Opening The Forest

Opening The Forest

Trinity Forest Golf Club makes its long anticipated debut this month as the most significant course to open in North Texas since Dallas National and The Vaquero Club began 15 years ago.
The Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore par-72 design, located approximately 1½ miles east of 1-45 & Loop 12, features views of downtown Dallas and the neighboring Trinity River, with a links-like treeless interior on a former City of Dallas landfill. The property has undergone a beautiful transformation since crews broke ground a few years ago, and the buzz from members and players is very positive. But, more importantly, Trinity Forest could finally break North Texas’ barren streak of hosting major golf championships, which stretches back several decades.

“From the very beginning, our objective was to elevate the quality of championship golf in Dallas,” said developer Jonas Woods, who serves on the three-member club executive board, along with Dallas’ PGA Tour golfer Harrison Frazar and AT&T executive Ron Spears.

PGA Tour and tournament title sponsor AT&T has already announced plans to move the AT&T Byron Nelson Championship to Trinity Forest, perhaps as soon as 2018, and more nationally prominent golf plans are in the works as well.

This month, golfers – ranging from private members to the SMU golf team, the First Tee and select charity tournaments – finally get their chance to experience the course. Plans are also in place to bring a national golf championship to Dallas, ranging from the U.S. Amateur or Mid-Am or even a U.S. Open to a FedEx playoff event in the next 10-15 years.
United States Golf Association Executive Director Mike Davis and members of the USGA Championship Committee have already toured Trinity Forest and were delighted with what they saw.

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“They loved it and what it stands for,” said Frazar, who has worked as a liaison to the architect along with the Salesmanship Club and the PGA Tour, and was on the course tour with Davis and his USGA committee.

While the U.S. Open is set for most of the next decade and beyond, the U.S. Amateur has openings starting in 2020, and the Mid-Amateur also has some upcoming dates available in the near future. Trinity Forest could be an exciting option for either event. The last major championship held in Dallas was the PGA Championship at DAC in 1963. The last U.S. Open in Dallas was at The Northwood Club in 1952.

The course itself, on a reclaimed and remediated plot of City of Dallas land, will be unique from what local golfers are used to. Crenshaw and co-partner Coore built a links style layout with no trees and little water on the property, but plenty of rumpled, tilted land and interesting hole designs.

“The first time I walked the property, I saw it had a lot more undulations than I first thought,” Crenshaw said. “It was very surprising, but in a good way. There was a lot to work with and a lot of challenges to introduce to players.”

The course can play as long as 7,446 yards from the back tournament tees. It has wide fairways covered with new Trinity Zoysia grass and no water hazards, but plenty of challenges. There are sloped Championship Bermuda greens, 88 creative bunkers, and extensive mounding on the black land prairie setting with native wispy buffalo grass.

“What we want to do here is make the pros and the best players think,” Frazar said. “Just by moving the tee markers or the flags 20 feet one way or the other, we can change the entire hole.

“People are shocked the first time they come out here because of what they have heard with no trees on a former garbage dump. That’s miles away from the dramatic bunkers framed by the exterior forest and the Trinity River with the spectacular views,” Woods added. “This is better than I could have ever imagined, but I didn’t have the vision of a Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore. From the beginning, we never told Ben what to do, but his vision and creativity here is amazing.”

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The course requires plenty of thinking with a long par 4 opening hole that demands a precise drive to get your round off to a good start. The second hole is a long par 5, but one of the toughest on the front nine, with bunkers which line the fairway.

The first par 3 comes on the third hole, and it has already been aced twice, once by a member of the SMU team, and once by head coach Jason Enloe in pre-opening practice play. Enloe also recorded the first Trinity Forest eagle by holing out on the 18th fairway.

“We want to kick your teeth in a little to start, then give you a brief lull in the middle, and then bring it home with some tough and memorable holes,” Frazar said of the course layout.

Indeed, the final three holes are the key to wreck or reward any round at the new course. The 16th is a long par 5 with thick brush and the Trinity River all along the left side. The par-3 17th may turn out to be a devilish signature hole, playing around 120-130 yards with a steep bunker and the Trinity River directly behind the green. The 18th is a par 4 with the river and trees all along the left side.

While the tee boxes are very close to each another in old school architecture homage, there is ample room on the 165 acre facility for sponsor boxes and spectator seating for the Byron Nelson tournament, along with any other professional, amateur or college event held here. The course is very walkable, and there is a large caddy program that will be a key part of Trinity Forest. A large clubhouse is currently under construction behind the 18th green, which will have storage for the Salesmanship Club and its annual PGA appearance here.

“It’s all about golf, total golf, when you get here,” said head golf professional Richie Hare, who came over from Vaquero. “When you get here, it’s all about immersing yourself in golf. How much can you play? Do you have time for 18 holes, nine or maybe go over to the nine-hole par 3 golf course.”

Along with the chance to bring a national golf spotlight to Dallas, what makes Trinity Forest unique is the number of different invitees involved with the project. The city required the course to have some public access, hence the high-end charity tournaments already scheduled for the course.

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There is also the First Tee of Dallas, which has its own practice facilities and will make ample use of the nine-hole practice course designed by Coore and Crenshaw on the other side of a bridge behind the 18th hole. Both the SMU men’s and women’s golf program will headquarter here holding qualifications and college tournaments, plus enjoying a lavish new Mustangs practice facility.

All parties involved raised money on their own to be a part of the new Dallas golf attraction. The new Altus Performance Institute, headed by Jordan Spieth teaching guru Cameron McCormick, is also here, along with approximately 125 private memberships. Each group has pitched in to give golfers in North Texas an experience they will not be able to get anywhere else in the region.

“It’s the biggest thing to happen to North Texas golf in decades,” Woods said. “When you see the reality of this course and sense the possibilities. It’s amazing.”