November 19, 2020 By: Richard Humphreys — Work is almost complete on the Gil Hanse-designed East course and Beau Welling’s West course at PGA Frisco in Texas.
Sixteen holes on the East course have been grassed and contractor Heritage Links is expected to complete its work by spring 2021 and both courses are on schedule to open in June 2022.
“The client wants an entire year – not to grow things in, but to fully establish the course, the maintenance practices and its tournament preparedness down to every last detail,” said Jon O’Donnell, president of Heritage Links. “We’ve been involved in projects where the attitude was similar, but frankly those were very private clubs, in quite remote locations. This is a resort project that has been very visible from the get-go. Everyone’s eager to see it, to play it, to observe how it handles tournament play. But they’re all going to have to wait.”
“It’s a great luxury to be working a timeline like this one,” said Hanse. “But it’s not every day that we get the chance to create a golf course that we know will host multiple major championships and potentially a Ryder Cup. Opening in 2022 will allow us to get the details and conditioning exactly right. So, we can wait. And when it does open, the course and the features are going to be absolutely perfect from day one.”
PGA Frisco is already signed up to host a range of tournaments including the Senior PGA Championship in 2023, the first of two PGA Championships in 2027 and two KPMG Women’s PGA Championships, with plenty other opportunities on the horizon.
“The property here reminded me a bit of Southern Hills – the topography, along with the creek so prominently featured,” said Hanse. “Of course, Southern Hills is now surrounded by Tulsa. But when Perry Maxwell built it, Southern Hills probably looked a lot like our site in Frisco does today.
“This used to be a ranch, so we focused on that, along with what is some really interesting topography, good rolling ground. But everything has been done in proportion to the broad expanses we’re dealing with here. In that context the bunkers are the calling card, the most visible feature out there – and they are dramatic.”
“The shaping team here is phenomenal,” said Blake Smith, project manager for Heritage Links. “We ended up creating a blowout feature from an old oxbow off number eight that is about the coolest feature you’ve ever seen. And that was actually the idea of Kerry Haig, the PGA’s chief championships officer.
“The design philosophy is to create the feeling of being out there in a ranch setting that has been there for 100 years – with all the tall natives waving, the cart paths that turn into ranch roads, the trees that have been planted to create the look of fence roads, even using barbed wire and hog wire in spots to guide the galleries. Working with Gil and his team is the chance to work outside the box. They tell us what they want, and we say, let us try to do that for you.”
“We all have learning curves,” said Hanse. “But having worked with us, Heritage understands our demands – our attention to detail and craftsmanship. Whatever we’ve asked, they’ve been able to answer the call. As our design style changes, they have adapted to us in every way. That understanding of how we work means they work alongside us very productively. They make it easy.”
Heritage Links has been averaging 90 trucks a day that have been bringing in material, including seven different types of aggregate material and 90,000 tons of sandcapping materials for fairways for the East course.
“We love working with Gil, but we adapt to the styles and demands of each and every architect and client we work with,” said O’Donnell. “For example, you have to strictly control water flow on a site like the one in Frisco. We worked with the irrigation designer, Larry Rogers, over on the West course. Beau’s design there called for a lot basins, a lot of big drainage features. Well, Gil hates basins, so the drainage features we’re creating on the East course are fed into and through natural features – or features created to look natural – in order to control that water.
“Some of those purely practical drainage features are pretty stunning. We’re all pretty happy with the rugged architecture and the washes we’ve created out there on the East course, especially the way they roll right into these pristine green complexes. The entire design and construction operation have done an amazing job retaining the land’s original character, augmenting where necessary, and fitting a championship golf course within it.”