The PGA Frisco project, under construction. The golf courses are expected to open in the summer of 2022, and the site will be home to the PGA of America headquarters. Photo courtesy of the PGA of America
In an era when new golf course construction is the exception and not the rule, any new project is bound to garner attention. Add in the significant scope of what the PGA of America is currently attempting in North Texas, and ... well, let’s just say this isn’t just any new golf course project.
PGA Frisco stands among the game’s most ambitious construction projects of the past 20 years. The 600-acre, $500 million project, set to open in full in summer 2022, includes two 18-hole championship golf courses, a 10-hole short course and practice area, a clubhouse, a 500-room Omni hotel and resort, a 127,000-square-foot conference center, and headquarter facilities for the PGA of America and the North Texas section of the PGA.
PGA Frisco’s two golf courses, the East and West, are being designed by a pair of golf’s most respected architects, Gil Hanse and Beau Welling, all with an eye on hosting future major championships, including the 2027 PGA Championship. Those courses are being built by two of the game’s top golf construction firms, Heritage Links and Wadsworth Golf Construction. And overseeing the maintenance of it all is a team with a true championship pedigree led by Roger Meier, the GCSAA Class A senior director of golf maintenance operations.
Pulling off a project of this magnitude — in the midst of a global pandemic, no less — has required a level of teamwork beyond what might normally be involved in a typical golf construction project, and that teamwork was the focus of “Behind the Scenes at PGA Frisco,” one of two General Sessions during this week’s virtual Golf Industry Show. The PGA Frisco session was presented in partnership with The Toro Co.
“This is such a huge undertaking that you’re not going to be able to do it alone,” said Meier, a 25-year member of GCSAA. “We were always looking out for each other, helping out each other. You’re just not going to be able to move the needle on something this big without being on the same page and working together.”
The piece of land this dream team had to work with is located in the Dallas suburb of Frisco, Texas, which calls itself “Sports City USA.” In his work on the East Course, Hanse extolled the virtues of the property’s rolling topography and the strategic and aesthetic advantages offered by Panther Creek, which winds in and around the entire project.
But Hanse, Welling (who designed the West Course), Matt Lohmann with Wadsworth Golf Construction, and Doug Wright with Heritage Links all agreed that with those advantages came matching challenges. Large chunks of the property sit within a flood plain, mainly on what is now the West Course, so the project features intricate drainage, alterations and enhancements to wetlands, and a 4-inch sand cap over all playable areas, which were requirements for both construction and future maintenance.
Then there’s North Texas’ notoriously fickle weather. Lohmann told the story of early mulching and seeding work on three holes that was completely washed away when a thunderstorm dumped a quick 3 inches of rain, an occurrence that made clear why that investment in drainage, the sand cap and wetland enhancement was so vital.
Clockwise from top left: Beau Welling, Matt Lohmann, Roger Meier, Gil Hanse, John Easterbrook and Doug Wright, with GCSAA CEO Rhett Evans (at desk), gathered to discuss the PGA Frisco project Feb. 4 at the 2021 Golf Industry Show. Photo by Roger Billings
Because the East Course will be the primary home of the major championships that will come to PGA Frisco, Hanse’s design work included an extensive focus on infrastructure and outside-the-ropes areas in addition to the course itself. Meanwhile, on the West Course, Welling put an emphasis on fun, flow and accessibility by taking advantage of width wherever he could in his design. “Width creates playability,” Hanse said. He and Welling split design duties on the 10-hole, lighted short course.
All the while, Meier and his team have been on hand to assess the design and construction work from a maintenance perspective. Both courses feature Northridge bermudagrass tees, fairways and rough areas, selected for its flexibility and tolerance for varying heights of cut, and TifEagle bermudagrass greens.
“We wanted to make sure we put our best foot forward not only in terms of hosting championships, but also for daily play for our members and guests,” Meier said. “There were plenty of challenges, but the work we did put us in a position to have a great growing medium and a property that we could maintain day in and day out.”
John Easterbrook, the PGA of America’s chief membership officer, wrapped up the session with one last nod to the teamwork that was necessary to make it a success. “There has been a unified vision, a unified passion for this project. Heck, we had people on this call that moved to Frisco just to work on it,” Easterbrook said. “There is a genuine enthusiasm and excitement in the community of Frisco about this project, and that was shared by all our partners who have helped make this a reality.”
Scott Hollister is GCM’s editor-in-chief.