According to the National Golf Foundation, more people played rounds of golf in 2020 than the year before, despite the coronavirus pandemic and the initial decrease it caused in the spring. FireLake Golf Course saw its numbers increase and celebrated its best year ever since opening in 1983.
“It all started whenever the Oklahoma City courses closed, unfortunately, due to COVID-19. … And we got a lot of new customers because we were one of the few facilities close to Oklahoma City that was still open because we never closed,” after consulting with Citizen Potawatomi Nation Health Services and implementing best practices to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, said Director Chris Chesser.
Compared to 2019, FireLake saw an increase of 4,000 rounds in fiscal year 2020. Golf carts became a hot commodity on the weekends, with patrons utilizing all of the course’s offerings Thursdays through Sundays. The clientele also diversified. More women visited than ever before, and the senior men’s league continued every Thursday from April to September.
Accommodating the growth and changes while maintaining smooth operations remained the staff’s goal.
“Well, it’s been a crazy year with COVID, of course,” Chesser said. “We have handled it actually pretty good, in my opinion, as busy as we’ve been.”
After a renovation in 2016, the course reopened in summer 2017. Many returning customers commented on the changes and called it a “hidden gem,” located 45-minutes from the Oklahoma City metro.
“They hadn’t been here in 10 or 15 years, and they had no idea we had renovated, and they just fell in love with the place, and we’re continuing to get play from Oklahoma City — more than we ever have,” Chesser said.
The course boasts water hazards on 13 of 18 holes, more than 6,300 yardage of greens, fairways and roughage throughout the course as well as trimmed cart paths, pushing the experience to the next level. Course superintendent Derron Day and the rest of the staff practice meticulous upkeep.
“Our greens are really good,” Chesser said. “We have Champion Bermuda greens, and they’re very fast. They’re very slick. Golfers like putting surfaces that are fast, and … Derron and his guys really maintain the golf course. They really are detailed at their work.”
Many new patrons have added FireLake to their list of favorite courses for the value and location near the Grand Casino Hotel & Resort, FireLake Entertainment Center, convenience stores and more.
After months of implementing the safety measures, including a mask mandate in the clubhouse and other indoor facilities, the requirements currently remain in effect with customers complying. FireLake offers masks to players that do not have one. However, most quickly head for the course.
“They don’t really hang out in the building like they used to,” Chesser said. “They may come in and get a sandwich or something, but they pay for their stuff, and they get out the door, and they get in the fresh air and go play golf.”
With plenty of to-go options such as hot dogs, hamburgers and daily lunch specials, patrons can grab a bite to eat at the clubhouse grill before hitting the back nine. The kitchen also hosted several carryout-only dinners for two throughout 2020, serving Italian, German, comfort food and other cuisines, which will continue throughout 2021.
The golf course’s website offers the daily weather, contact information to book a tee time, a downloadable course map, digital course tour, grill menu, and directions.