Plans filed for new indoor golf facility along Kansas Highway 10 east of Lawrence

Professional golfer Tom Watson gives a tutorial on proper grip to a group of young golfers on Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017, at Twin Oaks golf complex in Eudora. Watson made a surprise visit to talk to children who participated in the First Tee program.

If you have a slice as bad as mine, you’ve maybe played golf indoors before. (A Berber carpet makes for a good lie, and I’ve found a 7-iron works great, depending on the size of the picture window you’re going through.) Regardless, Lawrence may soon be getting an actual indoor golf facility along Kansas Highway 10 east of town.

Plans have been filed for a new indoor driving range, golf facility and restaurant to be located at the existing Twin Oaks Golf Complex, which is the pitch-and-putt course along K-10 between Lawrence and Eudora.

What’s more, a longtime name in Lawrence golf is heading up the group that plans to build the facility. Randy Towner, who was the golf pro at Alvamar Country Club for 22 years, is leading the project.

He confirmed basic details of the project to me but said he didn’t want to comment further until the project won some needed approvals from the Douglas County Commission. But the plans that are on file give quite a few details, and longtime Twin Oaks proprietor Jeff Burey also shared details.

“I’ve been operating this for 30 years, and we do a lot of really good things,” Burey said. “But if they win approval, this will allow them to do even more.”

The centerpiece of the project would be a new 50-by-150-foot indoor golf facility that would be constructed just west of the existing building that currently serves as an office and clubhouse for the driving range.

The new building would have a mix of driving range options. Burey said there would be about 10 driving range bays that would be climate-controlled and protected from the weather, but would allow golfers to hit their balls onto the outdoor driving range. In that sense, it will basically be a driving range that keeps you out of the winter weather. But the building also will be fitted with a high-tech practice and golf gaming system.

Burey said current plans called for the building to be equipped with Toptracer technology. According to the company’s website, that includes an app-based system that allows golfers to see how far their shots go, monitor how hard they were hit, their height and other such data. The technology also allows golfers to play several types of games on the range, including simulated rounds on some courses. There’s also an option that allows golfers at multiple driving ranges across the country to compete against each other in skills contests, similar to how video gamers use a network to compete against other video gamers.

“It will make this facility a lot more attractive year-round,” Burey said. “They’ll have a building that is available 12 months of the year. It will fill in a lot of the holes that we aren’t able to do right now.”

Plans call for the traditional outdoor driving range and the chip-and-putt golf course to remain. The application indicated that the new owners plan to use revenues from the new indoor facility to improve the condition of the existing pitch-and-putt course.

The plans do involve the current ownership group, led by Burey, selling the facility to Towner’s new group, which filed plans under the name Strypes LLC. Burey said he’d remain involved with the facility as an instructor and would be active in the Kaw Valley Junior Golf Association, which he and others formed to help promote the game to youth. The Twin Oaks Complex currently serves as a site for the national First Tee program that provides instruction to kids and is the primary practice facility for several high school teams in the area.

Towner — who left Alvamar 11 years ago and now is the head pro at the Firekeeper Golf Course at the Prairie Band Casino & Resort north of Topeka — did say those types of activities would continue at the facility.

“It will be fun,” Towner said. “We’re going to have the same community values. We are just going to dress it up.”

As for the restaurant part of the project, Towner didn’t offer many details, but he did say the restaurant operation would be more extensive than a traditional golf course snack bar or grill.

Again, Towner said he wanted to reserve most of his comments until after the project won needed approvals from the County Commission. The main approval the project needs to win is a rezoning for the property. A county rezoning is never a gimme, in golfer’s terms, but this one would seem to be a bit more straightforward than some others. That’s because this property has had commercial activity on it since 1991 when Twin Oaks opened. The county has granted Twin Oaks a variety of conditional operating permits, but for whatever reason, the property has never been rezoned for commercial use. It currently is zoned for agricultural use.

In order to construct the new building, the 22-acre site at 1326 East 1900 Road needs to be rezoned to the county’s general business zoning category. That approval process could take a few months, and neither Burey nor Towner offered a timeline on when the new golf facility might be completed.

But Burey did say that now was a good time for golf projects. He said the sport was experiencing a resurgence similar to when Tiger Woods’ success began getting new people interested in the game. This time, though, the increase in interest is for reasons that aren’t as fun.

“The pandemic certainly has introduced golf to a lot of people because it is a safe way to get some recreation,” Burey said. “There is social distancing built into the sport. As other activities were shut down, golf has benefited.”

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