Cool Crest is officially closed.
The nearly 3.6-acre property that houses the iconic business was put on the market recently. The miniature golf course business, however, is not for sale. Pieces of Cool Crest’s legacy are going to be preserved and donated back to the community. Those details are still being worked out.
The Saxton family had been working with a potential buyer for the business during the last year. The golf course didn’t open for the 2018 season. Everyone involved worked diligently on a deal that would keep Cool Crest open. Unfortunately, those efforts failed.
“This is the next step in the progression for the land,” said Janeane Saxton of the listing. “Seventy-two years was a good run. After almost a century, I feel like the joy that was put into that ground and the spot, the happy place, I feel like we’re leaving it with a lot of good energy. It touched the lives of thousands of people. People came from all over this country to play.”
Saxton’s parents, the late Guy and Jan Saxton, opened their first 18-hold miniature course at Ninth and Jules streets in St. Joseph. They went on to open “Guy’s Course” at the current location, 1400 N. Belt Highway in 1950. A few years later, Jan’s course opened to the north and years later, another course went in to the west.
Saxton and her siblings, Greg Saxton and Anita Meehan, were raised around the course. Janeane and Greg Saxton worked for three decades for their parents. Janeane, however, did leave to run her chiropractic practice. In 2010, after an 18-year hiatus, she returned at the request of her mother to run the business.
“When I came back, they had (relaxed) up on the rules, somewhat,” Saxton said. “Seventy-two years is not an accident. There’s a recipe. We have certain things we do. According to the recipe, you had to be 6 years old to play. That’s since the 1920s.”
An old black and white photo of a parade even shows a sign that reads “adult recreation.”
Golf is in the family’s blood.
Jan Saxton’s parents, Irvin and Caroline Patterson, owned four courses at one time in the Dakotas.
“My grandparents were avid golfers,” Janeane Saxton said.
Right after they married, the Pattersons overheard a conversation about “little golf” while on their way to South Dakota. But Irvin dreamed of incorporating a garden because of his new bride’s talent for roses.
“Their imaginations were running like wildfire on their way to the Dakotas,” Saxton said. “There were no blueprints. They had to figure it out.”
That first course opened in the 1920s. Gold was popular prior to The Great Depression and the Pattersons’ new business was going like gangbusters. The Depression hit and they lost everything and ended up back in St. Joseph.
By 1945, the Pattersons had saved up $400 to build a new course in town. Jan Saxton was just out of high school then. The family leased a lot at Nine and Jules streets.
“It was right in the middle of town,” Janeane Saxton said. “Everyone needed it. The war was just getting over.”
Irvin Patterson went on to build courses in other cities. With only an eighth-grade education, Saxton said her grandfather was almost obsessed with land, spending nearly a decade researching on the best places to build. After they had to leave their first location, the Pattersons bought the land he had studied on the outskirts of St. Joseph, what is now the Belt Highway.
Guy and Jan took over the St. Joseph Cool Crest. Her brother Kingsley Patterson, and his wife Inez, opened a course in Kansas City, which Guy and Jan helped build. Irvin and Caroline Patterson would go on to open an 18-link course in Lincoln, Nebraska.
“I’m still just kind of reveling in that,” Janeane Saxton said. “Looking back and reminding myself that memories are so important.”
In recent years, the family had a five-year restoration plan to restore the dollhouse Guy Saxton had built and the windmill, the original electronic obstacle from 1945.
“Before Cool Crest, there was a lot of good, live energy in that ground,” Saxton said. “It was a bluegrass field. It was nature. ... But who knows what will become of that bluegrass field.”