Driving through Frisco, you may think the land is flat as a Texas license plate. But when it’s wild, it rolls. Swells. Runs into treelines. Curls around creeks. Some developers flatten all that out, creating grids for condo blocks or office towers. But not Gil Hanse and Beau Welling. They’ve never seen a hill they didn’t like; never gazed at a creek without imagining a fairway beside it—and a sprinkling of future lost balls gleaming like pearls beneath its surface.
Now the two celebrated golf course architects are working their magic on PGA Frisco’s two championship-level courses. Part of the PGA’s 600-acre, $500M+ development, the courses are scheduled to open in spring 2023.
As we noted back in 2019, PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh envisions the two courses as part of an innovative “Silicon Valley of Golf” in Frisco. Built around the PGA of America’s new 106,622-square-foot headquarters, the development will include a golf entertainment district, a technologically advanced retail village, and the 500-room Omni PGA Frisco Resort. The project could generate $2.5 billion in economic impact over the next 20 years, according to a Frisco-commissioned feasibility study.
Adjacent to all this will be The Link, a $1 billion mixed-use addition to PGA Frisco. Slated to open in Summer 2022, The Link will be the only CRE project with direct views of PGA Frisco’s golf courses.
Now, about those golf courses…
Gil Hanse designed PGA Frisco’s East Course, which in coming years will host a long list of marquee events including the PGA Championship, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, and the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship.
Beau Welling oversaw the West Course, which will host smaller tournaments and be open to PGA of America members and the golfing public. Welling is also serving as the master planner for the Frisco project as a whole.
PGA Frisco East Course
See the rolling topography of the East Course’s tenth hole above? If you’re a novice golfer, all those slopes and swales may make you gulp, especially around the green. But for major tournaments like the PGA Championship, they’re just what the doctor—and high-paying TV networks—ordered.
It’s hard to see these photos without populating them in your mind with Bryson DeChambeau, Jordan Spieth, Collin Morikawa, Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka, and other top players who will likely stalk these links in years to come.
So Gil Hanse’s role was to make the East Course a true championship challenge. To do that, he was willing to work with nature, to a point. On his golf course design website, Hanse’s philosophy clearly leans on the human touch.
“Nature is a complex system subject to human influences and interpretation,” Hanse’s philosophy reads. “We look to nature for inspiration, but have confidence that our golf courses are not merely a replication of nature but a work of art clearly reflecting human influence.”
Other insights from Hanse’s site:
He gets down and dirty. “Our hands-on commitment extends to hands on the equipment, whether it be a bulldozer or a shovel. We personally shape and finish every green and bunker on our golf courses. We have the calluses to prove it.”
He believes in the little things. “Pride in one’s work is manifested through the details and final touches. We provide a level of detail and subtlety to our work that is unsurpassed in the profession.”
It may look simple, but it’s not. “We create courses that are simple and elegant in appearance, yet sophisticated in strategy and design.”
According to Hanse Golf Design, 200,000 tons of sand have been used to cap both courses’ fairways. TifEagle Ultradwarf Bermuda is growing on all the greens, and Northbridge Bermuda lines the fairways.
50 acres of wetlands, 300 new trees, and Panther Creek meandering through it all
Fifty acres of wetlands have been created on both courses—serving both as hazards for golfers and homes for wildlife. Around,300 trees have been planted, which will grow with the courses as they mature over the years to come.
Both designs will offer long, ribbon tee boxes, creating opportunities for nearly unlimited tee placements.
But a key feature of the course will be Panther Creek, “a subtle design feature that comes into play multiple times, including as a crossing hazard on the parallel first holes on both courses,” Hanse Golf Design says.
“We like the fact that the creek is unpredictable,” Hanse’s design partner Jim Wagner says on their website. “We like to make the players think and challenge them. We can use a little bit of blindness and obscure things.”
PGA Frisco West Course
The West Course will be no piece of cake—far from it. But Beau Welling designed it with all golfers in mind. Welling told PGA.com that his mantra is “golf should first and foremost be fun.” So he gave the West Course a challenging layout that everyday golfers can play—without wanting to throw their drivers into Panther Creek.
“The good player wants to be tested,” Welling told PGA.com. “But for the higher handicap player it’s about survival. The goal is to not lose a lot of balls and not feel like you’re horrible.”
To that end, many of the holes on the West Course offer two ways to roll. You can play it safe, hitting around treelines and laying up before hazards. Or you can take the “preferred angle of approach” and really let it rip.
Welling altered the West Course’s route three times to enhance playability, the PGA.com article says. For example, the original ninth hole design was a punishingly long par 4 into prevailing winds. Welling revised it to a short Par 5, giving long hitters a chance to make the turn with a birdie—and duffers a chance to put a rare circle around their hole’s score.
The turf goes right up to the creek
Like Hanse’s team, Welling made Panther Creek a key feature of his course.
“There was some intentionality to how the golf course related to [Panther Creek],” Welling told PGA.com. “We have turf up to the creek in places. In other areas we created wetlands where you’ll see birds and wildlife that you wouldn’t normally see in a suburban setting. The idea was to maintain nature in this quickly growing city.”
It’s all part of Welling’s dream of making the West Course “an oasis in the center of urbanity.”
“PGA Frisco will truly become the home of golf in the U.S.,” Welling told PGA.com. “All 29,000 [PGA of America] members can easily get there from just about anywhere, and it’s going to be this hub of innovation. The members will take the lessons they learn back to their home courses, so I think the impact will be significant. It has the potential to affect not just Frisco, but people internationally. What the PGA has done is so bold and so smart.”
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