Bright lights, ringing bells and that familiar buzz of the casino floor. No doubt about it -- the Prairie Band Casino has it, minutes north of Topeka, just off Highway 75 in Mayetta.But if you need a few hours in solitude, and you love the game of golf, your sanctuary is now just across 150th Road at the new Firekeeper Golf Course, slated to open this May.
“It’s going to be a friendly round of golf…it’s a Kansas golf course. We’ll have good values and treat people well and that’s what we do,” says new General Manger/Head Professional Randy Towner, who’s joined the staff at Firekeeper after a long career at Alvamar Golf Club in Lawrence. “Our theme is ‘The Nature of Golf’ and that will tie throughout our entire golf course. It will be in stark contrast to across the street.
”Towner expects the pace, not the pace of play, to slow down for guests as they tee it up at Firekeeper.“There are going to be rocking chairs…we’re going to have rocking chairs on the driving range. We have a lovely little patio out here with a fire pit area that looks straight west,” he says. “It’s so quiet. Once in a while you’ll hear the tires of a car on the highway going to the casino. We want people to think ‘that was very relaxing…I feel better now than when I got here and those guys think of everything.’”
A NATURAL GOLF COURSE
Setting itself apart is a lot of what Firekeeper is all about. Coupled with the Prairie Band Casino and Resort, it’s the only golf resort destination in the Sunflower State. And it’s the only golf course in the nation that sits entirely on Native American reservation ground – the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation -- and was designed by a Native American: four-time PGA Tour winner Notah Begay III. The Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation is a federally recognized sovereign nation with nearly 5,000 tribal members.
“It’s a separate economic endeavor of the Potawatomi Nation,” says Towner, 57 and having spent nearly 23 years at Alvamar after five as head pro at Meadowbrook Golf & Country Club in Prairie Village. “One of the visions and goals of theirs is to provide recreation for the tribal members. This was just kind of a natural. It was the vision of the council, they had the land and it is a beautiful piece of land. It was just a good master plan and it came together as what the Potawatomi wanted to do with their land and the facility.”
Begay joined forces with Jeffery Brauer in designing the Firekeeper layout. Kansas golfers are already familiar with Brauer’s work at Colbert Hills in Manhattan and Sand Creek Station in Newton. The two men designed a course that uses the natural topography and quickly whisks golfers away from the hustle and bustle found in the casino environment.
“The vision was to make something natural…not move a lot of dirt,” Towner explains. “Other designers talked about other golf courses they had designed. (Begay and Brauer) walked the land and they were more concerned with ‘Here’s what we can do with this piece of land and not disturb it very much’ which was very important to tribal leaders. It’s the first course designed by a Native on Native soil and it will always be Notah’s first design.”
That design philosophy blends well with the rolling Kansas landscape found in the area, according to Towner.
“We like to say that it has everything, nature-wise, that Kansas has to offer,” Towner says. “Our first six holes are out in the prairie. Then on No. 7 it’s more in the woods and creek. It’s just very rolling (terrain) with meadows…we have prairie then trees…traditional Kansas.”