(ARLINGTON, Texas) - Despite an ongoing battle with Mother Nature, Firekeeper Golf Course has been completed in a six-month construction schedule by Landscapes Unlimited, Inc. The course should be ready for play in late summer 2010.
The 240-acre course is under development by the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation in Mayetta, KS as an additional amenity to their Prairie Band Casino & Resort. Already one of the premier destination resorts in the Midwest, the new golf course across the street from the hotel will enhance the resort.
This is the first signature course of four-time PGA TOUR winner Notah Begay III, the only full-blooded Native American on the PGA TOUR. He has designed it in partnership with Jeffrey D. Brauer, ASGCA. It is one of the few golf courses under construction in the continental United States.
Firekeeper will be a very traditional golf course in both a playability and aesthetics. There is no surrounding housing, and there reasonable walks from green to tees and a low profile design that looks like it has been there for years, not months. The course will withstand technology with the back tees playing at more than 7,400 yards. There are five tee sets altogether, with the shortest tees playing only 4,500 yards - shorter than most resort courses. The designers believe the shorter yardage will encourage more play from women and local youth.
Before work began, the design team went through numerous routings to find the best possible 18-hole layout with minimal disturbance. "Keeping with Potawatomi traditions, we worked above and beyond to retain all of the land's natural elements with minimal disruption," said Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation tribal council chairman Steve Ortiz.
"We put a lot of time in walking the land, which is so important in golf course architecture and particularly in the Native American community," Brauer said. The process started from the moment the potential project was announced. "Chairman Ortiz said, 'You are the only ones who really knew our land. Everybody else talked about the best courses they had ever done. You spoke to how you would use our land."
The hard work in routing paid off. "We moved very little earth," Brauer said. "We also used the surrounding land forms as guides when we formed our own shaping, trying to match the rolling hills of Kansas.
"Modern architects as a group have gotten away from working with the land," Brauer added. "[Renowned course designer] Donald Ross couldn't move much earth 100 years ago, and this is just a great opportunity to build an old-fashioned golf course. The course looks great and respects the land and tribal traditions of environmental sensitivity."
The land has three distinctive zones of prairie, heavy woods and scattered trees. The early holes at Firekeeper are mostly on the prairie. The back nine offers more elevation changes and a wide variety of trees.
While all holes fit the topography snugly, the designers occasionally communicated in "shorthand" by referencing famous holes they were both familiar with. Both thought the ninth should be modeled after No. 18 at Augusta National. The fourth hole allowed creation of a very deep fairway bunker not dissimilar to the famous bunker at the fourth at Royal St. Georges off the tee and a green similar to the putting surface as No. 11 at Los Angeles Country Club.
While Notah Begay III is relatively new on the design scene, with Brauer on the team, Kansas golfers know they will get a quality course. Brauer already has designed three of the top courses in Kansas - Sand Creek Station in Newton, Eagle Bend in Lawrence and Colbert Hills in Manhattan. Brauer says golfers can expect some twists unique to Notah Begay III, but the overall quality will match or exceed the others.
The first shovel hit the ground for construction of the Firekeeper Golf Course on May 20 with shaping completed in the late summer, despite rains totaling 35 percent more than normal for the area. "The early catch is good, but Mother Nature will be in charge now," Brauer said. During the winter months, work will continue on the clubhouse and other structures, and workers will continue to clear brush, detail the course, and get ready for spring.