Tom Keegan: Red Bridge Wee Links, where big dreams start

Youth golfers in The First Tee of Greater Kansas City program prepare to play a round on the Red Bridge Wee Links on Saturday at the Twin Oaks Golf Complex in Eudora.

Basketball and instant replay are two of the bigger contributions to sports that can be traced to Canada.

Dr. James E. Naismith, inventor of basketball, was born in Canada. So was instant replay. It made its debut during a 1955 Hockey Night in Canada broadcast on CBC Television.

Now is the time to unveil a third game-changer from Canada, this one involving golf, and imported here by Texan Joe Giles, a former Lawrence Country Club member who spent a few years working and golfing in Toronto.

One day on the 19th hole at a Toronto club, Giles talked about one of his shots from the round and was about to relive another when he abruptly was warned to stop talking, even if that meant switching to his favorite subject, Texas A&M football. The rule at that club, Giles was informed, was that you could only mention one shot from your round. The penalty for breaking the rule: You must buy a round of drinks.

So if you double hit a chip, as T.C. Chen famously did in the 1985 U.S. Open, careful. Don’t talk about it or it’ll cost you.

The one-shot rule — there is no such 19th-hole limit on short drinks — is bound to be adopted at all golf courses worldwide in short order. After all, few things in life are as frustrating as listening to someone else prattle on about his shots when I want to talk about mine. It also creates the challenge of picking just one shot about which to boast, not as tough a choice for some as others.

So if you’ll indulge me, I have one just shot from my most recent round to discuss.

The last words out of my playing partner’s mouth were, “Ace it.”

So I took my sand wedge back halfway, hinged, came through smoothly, heard that perfect click and then that equally beautiful sound of a soft landing. One more bounce and into the cup it went.

Ask for an ace and an ace you shall receive. And it came on the longest hole on the course, No. 4. Never mind that it was just 35 yards in length or that the orange ball dropped into a 6-inch cup instead of the regulation 4-1/4-inches. It still felt good.

The course: Red Bridge Wee Links, the latest addition to the Twin Oaks Golf Complex in Eudora, which also has a driving range and a nine-hole, par-3 course. It’s a great place for novices to gain confidence.

Red Bridge Wee Links is a six-hole course designed by world-famous golf architect Dave Axland, who has worked on renovation projects at prestigious courses such as Riviera Country Club, Prairie Dunes and SandHills Golf Club and countless others.

As a favor to golf missionary and old friend Jeff Burey, proprietor of Twin Oaks, and as a means of growing the game by getting more young children involved, Axland donated his time and touch to the project. Local businessmen in the construction industry donated time and equipment as well.

The course, which takes about as long to play as one hole does on a championship course, 12 minutes or so, is a scaled-down version of an actual golf track, replete with features that genuflect to the sport’s rich history. Such as: the double green shared by Hole Nos. 2 and 5, a nod to the Old Course at St. Andrews, the oldest course in the world.

A giant rock pile with weeds growing out of it, left of the fourth fairway, just shy of the green, is a reminder that courses used to incorporate rock piles into the layout because it was easier than hauling away the rocks they removed to sculpt fairways and greens. The River Birch tree behind No. 1 green lends a nice touch as well.

No. 3 offers a closer tee for the youngest of the young players who don’t yet have the confidence to clear the stream that runs under the course’s trademark, a red bridge.

Most of the Zoysia grass greens have a hint of turtleback, making them tough to hold.

Anything new comes with unintended consequences, and not all of those are bad. Red Bridge Wee Links is drawing beginners, as intended, as well as serious golfers looking to refine their short games by pitching and chipping short distances to small greens.

How serious a golfer?

A recently minted PGA Tour pro even spent three hours one day last month practicing on Red Bridge Wee Links. It certainly didn’t hurt Chris Thompson, who finished his Tour season well enough to earn a PGA Tour card for the 2018-19 schedule.

“The game is back,” Burey beamed Saturday, his enthusiasm not doused even a little from the 97-degree heat. “The game is back. There are so many good things going on.”


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