Since opening in 2000, Colbert Hills Golf Course has acquired a reputation as "that really big [golf] course out in Kansas.'' It has also acquired a reputation as being one of the toughest golf courses in the country.
The course is the brainchild and dream of a Kansas State alumnus and PGA Tour player, Jim Colbert, who envisioned a place were the Kansas State golf team could train, and where the school could also train golf course managers and superintendents to do research on turfgrass. Colbert also envisioned the course as a public, daily-fee course, as well as a place where disadvantaged children could learn the game.
Colbert worked with golf course architect Jeffrey Brauer to design and build the big, sprawling layout that runs through 300 acres of land atop the Flint Hills at at the northwest edge of Manhattan, Kansas. According to Colbert, "God built about 14 of the holes, and we built about four of them.''
Perhaps the most surprising feature of the course are its elevation changes. To golfers not familiar with the area, they would probably expect the typically flat Kansas topography. But Colbert Hills is hilly and some holes have elevation changes of 100 feet.
Adding to the challenge is the length, which reaches a stunning 7,525 yards from the Black and Blue tees to go with a USGA rating of 77.5 and a slope rating of 152. With those numbers, the course has been said to be "Tiger-proof.'' There are seven sets of tees in all, however, making the course manageable for golfers of all levels.
The 18-hole, par-72 course employs a traditional, Scottish links-style design, and golfers should never expect to find themselves behind a tree, but they will find more than 100 sand bunkers. The course is constructed with mounds along its sides, and holes wind up and down through valleys. If viewed from above, the holes tend to be laid out end-to-end like a large figure-eight, which means just about every hole is isolated from the rest. All the tees are elevated and provide some stunning views of the surrounding area. From the tee on Hole No. 7, in particular, golfers should be able to see for miles in every direction.
The first hole is also particularly noteworthy, setting the tone as one of the most challenging on the course. This par-5 plays to 590 yards from the back tees and has the added challenge of a fairway split right and left by a large pond. The tee shot is downhill from a dramatically elevated tee box, but the second shot calls for a decision: continue playing the right fairway or cross the water if necessary to the left fairway which runs up to the green.
Another noteworthy hole is the par-4 No. 13, said to be the favorite of the course general manager. The scenic hole plays to only 316 yards from the Purple tees, but features an initial carry over a shallow ravine to a narrow fairway, then an approach shot to a slightly elevated green surrounded by some penalizing bunkers.
The practice facilities at Colbert Hills are said to be "second-to-none,'' and include a 10-acre, all-grass practice area. The driving range can accommodate up to 90 golfers and features elevated practice tees on nine different decks. The range target greens are cut into hills, providing players the opportunity to play some interesting shots. The facility also features three putting greens and two pitching and chipping greens along with two sand bunkers.
Colbert Hills also features a pro shop and lessons are available in a variety of options.