A renovation of FireLake Golf Course in Shawnee, Oklahoma, has now been completed.
The project has been led by architect Conor Cummings of Heckenkemper Golf Course Design, who worked to create a masterplan for the course back in 2013.
The course is owned and operated by Citizen Potawatomi Nation. Cummings spoke to GCA about the project.
“The owners should be praised for initially recognising the challenges the facility faced, and entrusting us to sort it all out during the masterplan process in 2013,” he said. “From that point, their commitment to the masterplan put the project in a place to succeed before a spade of dirt was moved. The best results are achieved when a client buys in to an overall vision, and affords us the opportunity to execute that vision.”
Cummings said that the feedback he and the club have received regarding the renovation has been ‘tremendously positive’ thus far. Much of the attention falling on the new forward tees, but the course is now better placed to tackle heavy rainfall too.
“It was always important for us that FireLake remained a place that welcomes and fosters beginners and junior golfers,” he said. “From our initial visit, it was clear that addressing the drainage on the relatively flat property was crucial. Golfers who frequented the old course remember after any significant rain event, the golf course would be closed for days at a time. That loss of revenue and impact on superintendent Derron Day’s ability to maintain healthy turfgrass was our primary issue to tackle during the project.”
Cummings said this led to one of the course’s new golfing challenges coming more out of necessity than for strategy’s sake.
“The new contours crafted into the previously pancake-flat fairways not only help move water downhill to drain the property, but present a whole set of interesting uphill, downhill, and sideways lies that were missing on the old course,” he explained. “There are some tricky undulating areas to avoid in favour of more plateau-like spot for a level stance.”
A routing issue on the course was also addressed as part of the project.
“We lengthened the third hole and rebuilt the green 90 yards back from its previous location, creating a reachable par five, and repositioning the tee complex for the fourth hole from a pedestrian par five to a stout par four,” said Cummings. “The new version of these two half-par holes provides variety within the context of the rest of the course. Repositioned tees and bunkers will emphasise angles of approach and club selection, which will be a fresh addition to the golf course. Overall, golfers will need to think their way around the new course, more than with its predecessor.”