FRISCO, Texas — What happens when two architecture firms building adjacent 18-hole courses for the same client discover that the assignment to build the property's par-3 course ended up in both their contracts?
That was the case for Beau Welling and Gil Hanse. Each was hired to build a championship 18-hole course at the brand new Omni PGA Frisco Resort in Texas. Turns out, as the firms worked with Omni on not just their course designs but figuring out the site's ambitious master plan, details for the par-3 were never finalized in either contract.
Years later, as the time finally approached to begin work on the par-3, Welling worried that sorting the details with Hanse could get tricky. But according to Welling those feelings were put to bed quickly when Hanse's partner Jim Wagner declared, "If we're going to do this collaboration, we're going all-in."
So Wagner laid out a plan for the par-3 course where he and Hanse would hire Welling's shapers, and Welling's team would direct Hanse's shapers. Texas' newest par-3 would be built with old-fashioned horse-swapping.
"So it was this cross-pollination of them working with our shapers, us working with their shapers," said Welling. "We took multiple walks together. It was so easy and so much fun. It was a very special thing. I don't think people do things like that anymore."
Collaboration has been the name of the game for Omni PGA Frisco Resort and new PGA of America headquarters nearby. A project that just kept getting more ambitious the more it grew for the better half of a decade saw City of Frisco officials team up with the PGA of America and Omni Hotels & Resorts along with the state of Texas to realize the dream of a new hub that is aspired to by the PGA of America as the "new and modern home of American golf."
The potential for all parties runs as long as the Texas sky. For Dallas-based Omni, it's the opportunity to build their first golf property from scratch (their 12 others are all the result of acquisitions). For the PGA of America, it's the creation of a brand new-headquarters that is more centrally located in the U.S. and resides in a major economic center. And the City of Frisco will boast a world-class amenity for locals that will stand out among the two-dozen-plus municipalities of the Metroplex all jockeying for businesses and residents.
And for the state of Texas, this new destination will draw international eyes to the state and attract an even wider net for tourism. Texas, and Frisco in particular, have been busy aggressively recruiting new businesses and this ambitious development, as Mayor Jeff Chaney indicated at the groundbreaking, will accelerate the growth of this North Texas boomtown by decades and bring $2.5 billion in economic impact in the next 20 years.
"The weekend we went and saw the PGA Championship in 2017," said Chaney of his staff's visit to Quail Hollow, "we got on the bus exhausted and we said, 'we've got to figure out how to get this here.'"
A place for events, tourists and locals
The DFW Metroplex is already one of America's great golf metro areas thanks to a deep roster of both municipal courses and elite private clubs. For visitors, the best Texas golf resorts are generally found between Austin and San Antonio, highlighted by Omni Barton Creek, Horseshoe Bay Resort and the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort among others. In Dallas, the Four Seasons Resort and Club Los Colinas, which has one course accessible to resort guests, has been the top draw in DFW for years and formerly hosted the PGA Tour's AT&T Byron Nelson Invitational.
But the Omni PGA Frisco Resort will bring men's majors back to Texas (the latest one was held in 1969 at Champions Golf Club in Houston). The two 18-hole courses occupy an unlikely rolling piece of land - unusual for north Texas - with both high playing corridors exposed to the elements and lower areas that needed to be raised out of a floodplain, but the opportunity for Hanse and Welling to create compelling golf theater is here. While both the East (Hanse) and West (Welling) courses will be tournament-caliber, they're also being designed explicitly with all levels in mind. For each layout, it will generally be done with width off the tee (the North Texas winds will certainly blow) while green surrounds will demand more skill.
Hanse's designs have enjoyed big stages lately, including the 2016 Rio Olympic Course, Castle Stuart on the European Tour, and his restoration of Winged Foot lauded during last year's U.S. Open. Welling, who spent most of his career working under Tom Fazio and has consulted with Tiger Woods' TGR firm (including Houston's lauded Bluejack National and Playgrounds lighted short course), is a name less recognized by the masses. Yet philosophically the two don't seem to be too far apart. Welling said that as his and Hanse's side-by-side works came to life, the designs "felt more like cousins than siblings."
The design plan behind the 600-acre property is a campus-style layout that seeks both to invite locals onto the grounds and host resort guests from out of town. The 18-hole courses will have rates for Frisco residents, who can also come have a casual knock at the practice facility, short course or putting course. Off-course property amenities will include 12 restaurants and bars plus three pools, including a rooftop, adults-only pool. The resort will overlook the "Dancefloor" 2-acre putting course and the "Swing" short course, which will also be lit for nighttime play.
"Whether you're a golfer or a non-golfer," said Jim Richerson, President of the PGA of America, "being able to utilize those facilities, the putting course, and the Swing will be the entry level for people to get into the game. But not only to get into the game, but to spend time as families to create those memories, to be part of a bigger community."
Plans call for 501 guest rooms plus seven luxury resort villas and 127,000 square feet of meeting and convention space. Frisco is, after all, located in the business-intensive Metroplex and about 30 minutes by car north of the DFW International Airport. For the PGA of America (whose new HQ building is under construction just down the road), it is a clear geographic upgrade.
This property is destined to have the highest stature of any of Omni's properties considering the PGA affiliation and dedication to the site as a frequent events hub. The KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship is scheduled for 2023, the KPMG LPGA Championship is slated for 2025 and 2031 and the resort will welcome the 2027 and 2034 PGA Championships. A future Ryder Cup is also planned (currently targeted ,but not confirmed, for 2041). Some 26 championships are planned over the next 12 years and doesn't include the many local and regional events expected, plus the fact that local Frisco high school golf teams will have access to the facilities here.
Suffice it to say the golfing world will be seeing a lot of PGA Frisco, and the resulting buddies trips seeking to play where the pros have played will follow suit.
At the groundbreaking, Omni officials signaled a grand opening date 24 months away and are already promising a Texas-sized party to mark the occasion, so the clock is ticking for the brand's most ambitious project yet, with an overall price tag estimated at $500 million. Can't wait that long? They plan to open the golf courses to the public by 2022.
The PGA of America, meanwhile, is eager for this new home to not only be a magnet for the game of golf but an incubator to move the game forward around the world.
"Bringing people together from all different walks of life," will be the goal of PGA Frisco, said Richerson. "All different industries, all different backgrounds coming together, the creative juices that it will create will be unbelievable."