De Soto golf course welcomes revival
DE SOTO — When the Burning Tree Golf Club closed its doors in 2011, many believed it had seen its last golfer. However, just 16 months later, the nine-hole course is alive and well — again.
After lying dormant for more than a year, the course was purchased by GreatLife Golf and Fitness, a corporation based in Ozawkie, in February.
The new owners quickly got to work on clearing the surface, which was overrun with weeds and tall grass.
“We started doing tree work somewhere around February 15,” co-owner Mike Mallory said. “We actually set the course on fire on March 10 — just burned it like a pasture. It was an easy decision since it had been shut down for a whole year. It was just completely overgrown.”
Mallory co-owns the course with GreatLife owner Rick Farrant.
They also co-own a nine-hole course in Ottawa.
Once the fairways were cleared, focus was shifted to seeding the greens and repairing the irrigation system. Mallory said it took countless man-hours, but everything was finished in time for the course’s re-opening ceremony on Memorial Day weekend.
Burning Tree, which runs along the Kansas River just north of the Wyandotte Street bridge, measures 2,898 yards from the longest tees and 2,281 from the shortest with a par of 35. It originally opened in 2001 under the ownership of course designer Bob Hill. Hill sold the course to Bob and Linda Stevens in 2004.
The Stevens managed the course until it closed last year, but sold it to the city of Olathe in 2009.
Olathe, which originally bought the course to use as a water well field, leased it to the Stevens through the end of 2011, but the course was shut down when Bob Stevens died last February.
“We tried to assume Linda’s lease to keep the course alive, , but we just couldn’t get anything done with the city at the time,” Mallory said.
A deal couldn’t be completed immediately, but an agreement was reached between GreatLife and Olathe a year later. Linda joined several former members for the re-opening ceremony last month. Also in attendance was Stephanie Swenson, who took over as course manager when the course was purchased by GreatLife.
Swenson, who began playing at Burning Tree regularly in 2006, admitted the course’s closing came as somewhat of a shock to members, but assured its resurrection has been welcomed with open arms.
“It was everybody’s belief, including myself, that this course was never going to be opened again,” Swenson said. “It just wasn’t going to be.”
Swenson has already played the course several times since new ownership took over.
She said the fairways are comparable to those of the original course and the greens are in “remarkable shape.”
More than 60 families have signed up for memberships since the course re-opened. There are currently weekly women’s, men’s and couples leagues offered, and the course staff has been contacted by several parties about hosting tournaments.
Mallory hopes to see an additional spike in membership when GreatLife opens a 24-hour fitness center in De Soto later this summer.
The center will be in the gymnasium in the former junior high school that currently houses the De Soto city offices. It should be open to the public by Aug. 1.
“We’ve had a lot of locals that have come and signed right back up, then people who just come out and pay green fees and see what we’re about,” Mallory said. “We’re real happy with the memberships in the first few weeks we’ve been open. Our fitness center, once we get that up and running, we expect to have a big boost.”
The course hasn’t even been in operation for a month, but staff members have made sure its presence can already be felt throughout De Soto. Plans have already been made to help with numerous citywide events, including this Saturday’s Night on the Kaw Country Music Festival and Fourth of July festivities.
“We’re only a month in, but we’re already so far into being on top of the community,” Swenson said. “They’ve just been awesome.”