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GreatLife mixes golf and fitness clubs

A foursome on the 10th green at Deer Creek Golf Course in Overland Park.
A foursome on the 10th green at Deer Creek Golf Course in Overland Park. File photo

The concept of combining fitness centers with golf courses has made a resounding entrance into the Kansas City area.

Overland Park-based GreatLife KC, which builds fitness centers within golf clubhouses, has recently purchased seven golf courses, including Deer Creek, Canyon Farms and Falcon Ridge in Johnson County.

The buying spree also has netted Tallgrass in Wichita, Painted Hills in Kansas City, Kan., Royal Meadows in Kansas City, and St. Joseph Country Club in St. Joseph.

Purchase prices were not disclosed.

Rick Farrant, GreatLife’s owner, said his business plan of one membership covering both golf and the gym has been a success in Topeka and other markets, and he sees an opportunity in Kansas City.

“In analyzing the Kansas City market, we saw there was a nice top-tier of country clubs, but we didn’t feel there was a mid-level market,” said Farrant, whose company also owns and operates the Staley Farms, The Oaks, Leavenworth, River Oaks and Liberty Hills courses.

“We’re trying to bring our membership-based system to that” market, Farrant said. “What we do is a two-for-one. We don’t care if you join for fitness or golf, you get both. And you get both for what you’d normally pay for one.”

He also views this as a way to attract more players into the game of golf, which has experienced a decline in popularity in recent years.

All the local properties acquired by GreatLife will soon convert an existing space into a workout facility or build one on site. If those options aren’t possible, the company will partner with a nearby gym or health club.

“A lot of times at our fitness centers you’re looking out at a view of our golf course,” Farrant said. “We’ve found that people who join the gyms eventually start playing golf. And with the club setting, you can bring the kids out and play two or three holes, or six, and you don’t have to leave your life savings there when you leave.”

GreatLife points to Staley Farms as a successful model in the Kansas City market.

Farrant bought it out of bankruptcy a few years ago, remodeled the clubhouse, added a fitness center and revised membership pricing. The number of members grew from 120 to more than 400.

“We believe that we’re creating golfers, and we’re excited about that,” Farrant said. “For us, a good day is dad’s playing golf, mom’s working out and the kids are in the pool. If we can get the whole family to the facility, then that’s a good day.”

GreatLife said it also offers affordable memberships, with some starting at under $40 a month. Others are in the range of $180 a month to $230.

“Whether we partner up with a nearby gym, or turn an existing space into a gym, we want to make it attractive for people to join,” said Michael Funaro, director of sales for GreatLife. “Basically we want to create affordable opportunities for individuals and families to get back in the game of golf and have a membership.”

In 2003 GreatLife operated three courses in Topeka. Now,the company has 58 properties under the GreatLife umbrella. Those with the company’s top-tier membership can play at any of the GreatLife golf courses for free or a cart fee.

“We’re just getting ready to franchise,” Farrant said. “Hopefully you’ll be able travel to over 30 states and pull out your GreatLife card and you’re good to play.”

For now, Farrant is focused on his new Kansas City-area acquisitions and eventually increasing the membership numbers to where the clubs are full and private.

“We’re excited about the properties we just acquired,” Farrant said. “They’re all top-notch and we’re excited to see what we can do with them.”

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