Golf course along K-10 files second set of plans to add indoor driving range after project was thwarted in May

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World photo

The driving range and clubhouse at Twin Oaks Golf are shown in May 2021.

Sometimes in golf, it takes a second hack to get the ball out of the rough and onto the green. (Never mind that sometimes a chainsaw is needed to find the ball in the first place.) A small golf course between Lawrence and Eudora is taking the equivalent of a second hack at winning county planning approval for an expansion project.

Twin Oaks Golf — the driving range and par 3 course along Kansas Highway 10 east of Lawrence — has filed plans to rezone its property in hopes of adding an indoor driving range.

If this sounds familiar, it might be because the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission recently heard a similar proposal, but that deal fell apart after the planning commission failed to approve the rezoning.

That was back in May. At that point, Twin Oaks was seeking commercial zoning for the approximately 22 acres at the southeast corner of the Kansas Highway 10 and County Route 1057 interchange. Planning commissioners debated the project, then deferred action on it. The next morning, the leader of the group who was planning to buy the property and construct an indoor driving range and restaurant on the site canceled the deal.

Now, Twin Oaks no longer has the potential buyer but is seeking a different type of zoning that could revive the idea of an indoor driving range nonetheless. Twin Oaks is asking for the property to be rezoned to a “rural tourism” designation. That’s a zoning category that includes far fewer potential uses than the general business zoning designation the property was previously seeking.

Jeff Burey, managing partner of Twin Oaks, is hoping the more restrictive zoning designation will ease some of the concerns that planning commissioners had over the project.

We’ll see about that — likely in September, when the request is expected to be heard by the commission. In May, commissioners didn’t object to the idea of an indoor driving range and restaurant on the site. Instead, they objected to the idea that the land no longer would be zoned for agricultural use.

Planning commissioners are very sensitive to the idea of losing agricultural ground in Douglas County. But as the county’s professional planning staff noted, the site hasn’t been used as agricultural land for at least 30 years. Plus, the driving range and restaurant wasn’t going to require an expansion of the existing site, meaning no existing agricultural land nearby would have to be taken for the project.

Commissioners, though, seemed concerned that granting the property commercial zoning might create a precedent for surrounding land — which is being used for agriculture — to also be zoned as commercial some day.

In that regard, maybe the rural tourism zoning category will make the project more palatable to planning commissioners. It might, however, avoid a conversation that surely needs to happen. Doesn’t someone need to explain why a property along a fully built interchange on Kansas Highway 10 — one of the busiest roads in the county — isn’t appropriate for commercial zoning? The county’s professional planning staff had recommended approval for the commercial zoning, noting that its location wasn’t inappropriate for such uses. Because the Planning Commission deferred the request instead of voting on it, we never got to hear from the Douglas County Commission on whether it agreed. That’s a bit unfortunate.

Burey, though, isn’t trying to satisfy such curiosities. He’s just trying to give a boost to his aging golf facility. Whether this new zoning will do so is an open question. The rural tourism zoning will allow for construction of an indoor driving range — think of something similar to Top Golf, where hackers are protected from the weather but hit onto an outdoor open area.

But the new zoning category won’t allow for a full restaurant. Instead, Burey said the project would be limited to a “snack bar,” which wouldn’t include a commercial kitchen that would prepare a full menu of items.

The previous group that was looking to do the project said the restaurant component was critical because it added to the entertainment value of the project. It remains to be seen whether that group or another will be interested in the project with the new restrictions.

“I do think there are a lot of people who have a special interest in Twin Oaks continuing,” Burey said of the possibilities for a new project. “We have contributed a lot to the community and it has been nothing but fun working with the family and kids over the years.”

•••

Let me pass along one more note about golf and Burey. When I was interviewing Burey about plans for Twin Oaks Golf, he was pretty upfront that the business would struggle to remain viable without some improvements.

With that type of challenge facing a business owner, I was surprised to learn that Burey was involved in another project that had raised $30,000 in about a month’s time, but none of it was going to the golf course. When he handed me a self-published book, I became even more skeptical because — trust me — I understand how self-published books are not usually the road to riches.

But then I looked a little closer and realized most self-published books don’t have a foreword by Hall of Fame golfer Tom Watson nor a back cover blurb by Hall of Fame baseball player George Brett. They are a couple of the famous people Burey has worked and played with during his career as a PGA professional who managed a few renowned golf courses.

The book is titled “Blessed! Stories in the Life of a Golf Professional.” Burey technically isn’t selling the book but rather is asking for a donation from anyone who wants one. All the money then goes to one of five area golf nonprofits: the Kansas Golf Foundation; the Midwest Section PGA Foundation; Youth on Course; First Tee; or the Kaw Valley Junior Golf Foundation. With about 1,500 books printed, the project has raised a little more than $30,000 at this point, Burey said.

Most of the organizations use the money to promote youth getting into the game of golf, which is what Burey long has been passionate about.

“I just get tremendous satisfaction watching kids learn to love this game,” Burey said. “Some kids will play golf for the rest of their lives as a result of these programs. And that will change some lives.”

People can get a copy of the book at Twin Oaks, 1326 East 1900 Road, or by visiting the Kansas Golf Foundation’s website at kansasgolffoundation.org.

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