- Art Stricklin
New Public Championship Courses
Fields of Ranch East & West at PGA Frisco
Texas has golf courses, lots and lots of golf courses, 800-plus in fact. Lots of great courses, private enclaves, plus top- rated resorts in Austin-San Antonio, but great public golf, especially in the North? Not so much.That’s what makes the soon to open two public championship courses in Frisco, 40 minutes north of downtown Dallas, such a golfing game changer. Located at the new, modern PGA of America headquarters on 660 acres of former North Texas farm land, hence the official name Fields Ranch at PGA Frisco, East and West Course. Owned and operated by Omni Hotels, which will have a massive 550- room resort here, the PGA will oversee golf operations on City of Frisco land. Every spare inch of this new Texas golfing utopia will be open to the public, from the largest putting green in the US of A (the Dance Floor), to the 10-hole Short Course (The Swing), to the resort and two courses, the East designed by Gil Hanse and the West, a Beau Welling Design. Heck, even the Northern Texas PGA will have an awesome synthetic putting and chipping complex here open to the public when not in use for NTPGA activities. With nearly a dozen eating, drink- ing and shopping establishments over- seen by a huge electronic TV screen, plus a three mile walk/bike/pet trail, you’ve got a golfing paradise no matter if you’re a thoroughly hooked hacker, a casual golfer or just somebody who wants in on the non-stop action. PGA Frisco Golf Complex is for you, Joe or Judy Q. Public. “We were always going to make everything public here, because that fits into the PGA of America’s mission of attract- ing golfers and non-golfers to the sport,” said PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh. Rendering of Hotel Entrance The East Course, which will host 26 major golf championships starting with the PGA Seniors Championship in May, two future PGA Championships and likely a Ryder Cup., includes a drivable par 4 on both the front (No. 7) and back nine (15). There is a nearly a 300-yard par 3, (No. 13 from the championship tees) along with the largest green on the course followed by the smallest, just to confuse golfers’ already confused minds. Then a bunkerless par 4 16th hole which seems simple, but is anything but!
Then for the closing act, there is a dangerous 17th hole par 3 at 141 yards, the shortest on the course, plus a par 5 18th hole with a large stream and a hard dogleg right, plus a 10-foot earthen wall you’ll to hit over to reach the final green after crossing Panther Creek for the final time. “I think you could have some fire- works there,” Hanse said in a bit of an understatement in a fireside interview with co-designer Welling at the Omni Frisco Resort. The West Course by Welling ,who did Bluejack National with Tiger Woods outside Houston, did the more player friendly course with lots of wide open North Texas prairie spaces, elevated views and some truly funky greens. It’s a course to be ridden for sure, but one to take in the scenery with risk and reward challenge.Welling said the two courses are not identical sisters but in the same family. “It’s more like cousins, I’d say. I wanted to be able to bring my mother out here who may not be as good as I am, but still have a good time.” The public, which will get its first chance to play here in the spring of 2023, will make up more than 80% of the rounds on the Hanse East course. Hanse designed the course to be player friendly, but certainly not pain free if you don’t hit the correct shot from the correct tee. Hanse said one of the things he learned from designing the Olympic Golf Course in Brazil. The course can easily play more than 7,800 yards from the back ribbon, but PGA officials said the length will rarely, if ever, be used on a daily basis. Playing the correct set of tees will be critical to resort player enjoyment for the triple figure rates which will be charged to Omni Hotel guests and general public play.The opening hole on the East Course is a par 5 with a dogleg right, which PGA FriscoWest Course,#5 features some thick rough and the first appearance of native Panther Creek. A less than optimal shot could mean the first lost ball early despite the best effort of the caddies, which will allow for walking by guests.In fact, whenWoods opened his private Bluejack National course three hours south- east of here, he said he hoped most players could play his course with a single ball.If an amateur plays PGA Frisco East with single ball, they might be drug tested or sent straight up to the PGA Tour, Holes 10-12, all par 4, play in full view of the Huge Omni Resort, making them prime spots for tournament watch- ing, but players of all skill levels will have their full attention captured when they get to the par 3 13th hole. Panther Creek cuts across the fairway and curls up the left side, and it will be one of the most attractive features on the back side. The par 4 15th is another up- hill drivable par 4 which is surrounded by bunkers to embrace the risk-reward fac- tor. It’s public drama open to all in the new home of professional and amateur golf in Texas and all of America.