June 16, 2009

Begay the golf-course whisperer

Tribe outlines vision for golf

Designer says Prairie Band course, named Firekeeper, will be 'a premier product in the area'

By Brent Maycock
As a collegiate golfer at Stanford and an 11-year veteran of the PGA Tour, Notah Begay III has played more than 1,000 courses in his career.

Next summer, he should be able to play one he was instrumental in creating. And he will do it in Kansas.

Begay and his golf course design consulting firm, NB3 Consulting, will handle the creation of Firekeeper, a golf course that will be part of the Prairie Band Casino and Resort roughly 15 miles north of Topeka.

“I’ve had the opportunity to travel all around the world and play on some of the best golf courses,” Begay said Monday at a news conference to announce the Firekeeper name and officially launch the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation course, which will be built north of the casino and resort.

“You take all these mental notes and try to incorporate those experiences into what you want to do as a designer,” Begay said. “My feeling is this is going to be a premier product in the area and people are going to enjoy it.”
American Indian PGA golfer will 'talk to the land'

By Carl ManningNotah Begay III, the only American Indian golfer on the PGA tour, is tapping his roots as he builds an $8.5 million course on a reservation in Kansas: He said the tribal land must be asked "what it wants you to do."

The 18-hole Firekeeper Golf Course--Begay's first signature course--will cover 240 acres near the Prairie Band Potawatomi Casino and Resort on a reservation near Mayetta. Named for the Prairie Band, known as the "keepers of the sacred fire," Begay said the course should be ready to open next summer.

Begay, a member of the Navajo Nation, said the needs of the land come first.

"You say a prayer, talk to the land and ask it what it wants you to do," he Monday said in announcing the project. "We incorporate into it the natural design of the land. We didn't want to add things that weren't naturally there or needed."
Comment:  I didn't know Begay was a golf-course designer as well as a golfer. The two skills don't necessarily go together. I suspect he's the first Native to design a course.

I did an article on "green" golf courses once. It sounds like Begay is following the environmentally sound principles I wrote about. Build the course around the land, move as little earth as possible, etc.

Begay and the Potawatomis have taken a multicultural perspective. They're building a golf course, which is a Western concept, but they're doing it in a non-Western way. It's a fine example of Native values in action.

For more on the subject, see Best Casino Golf Courses and Culturally Sensitive Golf Course.

Below:  "Architects Notah Begay III, right, and Jeffrey D. Brauer discuss plans for a golf course at Prairie Band Casino and Resort while overlooking the spot near Mayetta where it is scheduled to open in July 2010." (Alex Bonham-Carter/The Capital-Journal)

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