Archive for Wednesday, August 2, 2000

Kansas City area course still one to dread

August 2, 2000

In this day of TigerMania, it's easy to look back and understand if not appreciate the golf career of Jug McSpadden.

He was the second-best golfer each week.

"You can say he was the Ernie Els of his time," said Joe Nugent, the course manager at Dub's Dread Golf Course in Kansas City, Kan., which McSpadden owned and created 36 years ago.

In other words, he was second-fiddle first to Byron Nelson and then to Jack Nicklaus. He was, like Els, the guy usually leading the pack in the race for second place. It's made for a somewhat anonymous golf career, especially in the days prior to the Golf Channel, Thursday-to-Sunday broadcasting and, yes, the Internet.

But McSpadden made a comfortable living.

Even if he wasn't the greatest of his era, he was a fine golfer, an excellent businessman and we now know a visionary.

He knew technology would eventually overtake the game. He envisioned equipment getting better and better so when he instructed course architect Charles Dunning to design Dub's Dread in 1964, he wanted a course that would stand the test of time and technology.

It was the inspiration to Dub's Dread, which when it open its doors, was quickly listed into the Guiness Book of World Records as the longest golf course in the world. At 8,101 yards, it was a truly daunting round of course for the average golfer.

It was intimidating to the professionals, too.

In August 1968, McSpadden and Nelson took on Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer in an exhibition match at Dub's Dread. Thousands paid $20 a ticket more than the price for a ticket at the first Super Bowl, which was played earlier in the year to see the match featuring four golfing legends.

McSpadden and Nelson won the match and even though they didn't play from the tips like their two younger competitors, they still played more than 7,200 yards - longer than the distance at this year's U.S. Open - from the intermediate tees.

It was the highpoint of a golf course that was renowned, but intimidated the average golfer, who chose other courses to be challenged. It forced Dub's management to rethink the strategy of having such a difficult course.

After all, a day on the golf course is supposed to be an enjoyable experience.

The course was shortened.

The Dub's Dread of today is a mere 7,155 yards from the tips.

However, twice a year, management chooses to remember its rich history by moving the tee boxes back and inviting all challengers to take part in what is affectionately known as "The Monster Mash."

There is never any trouble filling this tournament.

"We can get it back to nearly 8,000 yards," Nugent said. "Really, 8,101 is not the kind of yardage most golfers want to play everyday, but we can stretch it out and we get people coming to play it."

And Nugent has people coming to play the course in its more moderate configuration, too. A $24 green fee is a fair price for a course that holds so much history and heritage.

Make no bones about it, even at a shorter distance, Dub's Dread is still difficult maybe more difficult that it was when it originally opened for one simple reason: The trees on the course have matured.

"Most new golf courses are trying to find a way to add trees," Nugent said.

"We're going in the other direction. We're having to eliminate some of the trees."

The trees, which line every fairway, have grown to the point where the fairways, many of them doglegs, are quite narrow. Keeping a tee shot in the fairway is easier said than done, but is essential for success on this course.

You realize immediately what you are up against at Dub's Dread. The first hole is a 515-yard, par-5 with a dogleg to the right. It is the shortest of the four par-5 holes on the course, but it is not exactly the way most average players would like to start a round.

The most memorable of the long holes is the 547-yard 12th hole. The dogleg left features an elevated tee box over water and a swamp that runs along the left side of the fairway.

From the tee box, there is the temptation to cut the dogleg by driving over the tees. A word to the wise: It's far longer than it appears. Unless you are a consistent hitter of 300 yards, you're better off hitting it right down the middle and setting up for a second shot about 350 yards from the pin.

In other words, getting there in two is not likely. Play smartly. A par here is not a bad thing.

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