Set within an extensive Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation property, the Firekeeper golf course is a Notah Begay III and Jeff Brauer design that debuted in 2011. It’s the first golf course built on Native American land by a full-blooded Native American as Notah Begay is one-half Navajo, one-quarter San Felipe and one-quarter Isleta. Graduating from Albuquerque Academy in 1990, he gained a degree in Economics from Stanford University in 1995.
The layout plays to a par of 72, configured with four par fives, four par threes, and ten par fours. It can be stretched to 7,500 yards from the back tees but it also measures a mere 4,500 yards from the forward tees, allowing players of all abilities to tee it up here. The course features bent grass tees, fairways, and greens with fescue rough.
A big plus point for Firekeeper is the absence of any residential elements. The routing is easy to negotiate, with tees set out close to the previous green. A round here starts out with seven holes in the prairie before transitioning into more undulating territory for the remaining eleven holes.
Highlights include the 1st and 6th holes (sharing the same large green); the very long 4th hole (with an enormous fairway bunker to avoid off the tee); the long par four 9th (played uphill into the prevailing wind); and the par four 18th, where the split fairway offers alternative paths to the home green.
It is not often you find a golf course of Firekeeper's caliber located in such a remote area, but that is the case here as Firekeeper is laid out over a beautiful subtly rolling prairie on Native American land in North Central Kansas. I found many holes at Firekeeper to be very entertaining and the stellar green complexes always have you looking at your putts for a while. But there were also many that tee to green were a bit plain, the greens here are anything but plain. The course can play very challenging and placement off the tee is key. I found many of the fairways and driving areas to be open and fairly easy to hit but throughout my round I found that there was strategic areas to be in to set up an easier approach. The greens were a little inconsistent as many of them rolled beautifully firm and fast but others seemed quite a bit slower. It was a wet day when I played and so the sand was a bit wet and therefore more difficult to hit out of. Firekeeper has quite a few holes with bunkering that is overgrown with tall native grasses, I am not sure if that is by design or not but it seemed like those grasses could be trimmed and still be very penalizing, but there were a few times I hit in a bunker and couldn't find my ball because it was in the deep grass immediately surrounding the bunker. Overall the condition was above average but I feel they could certainly do some things to make it nicer. The pace of play on the day I played was pretty miserable, no marshals out there and I was waiting behind a 4-man scramble tournament that would not let me through (playing solo) round played about 4 hours 35 minutes. I will say the 17-18 stretch is one of the more fun 1-2 punches to finish a round that I've played. 17 is extremely gettable as a good drive will leave you a chip or short short wedge in (unless you're a complete bomber, in which case you could drive the green here). A bunker on the right makes you think twice about going for it but nonetheless this should be the best birdie chance you have on the day, which is always nice to have stepping on to an intimidating tee shot on 18 which is a real hero risk/reward hole with a split fairway. You can try to carry a chasm of rock and native grasses to leave a shorter approach in with a better angle, or you can take a very easy iron down the more welcoming side of the split fairway, but it leaves you with about a 200 yard shot uphill with a devastating bunker on the left side. Really a great golf hole.
Overall, Firekeeper is a great public course with a very good layout but suffers a bit from the high volume of public play (appears that zero people fix their fairway divots - and these bentgrass, especially on a wet day, seemed to lead to some monster beaver tail divots.) I live 1 hour 45 minutes from FK and made a day trip out of it, I don't know if I'll be making that drive again soon but it is certainly worth it to go try this place out and if you live closer it is certainly the best courses for a long ways. At $100, there is much better value closer to the KC metro area but it is a course you have to try to play at least once.
Notah Begay's gem in the northern tier of Kansas is a great layout with unique holes all over
Firekeeper is far and away the best conditioned public course in Kansas, and in my opinion is the best public course in the state. Very fun 18th hole stands out as the most memorable hole, and makes you make a decision off the tee to finish out your round. The course has plenty of length to host tournaments and I would not be surprised to see this course climb up national top public course rankings.