Updated: Jun 1
We've made it! The final installment of our three part series finding the best 18 holes of golf in the Sunflower State is here. Some people, namely myself, are calling it the Middle Pin Super-Course. It's a thing.
The sun is setting on the Middle Pin Super-Course Best 18 in Kansas.
In case you missed it, here are links to both part I and part II. It's worth reading them in order because we put some important stipulations on ourselves in making this list. It's been fun, and super challenging, to come up with this list. Hope you enjoy the finale!
Best 18 in Kansas - Part III
13. Rolling Meadows (Junction City) – Par 3
Thirteen at Rolling Meadows will leave you with a lasting memory.
I worked at a golf course one summer in my college years when I first learned of this hole. I told my boss I wanted to play golf somewhere near Manhattan while in town for my sister's wedding later that fall. My boss (shout-out Landon) suggested Rolling Meadows, based solely on this hole. It undoubtedly leaves an impression the first time playing this course. And you don't get the story of this hole based on the yardage on the scorecard. Finishing the twelfth hole, you'll go straight up the hill directly to the north of the twelfth green. I call it a hill, but it seems like more of a mountain. From there, the player is faced with just a 170-150 yard shot depending on the tee box you're playing. However, this thing goes straight down it never plays to that yardage, unless maybe there is a stiff east wind. The hole is so steep in fact, that from the back tees, you likely won't be able to see the green below. There is plenty of room to bail out to the right on this hole, except for the green-side bunker on the right side, but anything down the left is in the trees and will likely result in a dropped ball. My old boss was right in suggesting this course and wasn't kidding about his memory of this hole. It is a unique challenge and a whole lot of fun to play.
Runners up: Wamego Country Club, Auburn Hills, Terradyne Country Club
14. Auburn Hills (Wichita) – Par 4
Fourteenth green at Auburn is surrounded by all sorts of trouble. Believe me, I know.
I’ll freely admit, I’ve never played this hole well. Ever. I played this hole last week and took yet another triple bogey, leaving behind a new Pro-V1 in the lake and plenty of expletives on the green. But for the best fourteenth hole in the state, I chose Auburn Hills in Wichita. Facing west/northwest off the tee, the hole bends around a creek bed and lake to the north in a gradual dogleg. You’ll notice the large mound with bunkers and native grass straight ahead through the fairway. Hit whatever club you need to be short of that mess because a big number comes into play from that position. There is plenty of width to land the tee shot but angles come into play on the second as the further right you go the shorter the approach but also brings in more hazards with the lake and a deep greenside bunker on the right side. The green is cut into a large bank on the left with a drainage collection area on the short right of the green that runs mostly north-south with a large spine that cuts through the back half of the green. I’ve struggled on this hole just about every way a player can. I’ve hit tee shots in the lake, in the bunkers and native grass straight through the fairway. I’ve dunked approach shots in the lake and splattered them in the greenside bunker. I’ve three-putted this green more times than I care to remember. Yet, despite my struggles on this hole, I still like it because knowing the strategy of how to play a golf hole and actually executing it are two entirely different things.
Runners up: Prairie Dunes, Stagg Hill, Salina Country Club
15. Sand Creek Station (Newton) – Par 4
There is plenty of room and plenty of choices at Sand Creek.
As you’ve read through on parts I and II, one key for me in judging these holes was the choices they provide for players and this hole at Sand Creek Station in Newton does just that. From the elevated tee, the hole faces the northeast, and there are a couple features that immediately stick out, mainly the large mound with principle nose bunkers carved into its face situated right in the middle of the fairway. The mound gives the player a choice on not only direction of their shot, but also length. There are options left, right, long, and short, of the mound and the wind speed and direction will help the player with make the decision that is best off the tee. The hole is also framed by large mounds on either side of the fairway closer to the green and the green sits in a bit of a bowl. The mounds might block the view of the green for the approach shot which only adds to the excitement of this hole. This hole will make you think and it will reward the right choice and execution. What more could you ask for in a golf hole?
Runners up: Prairie Dunes, Colbert Hills, Tallgrass Country Club
16. Topeka Country Club (Topeka) – Par 4
They've been playing at Topeka Country Club since the carts were one horse power.
From Kansas Memory.
This was one of the toughest holes to pick. For one, we've already used fifteen other courses on the list and have a couple more already penciled in for seventeen and eighteen. For two, it seems like sixteenth holes just aren't that memorable, for me at least. So Topeka Country Club kind of wins by default here. And that is mostly because of the person who designed it. Originally laid out by famed architect Tom Bendelow, Topeka Country Club opened as a nine-hole course in 1905, making it one of the oldest, and most illustrious, golf courses in the state. Sure, stars like Bob Hope, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson have teed it up here. But so did President Taft. Which is pretty damn cool. Plans for the course's expansion to eighteen holes were postponed several times in the early years of the club until Perry Maxwell designed the additional nine, which opened in 1940. This hole isn't long, but there is a choice off the tee box in attacking the dogleg left hole. Mature trees line both sides of the fairway and act as a wall for any player trying to take the short cut off the tee. However, a long ball isn't a requirement as even a tee shot of 180 yards down the middle will leave just a mid-iron to the green.
Sixteen was a tough choice to make but considering that doubt, we went with a hole on a course designed by the region's preeminent architects at one of the state's most historic courses.
Runners up: Colbert Hills, Flint Hills National, Sim Park
17. Buffalo Dunes (Garden City) – Par 3
Even with no one in the stands, the seventeenth at Buffalo Dunes feels intense.
If you haven’t played golf at Buffalo Dunes in Garden City, stop what you are doing and start planning a trip. Most people, especially those who have never been there, think western Kansas is this flat, barren landscape. Buffalo Dunes proves that notion to be wildly false. Heading south of Garden City to the course a few miles outside of town, the landscape totally transforms into rolling sand hills covered in grass and yucca. It’s a stunning setting and this golf course fits in perfectly to the terrain while also providing some of the most beautiful views in the entire state.
In the same vein, looking at the scorecard doesn’t tell the story of this great hole either. Measuring about 160 yards, the hole actually plays a little longer as the tabletop green is perched above the teeing ground. The hole faces the southeast so the prevailing wind out of the south will likely be another factor in club selection on this hole. When I had the pleasure of playing this course a few years ago, a large grandstand for patrons watching the annual Southwest Kansas Pro-Am, the longest running professional tournament in the state, was located just behind the green to add to this hole’s ambiance (the grandstand might be up all the time?). That tournament features rounds at both Buffalo Dunes and the Golf Club at Southwind just up the road.
There are a lot of false notions out there and Buffalo Dunes and its seventeenth hole will go a long way to dispel any preconceived notions of golf in western Kansas.
Runners up: Prairie Dunes, Sand Creek Station, Turkey Creek
18. Flint Hills National (Andover) – Par 5
The state's tree plays a prominent role on the eighteenth at Flint Hills National.
To be fair, Flint Hills National could have been anywhere on this list. But, having just recently played it (and already published the other three pieces of the Best 18 in Kansas), I had to find a spot. This par five hole tees off to the southwest and the hole curves around the large lake that separates the first hole from the eighteenth. The tee shot features a forced carry over some part of the lake; however, the choice is yours on how much you want to take off and getting overly aggressive on the tee might not be the best choice as the hole’s unique feature, a gigantic cottonwood tree, comes into play on nearly all second shots. There is a window to go at the green in two but for most, the shot will either be too long or the cottonwood will force a layup to the end of the fairway before crossing over the lake inlet short of the green. The layup to the prime position will leave a third of less than 130 yards to attack the pin location. The green is large and undulating, a staple of Flint Hills National. The tree eliminates some of the choice for the player as it dominates the hole on both the second and third shots (if out of position) but it is certainly a unique feature and, combined with the imposing clubhouse leering over the eighteenth green, helps to make this finish so picturesque.
Runners up: Terradyne Country Club, Hillcrest, Salina Country Club, Macdonald
That’s it. That’s all we have. As stated in earlier posts, we know we haven’t played everywhere and these are just our opinions. Maybe you have other ideas. We hope you do and that you’ll share them in the comments below and on our social media accounts.
the Middle Pin Super-Course Official Scorecard:
1. Colbert Hills (Manhattan) – Par 5, 590 yards
2. Crestview Country Club, North Course (Wichita) – Par 5, 563 yards
3. Cedarbrook (Iola) – Par 4, 270 yards
4. Indian Hill (Chapman) – Par 4, 400 yards
5. Salina Country Club – Par 4, 371 yards
6. Tamarisk (Syracuse) – Par 4, 418 yards
7. Sugar Valley (Mound City) – Par 4, 350 yards
8. Priaire Dunes (Hutchinson) – Par 4, 468 yards
9. Hillcrest (Coffeyville) – Par 4, 326 yards
10. Macdonald (Wichita) – Par 5, 524 yards
11. Cottonwood Hills (Hutchinson) – Par 4, 373 yards
12. Rolling Hills Country Club (Wichita) – Par 5, 561 yards
13. Rolling Meadows (Junction City) – Par 3, 170 yards
14. Auburn Hills (Wichita) – Par 4, 404 yards
15. Sand Creek Station (Newton) – Par 4, 382 yards
16. Topeka Country Club – Par 4, 332 yards
17. Buffalo Dunes (Garden City) – Par 3, 160 yards
18. Flint Hills National (Andover) – Par 5, 496 yards
Par – 75 (38 out; 37 in)
Yards – 7,158
We’re glad you’re here. – tMP