Archive for Wednesday, August 4, 2004

Golf analyst gives area courses a thumb’s up

August 4, 2004

A Jefferson City, Mo., golf course analyst had steady praise for courses in Basehor and Bonner Springs after studying the public golf course market in Johnson, Leavenworth and Wyandotte counties earlier this month.

"I think they're very competitive in that area," said Larry Flatt, president of Flatt Golf Services Inc., and a former superintendent turned golf consultant and designer with more than 45 years of experience in the golf business. "All the courses seem to get a little bit better all the time."

Last month, Flatt visited 18 public golf courses in the area as part of a feasibility study he was hired to undertake for the city of Shawnee. Shawnee city officials hired Flatt to determine the potential financial success of a proposed $11 million golf course. The city is considering entering into a public-private partnership to own and operate the proposed golf course when construction is completed.

In his report, Flatt determined the public golf course market to be oversaturated, a notion seconded by many in the industry, and questioned the financial success of a new golf course. He advised Shawnee city officials to carefully consider entering into the proposed partnership.

Of those 18 golf courses analyzed, Flatt studied four courses within a long tee-shot from Tonganoxie. Those courses are: Falcon Lakes in Basehor; Dub's Dread in Piper; Sunflower Hills in Bonner Springs; and Painted Hills in Kansas City, Kan.

Looking good

The foursome stacks up nicely compared to its public golf course counterparts in Johnson County, Flatt said.

"I think they're every bit as good," he said, adding that each course is challenging but still playable to the average golfer and generally well cared for.

"I like any golf course, that's my trouble," Flatt said jokingly, "but sure, I think golfers there have a great pick of courses."

Each of the courses reviewed for the study received a numerical one through five rating. A rating of four or five would place the golf course in direct competition with the proposed links in Shawnee.

Falcon Lakes, a 2-year-old course on Kansas Highway 7, north of Leavenworth Road, received a rating of four. The golf course is "very playable and well conditioned," according to Flatt's report.

Flatt said the course could have easily received a five, the highest rating.

"There could be some debate about that," he said. "They have the capability of being a five. No question."

Falcon Lakes general manager Dean Ralston said golf rounds projected in 2004 at the Basehor course are expected to exceed last year's total by more than 6,000 rounds. Golfers from all over the Kansas City metro area are starting to take notice of Falcon Lakes, he said.

"We believe in what we're doing," said Ralston, who cited providing a great course, excellent service and affordable prices as reasons for Falcon Lakes' surge in the market. "We're concentrated on what we can do to maintain our success now and improve it for the future.

"Obviously we're doing something right."

Dub's Dread, 12601 Hollingsworth Road, also received a rating of four. While Flatt's report didn't laud the course with any specific praise, the analyst himself did so during an interview.

"It has a lot of history," he said. "I remember watching Arnold Palmer, Jug McSpadden, Jack Nicklaus and Byron Nelson play there in the 1960s."

Ralston, whose Falcon Lakes course is seated nearby Dub's Dread, said the legendary history of the course earns it instant credibility among those in the golf industry.

"It's got an incredible history behind it," Ralston said. "There's a lot of respect for that golf course."

Challenging design

Sunflower Hills, at 122nd Street and Riverview in Bonner Springs, received a ranking of three. "Challenging design and layout, just sodded zoysia fairways, needs better care," according to the report.

But, Flatt said, Sunflower Hills, with its three-year, $2.1 million capital improvement project completed, is a past juggernaut ready to re-emerge as a popular destination for golfers.

"I've always really liked Sunflower," Flatt said. "It's never really been in very good shape but they put a lot of money into it. I think it could be very compelling very soon."

From 2001 to 2003, improvements at Sunflower Hills have included revamping the bunkers, a new fence line, a new state of the art irrigation system, new cart paths and new zoysia fairways on each hole.

Sunflower Hills golf pro Jeff Johnson said the course did suffer from a lag in recent years but has since started to regain its glory of old.

"We're getting back to where we were normally," said Johnson, who expects rounds at Sunflower to gradually increase as the course takes shape.

Flatt's report said anticipated improvements in playing conditions would give Sunflower Hills a rating of four.

Painted Hills, 7101 Parallel Parkway, received a rating of three. "It is short but fun to play and well conditioned," according to the report.

Both Ralston and Johnson said their courses routinely see players from Johnson County come north of the Kansas River to play golf. Johnson may have summed up the feelings of many golfers and course professionals when he said, "We're just as good as anything."

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