went for the flag and was rewarded.
Sitting 30 feet away from par, from the tips mind you, was a great spot to be in and gave me a feeling of victory in and of itself even before I grabbed my putter.
At this point, I’m feeling like a bogey is the worst I’m going to do. Welcome to my world. Bogey golf, on most courses, turns into 90 and if you make a few pars and a couple of birdies along the way, you end up in the low- to mid-80s.
For what it’s worth, I have broken 80 one time — with a 79 — and it remains one of the best days of my life. Sadly, it’s now been nearly five full years since that day. But I have mixed in quite a few rounds of 83 or better in the time between then and now and my experience on No. 2 at Lake Shawnee had me believing this round, had I played it out, would have been another one.
Back to the green, I had a slightly uphill putt that broke left to the right toward the water a bit. Standing over it, I felt like it was more than manageable, something I could give a real run.
I did exactly that, didn’t leave it short and missed it a couple of inches left — on the pro side, I should add. I had a two-footer for bogey from there and easily cleaned that up and walked away feeling good about my bogey 5 from the tips on Lake Shawnee Golf Course’s signature hole.
You won’t find me complaining about that. I would take that every time on this hole, yet I still felt like I could have done better. I loved my drive, loved my wedge onto the green and felt good about my two-putt. The second shot cost me.
All in all, it was a really fun hole, with a fair green, a somewhat forgiving fairway (as long as you stay right) and a manageable distance that allows even average-length hitters to recover from just about any type of shot.
There are harder holes out here. No. 2 is just the No. 9 handicap on the 18-hole course. But, particularly from the tips, with a semi-blind tee shot, this challenge allows you to get a great look at Lake Shawnee and provides the challenge of staying focused and precise with every shot from tee to green.
Book your tee time today to try to tackle No. 2 and the rest of the fun that Lake Shawnee Golf Course has to offer. And tell ’em Tait sent ya.
Nine courses, nine of the toughest holes they have to offer and an entertaining mix of what I hope will be a few good shots and a handful of tips to help play them.
That’s the goal for our latest “Tee Off With Tait” promotion, which will feature yours truly trying to tackle some of the area’s best-known signature golf holes and prizes for your contribution to the fun.
Beginning Saturday, Aug. 3, and running each Saturday from then until the end, I’ll be heading out to a golf course in the area and will be tasked with playing what course officials believe is their best or most challenging hole.
You’ll see photos and videos of the hole and read about my adventure from tee to green. If I birdie the hole, that blog entry might be a little longer. But worry not. If I take an 8 on a hole, every last one of those shots, along with what I did to get there, will be included in the blog, as well.
First up: No. 2 at Topeka’s Lake Shawnee Golf Course, a 369-yard par 4 from the championship blue tees that features every kind of trouble and challenge you could imagine.
As you follow along with this "Tee Off With Tait" blog, be sure to enter each week for your chance to win free golf at that week's featured course.
NINE TOTAL WINNERS
One winner drawn each week
Week 1: One round of golf for 2 including cart at Lake Shawnee
Week 2: One round of golf with cart for 4 OR one hour virtual golf for 4 at Hidden Springs
Week 3: One round for one player at Prairie Highlands
Week 4: One round for one player at Falcon Ridge
Week 5: One round for one player at Canyon Farms
Week 6: One round for one player at Deer Creek
Week 7: One round for one player at Shawnee Country Club
Week 8: One round for one player at Lake Perry Country Club
Week 9: One round for one player at Western Hills Country Club