June 5, 2020 By: Mark Kazlowski — FRISCO — Mark your calendars. Two years from now, if all goes as planned, the biggest public golf course project North Texas has ever seen will be unveiled.
PGA Frisco, the $520 million mixed-use development that will be home to the PGA of America headquarters and two championship golf courses on a surprisingly rolling property, will be on its way to becoming what PGA CEO Seth Waugh called the center of golf in America.
Waugh and others have also called the new headquarters the “Silicon Valley of Golf” for its potential to advance the game.
“It will be a magnet for the golf world to come and see it,” said Darrell Crall, the chief operating officer of the PGA, who modestly downplays his involvement with the project. He admits to being “very involved” but stresses it is a team-based approach.
“Hopefully,” he said, “this will be the first and last time I do this.”
Crall has great expectations for the East Course designed by Gil Hanse. It was awarded the 2027 PGA Championship before the first shovel of dirt was turned. Beau Welling describes the West Course that he designed as a “fun, yet challenging test of golf that can be both a family-friendly experience as well as a championship caliber test.”
The two golf courses, a 10-hole short course, a massive 100,000-square foot putting course, the Omni Hotel and Resort, the PGA headquarters and the NTPGA headquarters are situated on 660 acres. An adjacent 2,500 acres are slated for further development under a master plan by Hunt Realty Investments. As the area around the course takes shape with housing and businesses, Crall said PGA Frisco will be like a city within a city.
“We are so excited about what that will mean for the best players in the world, the city of Frisco and the world,” Crall said.
Fairways, which will have extensive drainage, are being capped with 200,000 tons of sand. Grassing is underway on both courses, and Meier said it should be completed by September. TifEagle Ultradwarf Bermuda is being used on all the greens, and Northbridge Bermuda is being used in the fairways. The grass will have all of 2021 and the early part of 2022 before the first official golf shot is struck.
Both designs feature long, ribbon tee boxes, which allow for nearly unlimited placement of tees. Fifty acres of wetlands have also been created on both courses that serve as hazards and homes for wildlife. Also, about 1,300 trees have been planted.
Meandering Panther Creek is a subtle design feature that comes into play multiple times, including as a crossing hazard on the parallel first holes on both courses.
“Championships are what we do, but day in and day out this place is pretty special,” said Roger Meier, the Senior Director of Golf Maintenance Operations for the PGA of America and PGA Frisco.
“When you step onto this place in 2022, we want you to feel like it has been here forever,” Meier said.
Meier said both courses can be accessible for average or high-handicap players from forward tees while challenging the better players from further back.
Courses, other updates
Jim Wagner, a design partner with Gil Hanse Design, enjoys getting into the heads of the PGA Tour players. He was recently working on the 14th green of the East Course, which has a tributary of Panther Creek running along one side and in front of the par-5 hole.
“We like the fact that the creek is unpredictable,” he said of the narrow stream. “We like to make the players think and challenge them. We can use a little bit of blindness and obscure things.
“We have to get into their mind. If we don’t, it’s just a green light for them to do whatever they want.”
Hanse or Wagner are both hands-on designers. One or the other will get on a bulldozer to shape every green on every course they work on, Wagner said.
Holes on the East Course that were further along in the construction process have deep greenside bunkers with sod stacked above the bunker to give it a riveted look. Wagner said that is part of the team’s admiration of classic architecture from the United Kingdom.
Welling said he took advantage of the topography for the West Course, which includes the highest point and the lowest point on the property.
Welling said his objectives when designing the course were for extreme playability so players of all levels can have fun and not lose a lot of balls. His routing provides multiple options for players.
He said the majority of the fairways will be open and receptive, but he will challenge the low-handicap players by creating a premium on angles to attack a green.
“We want to challenge the good player and make it accessible to the not-so-good player,” he said. “I’m a big believer that golf is a uniter of people. We really want it to be accessible to as many people as possible.”
The architect based in Greenville, S.C., said he sees drone video of the progress on the construction every day.
The coronavirus pandemic has had a major impact on the construction of the Omni Hotels & Resort and conference center. First, the groundbreaking planned for mid-March was postponed until later this year because of safety concerns over spreading the coronavirus.
Then, the planned opening of the resort hotel was delayed until early 2023 because of the economic downturn affecting the hospitality and travel industry.
The first major tournament at PGA Frisco is the Kitchenaid Senior PGA Players Championship, likely in May 2023.
Peter Strebel, president of Omni Hotels & Resorts, said the opening of the resort is within the guidelines of Omni’s agreement with the city of Frisco.
While no dirt is being turned on the building, Strebel said planning for the structure has been going on for more than a year.
“We know what the look and feel is going to be of the resort,” he said, “The new modern home of American golf will have lots of stone, natural wood and iron.
“We wanted the building to be approachable, to look like a part of the land with a campus-style environment.”
While the resort will be a focal part of a golf development, Strebel said Omni is building a resort for all people for weekend getaways with many recreational activities.
“I think it will be a great destination,” he said.
Nelson’s future home?
As soon as the AT&T Byron Nelson announced it was leaving Trinity Forest Golf Club after the 2020 tournament, speculation began that the tournament would end up at PGA Frisco. Even after the Nelson signed a five-year contract with TPC Craig Ranch, ending in 2025, speculation continued that PGA Frisco would eventually become the tournament’s home.
The fit may not be as good as some think.
While they haven’t rejected the idea of hosting a PGA Tour event, PGA of America executives haven’t embraced it either.
“We want to be a great citizen of Dallas,” Waugh said in January during a media briefing at the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando before TPC Craig Ranch was chosen. “Everybody is kicking the tires around for where it could go. We’re not pursuing it or nudging anybody out.
“They’re kicking the tires, and we’re in the car.”
The PGA has at least one significant event scheduled in Frisco from 2023-34. In 2026, the Boys Junior PGA Championship, Girls Junior PGA Championship and PGA Junior League Championship are on the schedule. Those events are typically played later in the year while the Nelson is in May.
In 2027, though, the pairing would seem logistically impossible unless the Nelson’s dates changed. The PGA Championship will be at PGA Frisco in May. Since moving to May, the PGA Championship has been scheduled for the week after the Nelson. It is unlikely the East Course could handle the crowds and the wear and tear on the course for consecutive weeks with any hopes of looking its best for a major championship. And to host the Nelson on the PGA’s crown jewel before it hosts the first PGA Championship would seem unthinkable.
In the know — PGA Frisco
— $75 million of the $520 million budget was set aside for the two 18-hole golf courses, the 10-hole short course and the 100,000-square foot putting course.
— An 8-mile concrete road circles most of the property. During major tournaments, the paths will be an artery for such things as transporting food and beverages. At other times of the year, the path will be open to the public as part of Frisco’s hike and bike trail.
— 1.5 million cubic yards of dirt was moved to get the course out of the flood plain.
— The West Course will have concrete paths. The East Course will have paths made up of aggregate stone “like an old farm road,” Meier said.
— Loyd Birgance Grass Sales near Greenville is the source of the sod.