Updated: Jun 1
Pine Edge #3. Aim at the silos. Don't be short.
I’ve driven by the sign at least a hundred times. It’s right off the road north of Goessel. I’ve seen it. Just never gave it much thought. Guess the imposing Alexanderwhol Mennonite Church right off the highway at the corner by the golf course sign always piqued my interest more.
And it wasn’t just the sign, people were talking about it too. It just didn’t seem like a place that we needed to get to right away. Guess I thought we’d get to it at some point; it would be a trip “just to say we’ve been there” kind of a thing.
That time came earlier this week. Three days before Christmas and less than a week after a snowstorm plowed its way through the middle of the state. We wanted one more match before the end of the year and settled on Pine Edge outside of Goessel, Kansas, on the second shortest day of the year.
I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew it was a short course with a par of just 30 but I couldn’t even tell the routing of the holes from Google maps. It had me all sorts of confused. There were a few photos on the internet to get a feel of the place and a number to call with information (we got the machine), but that was about it. For the most part, we were going in blind. We knew two things about this place: 1) where it was located, 2) it was open, at least according to the answering machine (365 days a year!). Other than that, it was all a bit of an enigma.
Pine Edge greens (clockwise, beginning with the bottom middle): #1, #3, #6, #8, #2, #9, and the green roofed clubhouse. Some of Pine Edge's water hazards are also visible, including the pond, the lagoon, and Myron's swimming pool.
Always a little nervous making plans at some place we don't know much about. Any number of things could happen and totally ruin us getting out to play golf. What if its closed? What if they have something else going on? Those anxious feelings were wiped away as soon as I laid eyes on the property as I crested the hill of the dirt road about a half mile to the west. We had the parking lot and golf course all to ourselves. The absolute best.
I walked the course to get some photos before we started playing. If I had to describe this course in one word, from only looking at it through the lens of the camera, it would be "funky." And I mean that in the very best way. I’ve played some pitch and putt courses and par three courses before but I can honestly say, I’ve never seen anything quite like Pine Edge. It is a shot makers paradise on the prairies of Kansas.
Driving range facing west.
We loaded up the push carts, scrounged up some balls off the range, and were warming up when we spotted a man and his spaniel coming through the trees. The purple coat and hoodie the man wore told me we’d get along just fine. He went to the clubhouse and emerged with plastic ice cream bucket full of range balls that he brought over. It was the owner, Myron, checking to see who was out at his place. We introduced ourselves and chatted for a bit. Myron is pretty easy to talk to. He told us he just walked over from his house and pointed toward the middle of the golf course. I asked him for any tips on playing his course. He cracked a smile and said, “one, two, and three, will get your attention. After that, it kind of levels out.”
Myron watched from the clubhouse porch as we tackled the first hole and its intimidating green. It is the largest green at the place and I’m sure he wasn’t at all impressed as all three of our tee shots sailed well over his tiered handiwork. We got a quick lesson in the precision required on this course. His dog walked with us to the first green. The dog looked almost as proud of this place as Myron did. And rightfully so. It was the dog’s home too.
We played on and were blown away by the tee shot on the second hole. The trees that form the chute look more intimidating than the reality and all our shots with long irons safely made the wide clearing around the green. If this place didn’t have our attention by the time we stepped on the third tee, it definitely did after we rinsed a few new balls in Myron’s lake. Some of us fared better than others.
It isn't a long forced carry, but anything short on #3 sleeps with the fishes.
We kept on through the fourth, underneath the looming grain silos of the dairy farm that Myron’s family used to run; to the short fifth that plays right up to Myron’s driveway and front yard; to the shortest par four (180 yards) I’ve ever played at the sixth, which doglegs around the north and west side of Myron’s house. Even if you could get by the gigantic trees protecting the dogleg corner from the tee, the green is not only protected by a green side bunker, but also one of the more unique water hazards I’ve seen on a golf course: a lagoon. There’s a bell behind the sixth green to signal to anyone behind you that you’ve cleared the green. You don’t see too many of those types of features in this part of the country.
A green-side bunker and the lagoon stand guard to protect the sixth green from anyone taking a short cut.
The seventh bends around the south side of Myron’s house while teeing off up a slight hill to the east/southeast. There’s a big center-line bunker right at the corner where the hole bends slightly but is more of a visual deception than an actual threat. Still, none of us picked the right line on this 190 yard par four.
Standing on the eighth tee, it was finally time to let some firepower loose. It is the longest hole on the course and runs along the south boundary of the property down a gentle hill to the west. I could see Myron and his dog coming over the bridge by the eighth green so I gave him a second to clear as I stood on the tee. Should have waited a little longer as my sliced hybrid soared over his head and came to a rest by the seventh tee box. I apologized for my poor swing that resulted in my “fore” scream as we met Myron and his dog in the middle of the fairway. He just chuckled.
I freaking dig windmills. And this is a good windmill.
He was headed back to his house. We were headed to play our tee shots in what was basically his yard.
We stood in the fairway and talked for several minutes. It’s the type of thing you can do when you aren’t too worried about keeping up the pace of play. When I asked him how this all started, he pointed up at the two grain towers on the north side of the property at the dairy farm. He told us he sat at the top of those Kansas skyscrapers and mapped out several versions of a golf course before settling on the current layout and breaking ground in 1995. He said he was a third generation dairy farmer over there until he sold it a couple years back. You could feel his passion for this place when talking about the dairy, his dad, and grandfather. I related to that feeling. I also related to dreaming of building my own golf course, except my day dreams usually took place in the cab of a tractor, rather than on top of a grain silo.
Pine Edge Golf Course, with Myron's house right in the middle.
He told us he did all the work himself: from routing and design, to irrigation, to seeding, to landscaping, to maintenance. It took eight years before he opened it up to the public in 2003. I was blown away by his commitment, pride, imagination, and no doubt countless hours of work, to pull this off.
Myron told us about their league and some of the tournaments they have each year. He thanked us for coming to see his place and wished us well for however many holes we wanted to play. We thanked him for his hospitality and told him we’d be back in the spring and summer to see this place tuned up.
There was no one behind us, but we rang the bell anyway.
We finished up playing the ninth hole, then reloaded to do it all again. Some holes we played better; others we played worse. Didn’t matter much. We were playing golf. We were playing golf in some dude’s yard. No matter how poor it might have looked on the scorecard, we were having a damn good bit of fun. Hope Myron could hear us ‘whoop’ and ‘holler’ the handful of good shots worth celebrating from the comfort of his living room. And hope that put a smile on his face.
The eighth green surrounded by the long shadows of winter.
Golf can be a lot of things. Sometimes, its eighteen regulation holes. But it doesn’t have to be. It can be whatever we want it to be as long as there is a club and ball to chase. That’s what Pine Edge is. It’s golf like you’ve never played before. In this case, golf is channeling some Myron’s imagination in making some of the demanding shots he designed around his home.
We’d seen the sign; we’d heard the stories. We weren’t sure what to expect. What we got: four plus hours, and 23 or so holes, of shot making among friends, a new Christmas tradition, and a hell of a lot of inspiration from this guy who had a vision and just made it happen.
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