New Municipal Course Opening in Newton, Kansas

By: Mark Leslie

The city of Newton will unveil Sand Creek Station – its first municipal golf course, and the community’s first 18-hole facility – at special VIP Media Day ceremonies on June 30.

Leading officials in the community, along with golf course architect Jeffrey D. Brauer, will attend the event, which culminates several years of planning. A 10:30 a.m. registration will be followed by an 11 a.m. press conference with Brauer, whose golf course designs have won multiple national honors. Mayor Curtis Nightingale, City Manager Jim Heinicke and Newton Chamber of Commerce members will join in a ribbon-cutting at noon. A shotgun round of golf will begin at 12:30, followed by a 5 p.m. banquet. The course will open to the general public on July 1.

The city and Wichita land developers J. Russell Co. and Ritchie Associates negotiated a unique public-private partnership, with the developers donating 175 acres, which the city turned into a golf course. The surrounding 565-home development, and others to follow, will bring revenue to the community and provide an amenity to the developers. Meanwhile, Russell and Ritchie paid Newton $600,000 and will pay another $2,400 for every lot that is developed.

When the agreement was announced at a city commission meeting in 2003, it was greeted with a standing ovation. Now, residents will see the fruition of the city’s hard work. In an analysis of the Newton-area market, the National Golf Foundation found that a new public golf course would need to be “equal to a B-plus or A-minus private course.”

Brauer, of Arlington, Texas, should be able to deliver the goods. In both 2004 and 2005, courses he designed won the Best New Upscale Public Golf Course of the Year in Golf Digest rankings – the first being The Quarry at Giants Ridge in Biwabik, Minn., and then The Wilderness at Fortune Bay in Tower, Minn. The Wilderness was also named among the Top 10 Best New Places To Play by GOLF Magazine, and was honored by both Travel & Leisure Golf and American Airlines' Celebrated Living magazine as one of the 10 Best New Public/Resort Courses in America.

Drawing on Newton’s history as an old railroad town, with an still-active junction, Brauer designed Sand Creek Station with Troon and Prestwick [golf clubs] in Scotland in mind. They were both located adjacent the railroad lines, and at Sand Creek Station Brauer emulated the use of the railway as a hazard on some holes. Throughout the course, he has used the golf course as a buffer between the railway and home sites.

Brauer feels Sand Creek Station will win over Wichita- and Newton-area golfers with its links-style and thought-provoking holes fashioned after other Scottish links. However, the Sand Creek runs through the property and not all holes are links. Holes along the stream are wooded and provide considerable variety to the course.

One of the property’s greatest challenges was designing the creek-side holes for flood protection as much of the land was billiard-table flat. Brauer raised the greens to 100-year-flood levels, tees to 25-year-flood levels and fairways to 5-or 10-year-flood height.

General manager and head golf pro Chris Tuohey of KemperSports, one of the world’s leading golf course management companies, described the track as “a great mix of Scottish-style links and target holes.” He said the multiple tees stretch from 5,200 yards to 7,400 yards, a perfect range for beginners, seniors, women and low-handicappers.

Tuohey, who worked for three years at Bayou Oaks Golf Course and seven years before that at Colonial Country Club, both in New Orleans, said the course will employ 30 in peak season, from April through September. Sand Creek Station’s superintendent is James H. Houchen III, formerly at Shoal Creek Golf Course in Kansas City, Mo.

Brauer is no stranger to awards beyond his national 2004 and 2005 honors. The former president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects has won many others since opening his own firm, GolfScapes, in 1984. Indeed, lost in the shadows of accolades for The Quarry and The Wilderness is the fact that Brauer’s complete reconstruction of Indian Creek’s Creeks Course in Carrollton, Texas, earned it the seventh spot among Golf Digest’s Top Affordable Public Courses.

In the past, several others were rated among the Best New Courses of the Year, including: The Legacy Golf Club in Norwalk, Iowa, in 2003; Canterberry Golf Course in Parker, Colo., in 1997; and Avocet Course at Wild Wing Plantation in Myrtle Beach, S.C., in 1994. Colbert Hills Golf Club at Kansas State is the No. 1-ranked course in Kansas and is the first collaboration between the PGA of America and Golf Course Superintendents Association of America.

For more about Brauer and his company, GolfScapes, visit