PLEASANTON — The Cruise brothers — Justin, Nick, Eric and Kyle — learned to golf at Prairie Hills Golf Course between Pleasanton and Kearney.
The brothers, who grew up on a nearby Pleasanton farm, golfed there all the time, according to Justin.
He said he took lessons as a kid in the ’80s from the original owner, John Weber.
Nick said he made his first hole-in-one at Prairie Hills — Justin and Kyle quickly clarified it was Nick’s “only” hole in one.
Since their childhoods, the course has expanded from nine holes to 18 holes and ownership has changed hands several times.
“We always talked about, ‘How can this course survive?’ Because it’s always struggled since it has gone 18 holes,” Kyle said.
The Cruises started to talk two years ago about making the course nine holes again. Kyle said the smaller course would be more manageable and it would be easier to compete with nearby city-funded, 18-hole courses.
The remainder of the course would provide a beautiful landscape where the Cruises could develop 30, three-acre lots. Justin and Nick, who own Cruise Brothers Builders, would build houses on the lots.
Now their dream is becoming a reality.
They bought the 18-hole course in December. On April 1, they opened the south end of the course to golfers and renamed the course,
Eleven holes will be available for play after the green on the first hole is leveled and replanted. Justin said they kept Hole No. 9 on the north end of the course because it is his favorite.
“It’s pretty, and in the summertime you drop down in there after 8:30, it’s really like 10 degrees cooler in the bottom,” he said. “It’s just one of my favorite holes at night.”
The Cruises already have fixed up part of the original clubhouse because the most recent clubhouse wasn’t part of their purchase. They also have created a new driveway from Highway 10 directly to the clubhouse.
However, the space only is temporary until Nick and Justin build a grander clubhouse and event barn on the property.
“There will be one big space, one big area that will have large events like weddings and things of that nature,” Kyle said. “And there will be a separate piece that comes off of that structure that the clubhouse and the bar area will sit in.”
The brothers hope to start building the 6,000-square-foot event barn and 1,500-square-foot clubhouse in midsummer, which depends on whether the coronavirus pandemic dissipates in Nebraska.
Kyle said Pleasanton and area rural communities need a space like the event barn for large receptions because options often are limited to fire halls in small towns.
They will develop the north end of the course into housing once the Buffalo County Board of Commissioners approves their plan. Justin said they hope to get approval yet this month or in May.
Multiple lots are plotted out on each of the seven holes currently being developed. Justin said up to six houses could be built with their own greens.
“We definitely set it up that way where there’s a couple of holes where you could have your 125-yard shot from the backyard of your house to your own green,” Justin said.
If the homeowner wishes, Justin said their mowers, Weber Lawn Service, could mow the green. The Cruises would charge a homeowners association fee for that service.
At this time, he and Kyle said they are holding three to four lots for interested parties.
Kyle and Justin, who live near or on the course, said the location of the development is conveniently located. Hy-Vee is just a 10- minute drive on Highway 10, which is scheduled to be widened and resurfaced by the end of the year.
Kyle also touted that the course and housing development is in the Pleasanton school district, which recently built a new elementary school.
“It’s a small school but the community is invested in it,” he said.
The Cruises also have community in mind when it comes to golfing at the course. They want it to be a place where young and old feel comfortable learning to play the sport, as they did as children.
“I think there’s a stigma with golf that you have to be good to play,” Kyle said. “I think that the stigma needs to go away, especially at our course because we are open to everybody coming out to learn to play. And we know that the children growing up right now, especially right now, need some sort of outlet to go do something safely outside and right now golf is one of those things, in my opinion.”
The Cruises are offering a $20 all-day play special in April. They also reduced their membership fees to reflect the smaller course.
Justin said The Greens at Prairie Hills will be its own community.
“Our goal is to make it like our own little community out there. You can run over to the clubhouse, kids can get ice cream or we have drinks and a burger, and watch a little sports and drive your golf cart back to your house,” he said.