MARYVILLE, Mo. — Tom Watson stood in the middle of a cleared prairie in Nodaway County with a rangefinder to his eye. With a few strokes of a pen, a new course took shape on paper and in his mind.
This course would be a bit different. A smaller course — a course for kids — designed to challenge golfers still honing their skills.
“This golf course is short by normal standards,” said Mr. Watson, who appeared in Maryville to look over the site and meet with the media on Wednesday afternoon. “This course is designed for beginners, for kids or anybody, really, to play the game where you aren’t forced to play 400-yard par 4s or 500-yard par 5s or 180-yard par 3s — things that are manageable for beginning golfers.
“That’s the whole idea for this, to make it fun for them and not too long, where they can hit a shot and get rewarded for it.”
The proposed new nine-hole course at Mozingo Lake could become reality by the spring of 2015.
The project came after Dr. Bruce Twaddle, a local dentist, took a trip to Scotland before the 2011 British Open. His caddy pointed out a group of young kids playing on a shorter course.
From there, Dr. Twaddle worked to secure funding for the project, similar to many others sprouting up across the country as a response to the declining number of youths participating in the sport.
“They had a sign there that said, ‘No adults allowed unless under the direct supervision of a child,’” Dr. Twaddle said. “That’s when the light went off. Everyone I related that story to, it made sense.
“It’s an easy sell because we have the land, we have the resources to do this, and we have the people in the community who believe in young children and want to help develop them.”
Bringing in Mr. Watson — a Kansas City native, professional golf hall of famer and 39-time PGA Tour winner with eight major victories on his resume — only adds to the prestige of the project.
Bob Gibbons, a member of Mr. Watson’s design group, helped lay out the initial course design after visiting the site in March. The nine holes will be located adjacent and to the east of the 18-hole Mozingo Lake Golf Course. Mr. Gibbons has helped design five short courses for the group, including one at Swope Park in Kansas City and four on the East Coast.
“One of (the challenges) is making the course easily walkable,” Mr. Gibbons said. “The biggest thing, as Tom pointed out, is to be playable.
“We want the kids to be able to find their ball and hit it again. We want to make it challenging for them, but we don’t want to make it too hard to where they lose interest in the game.”
To go along with the new course, community members are looking into an association with The First Tee, which is designed to teach kids the core rules and values of golf to apply for the rest of their lives. The First Tee’s board of directors will meet later this week to discuss granting the affiliation.
The course has an estimated price tag of $550,000 with fundraising under way. Organizers have raised $25,000 so far with commitments for more than $100,000 already accumulated. Maryville city manager Greg McDanel said reserve money could be used to cover any potential shortfalls.