Hall of Fame golfer Tom Watson to design kid-friendly course

Saturday, October 5, 2013 | 11:28 p.m. CDT

 MARYVILLE — Hall of Fame golfer Tom Watson has played some of the world's toughest courses and designed many to good reviews, but the one he's working on in the northwest corner of his home state will have none of the tricky doglegs and watery challenges of places like his National Golf Club of Kansas City.

Instead, the planned nine-hole layout alongside the 18-hole Mozingo Lake Golf Course in Maryville is being tailored to children and others just learning the game — challenging, but not discouraging.

On a recent visit to the cleared acreage in Nodaway County, the Kansas City native surveyed the site with a rangefinder and began sketching the new course on paper, The St. Joseph News-Press reported.

"This golf course is short by normal standards," said Watson, who lives about 110 miles south of Maryville on a farm in Stilwell, Kan. "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 4's or 500-yard par 5's or 180-yard par 3's.

"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 initiative began with Maryville dentist Bruce Twaddle, who first saw a children's course during a trip to Scotland before the 2011 British Open at England's Royal St. George's Golf Course (where five-time champion Watson finished with a 6-over-par 286).

Twaddle worked to secure funding for the project, similar to many others being developed around the country in response to the declining number of youths participating in the sport.

"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."

Bob Gibbons, a member of Watson's design company, helped lay out the initial course design after visiting the site in March. Gibbons has helped design five short courses for the group, including one at Kansas City's Swope Park, and said one key element is making the course easily walkable.

"We want the kids to be able to find their ball and hit it again," Gibbons said. "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."

Fundraising for the estimated $550,000 cost is underway, with donations and commitments of more than $125,000 so far.

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