Feature – First Look: PGA Frisco
Here at AVIDGOLFER, we have followed the story of the new PGA development in Frisco since it was little more than a wild idea circulating among the local golf community. Those whispers began about four years ago, and since then, the idea not only became a reality, but has given birth to the new modern home of golf in the United States.
AVIDGOLFER Magazine was given a first look at the new property, and although there are still several projects yet to be completed, early returns are in … and, well, you be the judge.
The first thing you will notice as you make your way up PGA Parkway in north Frisco is the sheer size of the development. At 660 acres, the vast footprint is stunning, stretching a little more than a mile from where the new Omni hotel and resort is going up, to where the Northern Texas PGA offices and “The Ronny” Golf Park sit.
The heartbeat of the development (other than the championship golf courses, which we will get to shortly), will be the 510-room Omni Resort, which is scheduled to be complete sometime in the spring, just ahead of the 2023 KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship. The resort will feature a massive convention center, retail shops, restaurant space, spa and multiple swimming pools, including an adults-only rooftop infinity pool. In addition, the Omni will also feature 10 “Ranch Houses,” which are on-property golf villas that can each house up to 20 people and can even be outfitted with an on-site chef and waitstaff for convenient in-home meals and service. Call me crazy, but I’m thinking these might go for some pretty big bucks the week the PGA Championship is here in 2027. There is also a wedding venue, for those who choose to tie the knot on property. The Omni development spared no expense and will be the hub for everything the property has to offer.
In addition, the pro shop for the two courses sits mere feet from the hotel, making check-in for those playing the Fields Ranch courses simple and efficient. The clubhouse will feature a locker room, members lounge and the Ryder Cup Bar and Grill, which will serve as a great spot to fuel up before or after your round.
The two courses, Fields Ranch East and Fields Ranch West, are two distinct golf experiences. The West course is a more traditional resort-style course, that is a little more user-friendly and forgiving than the more difficult East championship course. Just looking at the scorecard, one of the first things you will notice is that the par-72 Beau Welling-design features five par 5s, five par 3s and eight par 4s, which should give players more opportunity to score.
A few of the hole highlights include the opening 620-yard par 5, which features a heavily bunkered landing area and a speed slot short of the green which can benefit those trying to get to the green in two. The shortest hole on the course is the par-3 fifth hole, which is named “Homestead,” as it is near the spot of the ranch house that served as the residence for the original landowner. This narrow green is protected by bunkers both front and back, and also comes equipped with a false front that funnels shots that come up short down a hill, leaving a nefarious chip shot that can easily end up right back at your feet. This hole will also usually play into a prevailing south wind, so club selection and spin control are paramount.
No. 9 on the West is the final of the three par 5s on the front nine and features one of the most interesting design elements anywhere on the property. “Big Bubba” plays at just 578 yards, so it can be reachable by most when playing appropriate tees. The tee shot landing area is well bunkered, but find the fairway and there can be a decision to make. The green, while playing a little uphill, can be reached in two with a solid shot, but short and left of the putting surface lies the “Big Bubba” bunker, which is one of the most penal bunkers you will find anywhere. Big Bubba is huge, deep and borderline impossible to play from. A layup shot might be warranted here to avoid disaster, but even with a solid second shot short of the green, players still must contest with a false front and an uphill third. It’s a true risk/reward par 5 and one of the most interesting holes on this Welling design.
Hole No. 12 again takes players to the top of the hill where the original homestead once stood. This tee box presents views of the whole property back to the north and really shows off the stunning terrain and gorgeous vistas these two courses will become known for. Take a minute on this tee to survey the land and appreciate the thought, design and creativity that is necessary for a development of this magnitude. The hole itself plays 176 yards from the tips and finding the proper side of the green is beneficial, as subtle breaks in the green can be difficult to see and lead to tough two-putts.
Speaking of greens, after some subtle, tough-to-decipher breaks on the 12th green, comes the most dramatic putting surface you will see anywhere in DFW. At 460 yards, No. 13 plays back across Panther Creek to a putting surface that has a cavernous trench through the middle, making hitting the proper tier of the green absolutely necessary to have any chance at making birdie. If the pin is cut in the back and you are on the front or vice-versa, best of luck getting the line and speed correct. It’s one of the wildest greens you will find anywhere.
The final two holes on the West course are back-to-back par 5s. Yes, that’s right, 10 strokes on the final two holes will net you a pair of pars, and also gives players the opportunity to get a couple strokes back and head to the 19th hole with the possibility of back-to-back birdie bragging rights. No. 17 has a pretty robust landing area with bunkers down the left. The second shot is a little dicey, as a severe mound short and left of the green can serve as a springboard to rocket balls toward the green or make for a blind third shot for those who lay up too close to this architectural element. Two small pot bunkers guard the green, so avoiding them should you go for the green in two could be a primary concern, but this means you will be flying blind as they are visually blocked by the elevation change and mound in the fairway.
The final hole on the West is another par 5 where Welling throws the kitchen sink toward players. Major bunkering down both sides of the fairway mean a precise tee shot is rewarded. More bunkers near the green will really make you think about strategy for the final few shots of your round, and a substantially contoured green can bite those who don’t find the proper section, depending on where the hole is cut. It’s a final challenge that can mean feast or famine before you remove your cap and shake hands with your fellow competitors.
Gil Hanse is widely regarded as one of the premiere course designers in the world. Hanse has his fingerprints on courses like Streamsong’s Black course, Ohoopee Match Club in Georgia, Pinehurst No. 4, and he is also set to begin the renovation of Colonial Country Club in 2023. His résumé speaks for itself, and when Hanse signed on to design the East championship course, you knew it would be something special.
As we embark on taking a look at the East course, let me preface this by saying that should you get the opportunity to play the championship track, it is imperative that you choose appropriate tees. Now, this isn’t exclusive to just this course, as playing the correct tees for your skill level not only keeps up pace of play but makes the game more fun for everyone, but there is a reason this course will host so many championships that feature the best players on the planet. It is VERY challenging. It isn’t unfair, it’s just designed to test the best, and should you choose the wrong tees, you are going to have a very long day. From the tips, this behemoth will play 7,863 yards. Great for guys like Scottie Scheffler and Will Zalatoris; not so great for your average guy who is lucky to squeeze 240 out of a driver. With multiple sets of tees that can play the Hanse design as short as 5,012 yards, be sure to choose one you are comfortable with.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about the course itself. The first thing that strikes you as you see the East course is the masterful use of the natural topography by Hanse. The elevation changes are unique to the area, the fairways and rough are the same turf, which allows for grow in to narrow or widen the fairways based on championship conditions or daily play. Strategic bunkering frames holes remarkably, and natural dry-wash areas penalize poor tee or approach shots. In many places, the course goes straight from fairway to native areas, which makes finding proper areas even in fairways necessary.
Right out of the gates, Hanse presents a monster par 5 that is not only a precursor to the beauty of the land, but the challenge this course will present over the next few hours. Playing at 632 from the tips, and into a prevailing southerly wind, this will be a three-shot hole for just about everyone but the absolute longest, most aggressive pure ball-strikers. The tee shot plays over Panther Creek, and for optimal angle, must flirt with a set of bunkers on the right. Aggressive mounding and a more native dry wash guard the second shot down the right for those who are offline with their lay-up shot. A small, elevated green presents tough chip shots for those who miss the green. This opening par 5 gets your attention right away, and par is a great score.
I must say, the use of the terrain at Fields Ranch is nothing short of stunning. A great example of Hanse’s use of the topography comes at No. 2. This fairway is more forgiving on the right than it might appear on the tee, but comes with a longer second shot. Playing just off the right side of the visible left fairway bunker is a great line, as the approach plays significantly uphill. The green is so elevated that only about half the flagstick is visible, depending on how close to the green you get. Come up short here, and you may be left with a full-wedge third.
Fields Ranch East has some stunning holes, but No. 3 is arguably one of the best Hanse constructed here. It’s reminiscent of some of Hanse’s previous work on Pinehurst’s No. 4 course. Another par 5, this 612-yard hole really shows off all this property has to offer, from dramatic elevation change to the native areas and some of the meandering tributaries of Panther Creek. An elevated tee shot with native area in front of the tee all down the left is visually intimidating, as it requires an all-carry tee shot to reach the fairway below. The second shot is back uphill with a significant drop-off left and gnarly bunkering on the right that can be a death sentence if you should happen to catch a bad lie. A front right bunker guards the green, but don’t expect to be able to miss left, as there is a steep runoff that leaves a tricky pitch should you miss the green left.
No 7 is one of the shortest par 4s on the course. It is set up to entice players to give the green a runoff the tee, but bunkers on the right can collect shots and leave a near impossible second, and a huge cross bunker about 30 yards in front of the green is no guarantee for even hitting the green. A huge depression in the terrain just over the cross bunker leaves another awkward pitch to a firm putting surface, and any ball that is left of the green will collect into one of the most diabolical bunkers on the property. I doubt many balls ever find that sand trap, but you could probably spend a lifetime in there should you find it. It’s a fun hole and one that could prove as a turning point in some of the championships that will be contested there.
The inward nine on the East is nothing short of a master stroke from Hanse. It instantly became my favorite nine holes in DFW golf, despite that fact that it can be brutally difficult. Three consecutive par 4s open the back, each presenting tee shots that are as tough as any in the Metroplex. I suspect Hanse strategically designed these holes to play northwest to southeast to give players a little testy-quartered crosswind. This orientation makes for tough club selections on approach shots. The trio of holes will prove to be important when the PGA Championship rolls through town in 2027.
No. 13 is a spectacular par 3 that looks more like something you would see at Pine Valley than in northern Texas. One thing Hanse did was make huge, snaking tee boxes which allow for a multitude of yardages on each hole. This is especially prevalent on the par 3s. At its longest, this hole can play just over 270 yards, but having seen the tee box, I think should they want to, it could be stretched even a bit more. Not only is this one of the longest par 3s you will ever face, but it also plays uphill and back into the predominantly prevailing south wind. Meaning tipped out on a day where the wind is howling, expect this hole to play every bit of 300 yards. Sounds like pure insanity to us, but holes like this are what tour professionals must navigate when chasing major championships. The green lies above Panther Creek, and steep-faced gnarly bunkers behind the green will be an impossible par if found, although it seems unlikely anyone would be long of the green here. It’s an amazing hole in every way.
The final five holes on the East course are as beautiful as they are challenging. The par-5 14th features some target bunkers just in front of the isolated, quiet tee boxes, which make for a visual delight as you put a peg in the ground. There is a little more room to the right than appears, but the real danger here is the second (or third if you lay up), as there is a small tributary running across just in front of the green that can be tough to see if you aren’t familiar with the course. Getting home in two here demands perfection.
As many great holes as the entire property features, No. 15 on the East has to be one of the most scenic, gorgeous holes on any course in Texas. Visually, the elevation changes and dramatic bunkering makes the hole look much longer than the 337 it will play from the back tees, but Hanse wanted to entice the pros to go for the green here, and I suspect there will be more than a few who try. Mortal man can send a 3-metal or driver to the top of the hill out to the left and have nothing more than a flip wedge, but anything right will find a series of deep bunkers that leave not only an awkward wedge number, but a blind shot, as well. Good luck. It’s a stupendous hole design and one you will fall in love with. And if you are a photo-taker, this is a great tee box to get that group shot.
The final trio of holes were meant for fireworks. The long par-4 16th, which reads 510 from the tips, although it does play downhill and down wind, but it’s still a monster. A massive green here is tough to hold with a long iron in hand, so some craziness could be in the cards here. I know it was for our group when we played it.
No. 17 is the shortest hole on the course, playing at just 142, and with not much trouble, this is a hole that gives players a chance for a birdie as they head for the final tee. It’s also one that gives the average Joe a little time to breathe after the long par-4 16th and the closing hole. Again, another strategic win for Hanse.
A final par 5 could lead to some real craziness when championships are being contested, but it is a gettable hole for the daily fee player or resort guest, as well. The tee shot is a forced carry over wetlands, with Panther Creek off to the right. Those who lose tee shots right can find this hole particularly challenging, as the fairway slopes slightly left to right and the wind blowing off the left can add sidespin that will send balls careening into the hazard. Longer players can try to get home in two, but for most a mid-iron or short-iron layup awaits to position balls short of Panther Creek. The third shot plays over the creek and a rock-faced wall to the putting surface. The green here is receptive to spin, as it slopes back to front, but don’t be long, as bunkers behind the green can lead to a difficult, lightning-fast downhill blast that can end up back in Panther Creek. It’s a great finishing hole on this challenging design.
This is not hyperbole when I say this will become THE destination for golf travel in the South. While it may not have the pedigree (give it time) of a Pinehurst or the stunning views of a Bandon Dunes, the two courses, coupled with the amenities, make this property prime real estate for golf trips and corporate outings.
Although the property is still a few months away from being totally complete, many of the facilities are up and running. The home of the PGA of America is open, and many of their employees are already officing there. In addition to their workspaces, the PGA of America also houses an indoor practice facility for future instructors, as well as a putting lab, and even an 800 sq. ft. club repair and building lab where students can learn how to re-grip, re-shaft and adjust lie and loft on woods, irons and wedges. The PGA offices also house some fun memorabilia, including several PGA championship money clips given to past winners, interactive screens that detail the history of the PGA of America, and they even have one of the infamous shirts worn by Team USA in the 1999 Ryder Cup at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts. (Spoiler alert: they’re even uglier up close).
The NTPGA offices are also on property, which features “The Ronny” golf park, which is one of the things that first hatched this whole project. If you have followed this story, then you know the original plan was to build an urban golf park for youth to enjoy. So even though the idea went from a simple golf park to a half-billion-dollar mega-development, it only made sense to keep the original idea and make it part of the final design.
For those in town on corporate business or buddies’ trips, there is more to the facility than just two fantastic 18-hole courses. If you have downtime during the day or in the evenings, then check out The Dance Floor, which is the 75,000 sq. ft. natural grass putting course. Think of it as Putt-Putt on steroids. Instead of the green carpet and rubber putters, bring your own Scottie, Bettinardi or Odyssey down and play the 18-hole course at your leisure. Drinks on the putting course are always welcome, and nobody will stop you from throwing down some bets with your friends. Oh, and the course has lights, so night putting is not only allowed, but it’s also encouraged.
Just a few feet away from The Dance Floor sits the first tee of The Swing, which was co-designed by both Welling and Hanse. This 10-hole short course is perfect for a few drinks and a few wedge swings in the evening hours after you have knocked out one of the two 18-hole courses or The Dance Floor. This course also features lights and will be open until at least 11 p.m. and possibly a little later on weekends. It’s super fun, and something that every high-end resort is now embracing. From The Cradle at Pinehurst to The Hay at Pebble Beach to The Sandbox at Sand Valley, these short courses are so enticing for groups, they have become increasingly popular at these resort properties. The Swing is just another example of how the property left no stone unturned when preparing the master plan.
There are so many fine details spread about this massive development, that one would think something had to fall through the cracks along the way … but those thinking that would be wrong, as it seems they thought of everything a golfer might ever want. From retail space to the gigantic screen which will show not only events being contested on the Championship course, but other major sports, as well. And there is even talk of doing some movie nights when the weather is nice, so families staying at the resort can take in a flick in the crisp evening air. The expansive restaurant on the west side of The Dance Floor and near the first tee of The Swing will also have several bay doors that open up to the east side of the driving range, where guests can enjoy their food and beverages while hitting balls.
The driving range has Topgolf Toptracer technology on one end, so you can see your launch angle, spin rate, smash factor and all the cool numbers you see on the air as you watch the professionals on network broadcasts. Want to know how your ball speed compares to Brooks Koepka? Boom. The number is right there for you to see.
If you have been anxiously awaiting playing the courses, they will be open to the public starting in the spring of 2023. Rates are to be determined, but you can safely expect at least low-mid three figures for each course. And despite having a small membership, we have been told time and time again these courses will absolutely be accessible to the general public. So, stay tuned.
I can honestly say that having been a part of following this story for the better part of my time at AVIDGOLFER Magazine, I am simply blown away by what this development has become. Most of us in the DFW media knew this would be something special, but the final (well, not quite final) product is even more incredible that we ever could’ve imagined. The courses are simply amazing, and although the East course is very difficult, it was meant to be and that’s why it will be hosting multiple major championships (and hopefully a Ryder Cup) in the decades to come. When asked my first impressions of the property as it nears completion, the first thing that came to mind was: “They thought of everything.”
As a frequent golf traveler, I have seen a lot of resorts over the years, and PGA Frisco incorporated every element that should be on a new property and even added a few unique features that you won’t find anywhere else. I can only imagine how it will look once everything is complete and the courses have a few years to mature. The championships on property will bring a buzz to the Metroplex golf industry that we have never seen, and I have to say … we’re here for it, and we’re all in.
To the PGA of America, Omni Resorts, the City of Frisco, the NTPGA and everyone involved in the project, we salute you. It has been a tremendous undertaking, and early returns suggest you knocked it out of the park.
THE RONNY AND THE NTPGA
By Art Stricklin
The new Northern Texas PGA headquarters and encompassing junior golf skills and practice facility feature an enticing combination of 21st century technology with a generous nod to the vast scope of North Texas golf history. It also promises to be an inviting public addition, adjacent to the new PGA Frisco facility.
The golf park, which include two of the four acres of the NTPGA footprint, will be known at The Ronny, a tribute to longtime Sherrill Park head professional Ronny Glanton, a two-time Northern Texas PGA president.
It includes a 4,000 square foot putting and chipping facility, with 18 holes of putting and five chipping greens – green synthetic turf, with white synthetic turf on the chipping course to mimic the bunkers – all lighted for night play.
It’s designed by Beau Welling, who also did the PGA 18-hole West Course along with the PopStroke/Tiger Woods putting courses in Florida. It was installed by Premier Green’s owners, Nic Barton and Jason Schultz, and crew, the local dealer for Celebrity Greens in Dallas/Fort Worth.
Barton calls it the largest public synthetic grass putting and chipping facility in America, open to North Texas junior golfers.
“When my kids were growing up, I remember they went to North Texas Golf Center,” said NTPGA CEO Mark Harrison. “It was nothing like this, but very opening, welcoming and fun.
“That’s what we want to do here for kids, make it open and welcoming to all. We consider ourselves the stewards of North Texas golf, and that is the true genesis of the golf park.”
While hundreds of North Texas junior golfers learn and practice their craft at the modern site, they will be constantly reminded of the local greats who have gone before them and what they can achieve.
In the walkway between the NTPGA Golf HQ, named for Greenville Mayor Dr. Jerry J. Ransom, and the Ronny, there will be a plaque for every North Texas PGA member who has won a PGA TOUR event. Starting with Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan and Lee Trevino, and going all the way to the most recent local PGA TOUR winner, Will Zalatoris, with room for a dozen more.
At the back of the facility there is a large green where players can replicate winning major championship putts from NTPGA players. From Brittany Lang and Stacy Lewis … to Jordan Spieth’s 48-foot putt for eagle in winning the 2017 British Open at Royal Birkdale … and Justin Leonard’s famed 45-foot putt in the 1999 Ryder Cup to cap the USA team’s amazing comeback.
“I had a lot of time to think about all of this and wanted the juniors to see what they could accomplish next to our North Texas PGA members who have won,” Harrison said.
Next door, the Randy Smith and Dr. Bill Blair Who’s Next Pavilion, named for the longtime Royal Oaks head pro and NTPGA Foundation supporter and Royal Oaks member, respectively. It will serve as the indoor hub of the NTPGA junior programs, with everything from lockers, restrooms and storage, to tables to do homework, charging stations for laptop e-mails, plus a golf ball vending machine.
“We want to take every kid at every level from ages 3-14 and show them how great this game can be,” said Chad Moscovic, who will oversee the NTPGA programs at the facility. “We want to take a full variety of kids and be fully dedicated to junior golf. This is for local kids anywhere. If you can breathe, then this is the place for you.”
Glanton, the namesake of the golf practice facility, said the main thing he was proud of is the chance to develop the next generation of great North Texas golfers, the latest in the long line of NTPGA success.
“It will be open to bring more kids to golf; that’s what I’m happiest about,” Glanton said.
Also included in the golf park will be two smaller-sized replica greens of the 18th hole at both PGA Frisco Fields Ranch East and the West course, designed by Gil Hanse and Welling, respectively.
The Northern Texas PGA facility will feature an adjacent driving range, plus the Swing, the 10-hole short course, is next door with the Dance Floor, fashioned as the large practice putting green in America.
The Hanse and Welling courses are next to that, giving local junior golfers, from beginners to seasoned pros, the resources to have their own PGA TOUR winner’s plaque one day.
“We want them to get into golf and show them how fun it is. They may not even know what they’re learning, but they’re enjoying it,” Harrison said
With the synthetic turf, which can be swept off and easily drained, along with lights, Harrison said the facility can be used 12 months a year, all times of the day or night … just waiting for the next North Texas golf addition and possible superstar success story.
The entire project cost approximately $9 million, raised mainly from various local golf-related foundations and individuals.
One of the back chipping greens at The Ronny will feature a shot even most of the newest golfers should remember. Former NTPGA junior product Scottie Scheffler holed a 30-yard chip on the third hole at Augusta National, en route to winning the 2022 Masters. Starting next month, juniors with their own green jacket Masters’ dream can try that chip, over and over.
The golf world is coming to Frisco, starting in 2023, and the youngest North Texas recruits are getting a high-tech head start right here.