FireLake Golf is ready to welcome new golfers and show off its latest improvements, including a global positioning system, or GPS.
The 18-hole course has a driving range and putting and chipping greens. Players may notice the course’s latest redesign, completed in 2017.
Built in 1983, it is Pottawatomie County’s only public course. There are 6,335 yards of greens, fairways and rough. Water hazards are on 13 of the 18 holes.
The course still provides challenges, but even beginners should be competitive, provided they can keep the ball in a playable area, said Derron Day, FireLake Golf’s agronomist.
The course’s golf carts have GPS, which helps players estimate the distance to the green, improves player efficiency and speeds up the pace of the game. The system also helps staff quickly send out alerts in the event of severe weather.
“It also tells the golfer when they’re at the correct tee box, and it gives the yardage,” said Chris Chesser, FireLake Golf director.
The system also allows staff to limit where golf carts can be driven, which protects tee boxes, greens and other areas where grass must be safeguarded, such as areas that have been seeded.
With the new features in place for about two months, Day said he has already noticed improvement in many areas where grass previously struggled to grow. He is also happy that his staff no longer has to spend as much time directing golfers away from these areas.
“With this GPS, we’re able to section off the areas that are off limits,” Day said.
If a cart is driven into a restricted area, an alarm sounds and the driver must leave the restricted area before the cart shuts down.
“You feel bad when you have to go and say, ‘Hey guys, we’re happy you’re out here, but you can’t drive on the green or on the tee box.’ It takes so much time away from us,” Day said. “Now the cart just tells you you can’t be there. It’s already made an enormous difference.”
The system is an investment in the long-term health of the golf course. Most of the course’s planting occurs during the fall, Day said.
Areas where a dirt path previously existed have now filled with grass.
“I think what sets us apart from a lot of public courses, we had the support of the Tribe. It just made a world of difference and how the golf course can be maintained,” Day said.
Several new catch basins allow the staff to more efficiently move water off the course. Before, the course’s flat setup meant rainwater stayed on the course for several days. Golfers could not drive along the fairway to their ball, and golf carts had to stay on the cart path until the fairway dried.
A renowned golf contractor was employed to perform earthmoving. Now, the water drains off the course within a couple of days. Irrigation improvements help move water onto areas that need additional moisture.
“I think that renovation played a huge role in that because the functionality of the golf course improved dramatically,” Day said. “A successful golf course has to function so that you’re not on cart paths for two weeks.”
Day said they noticed that after recent severe weather, clean up only involved clearing away tree limbs. In the past, the course might have been waterlogged for several days. Now, the water efficiently drains, allowing play to resume more quickly.
The clubhouse is new as well, rebuilt after a 2011 fire. The current clubhouse features an upstairs banquet room, downstairs meeting room, pro shop and full-service bar and grill.
The larger, second-floor space has hosted weddings, proms and meetings. The smaller, first-floor space has hosted baby showers, birthday parties and community meetings. Both spaces are also available for golf tournaments.
FireLake Golf hosts about 60 tournaments a year, Chesser said.
FireLake Golf is committed to supporting the growth of the game, making its course accessible to junior golfers in the area.
Golf teams from schools in Bethel Acres, Shawnee and Seminole State College routinely play the course. FireLake Golf also hosts two youth camps.
Several pro stars continue to draw youth to the game, some with Oklahoma ties. Oklahoma State golfers Rickie Fowler, Viktor Hovland and other pros like Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Brooks Koepka are just a few of the men’s professionals that young people follow. On the women’s pro tour, Nelly Korda, Lydia Ko, Celine Boutier and Brooke Henderson are just a few of the top athletes.
“There’s a lot of kids that idolize a lot of young professional golfers, and that’s good for us. It’s good to grow the game,” Day said.
The team works to make FireLake Golf Course welcoming to all skill levels. Unlike other courses, junior golfers should be able to tackle the FireLake course alongside their parents. There are four sets of tees: men’s, ladies’, seniors’ and kids’.
“We get a lot of junior golf, in the spring especially, and a lot of them will get summer memberships. And that’s our future,” Day said.
Junior golfers who are interested in lessons or taking their game to a competitive level against other youth should contact the course to learn more. The Oklahoma Golf Association organizes events for the Oklahoma Junior Golf Tour.
“There are a couple of organizations that do junior tournaments all over the state. We could turn them on to different organizations once they get to that level and want to start playing tournament golf in the summertime,” Chesser said.
Junior golfers often find that hitting one or two good shots will draw them into the game.
“Get them going and a lot of times they will take one good shot. They’ll say, ‘Man, I feel good. I want to do that again,’” Day said. “It’s very player friendly for all of us.”
Day and Chesser said they are proud that around the state, FireLake Golf is known as a “hidden gem.” Whether golfers are new to the sport or experienced, they encourage players to visit, experience the new improvements and enjoy all that the course has to offer.
For more information or a digital course tour, visit the website at firelakegolf.com or call 405-275-4471. For the latest information regarding play or weather conditions, visit the FireLake Golf Facebook page.