By Art Stricklin
DALLAS – On a still mainly barren 400-acre piece of ground in South Dallas, 10 minutes south of downtown, where earth moves and course shapers are beginning to work in earnest, sits the Trinity Forest Golf Club which promises to reshape golf in North Texas for decades to come.
The huge project, costing a reported $50 million dollars, is a layout designed by acclaimed Texas designer Ben Crenshaw and his longtime partner Bill Coore.
It will be a public-private partnership on land owned by the City of Dallas, but with more than 100, six-figure private memberships already sold, a large, new, public First Tee of Dallas facility, the home course and practice area of SMU golf and the new site of the PGA Tour’s Byron Nelson Championship and perhaps other major events.
While the project was announced with a lavish press conference in the spring of 2013, it took more than a year to sell the memberships at approximately $150,000 each according to developer Jonas Wood, sign all the contracts and finally kick the construction into high gear.
"We didn’t get our team out here fully until August, but they’re making very good progress," said Scott Sayers, Ben Crenshaw’s longtime agent who is helping oversee the construction/design end of the project.
"They’re very excited about what they are finding on the ground and what progress they are making on the course."
Already seven holes have been laid out on the course which will be much like Crenshaw’s Sandhills Nebraska design or his Pinehurst No. 2 renovation with few trees, plenty of brownish, natural grasses and natural terrain. Crenshaw and Coore renovated famed Pinehurst No. 2 for this year’s U.S. Open under similar conditions and received rave reviews.
One of the most recent signs of progress was the recent hiring of Kasey Kauff, as Director of Golf Course Maintenance. He was most recently Director of Course Conditions at the Country Club of Orlando and also served as the top assistant at Atlanta Athletic Club when it hosted the 2012 PGA Championship.
"The first time Jonas brought me out here (July 2014) I was really excited to see the property and what Ben and Bill were doing. I love their work and I have to say Sandhills (which they designed in Mullen, Nebraska) is probably my favorite golf course of all time."
Kauff had never met Crenshaw or Coore, but said he was getting to know them and was excited to be working to bring their latest golf creation to life.
"I grew up in North Carolina, so I love the restoration work they did at Pinehurst Number 2. I’m enjoying getting to know them and spending time working together."
Both Crenshaw and Coore, along with the staff from Landscapes Unlimited, have made several visits to Trinity Forest this summer, part of the 6,000 acre Great Trinity Forest preserve south of downtown, and plan many more visits as the course continues to grow, breath and come to life.
Current plans, weather depending of course, call for the course to continue to be shaped in the fall and winter, planted in the spring and growing by the summer of 2015. It would have a year to mature and likely be ready for play in the middle of 2016.
Dallas major Mike Rawlings and new Byron Nelson tournament title sponsor AT&T have already announced that the Nelson PGA tour event will be moving to Trinity Forest from its current location at the TPC-Las Colinas. It’s only a matter of announcing the actual date.
"We will have the course ready for 2016. It’s up to the Salesmanship Club, the PGA Tour and AT&T when it’s played here," Wood said.
Barton Creek under new ownership
AUSTIN – A Hill Country golf legend is now reinventing itself with new owners, new leadership, new capital expenditures and new energy to regain its position as one of the most attractive options to regional visitors in this most scenic portion of Texas.
Barton Creek Resort, just west of the state capital, was one of first Texas golf resorts to open when Tom Fazio built his first course here in 1986. Since then, the resort has grown to four courses; another Fazio design, one by native son Ben Crenshaw and another nearby designed by Arnold Palmer.
Combine that with a modern resort tower, a newly renovated spa, resort pool and the laidback Austin lifestyle and it is little wonder the resort has been a favorite for golfing visitors for decades.
But the resort landscape has gotten pretty crowded in this area between Austin and San Antonio which led to new Barton Creek owners, the Dallas-based Omni hotel group, to upgrade to regain its favorite’s role in the competitive resort traveler regional market.
"I think there is something very special about a legendary Texas resort once again by owned by a legendary Texas company," said general manager James Walsh, who has been at the resort for 26 years and has seen a variety of changes and ownerships.
"I think the future is very bright, because you very rarely get to see these courses in this spectacular Hill Country surrounding," added newly hired club manager Mike Sizemore. "There are a lot of great resorts with one or two courses there you can’t play. Here you can play every course during the time you are here."
Omni has poured millions of dollars into renovation projects at the resorts they have purchased, including the Omni Amelia Island. While there have been some discussions, there are no concrete plans announced yet for Barton Creek, but some encouraging new additions are coming.