Trinity Forest GC Integral to Big Changes in Byron Nelson Championship

By: Steve Habel

The HP Byron Nelson Championship just finished Sunday but most of the conservations in the players' locker rooms, the plush media room and the massive galleries that lined the host site - the TPC Four Seasons Resort in Irving, Texas - was the future of the tournament, which is destined to be moved away from its current location to a new course in nearby Dallas by the end of the decade.

Aerial View of Trinity Forest Property

Last week, the Dallas City Council unanimously authorized an agreement that will see a championship course constructed on an old landfill in south Dallas.

The vote cleared the way for the private club to become the new home of the HP Byron Nelson Championship. The Salesmanship Club of Dallas, which runs the tournament, had already agreed to move the event from TPC Four Seasons to the new course in Dallas, no later than 2019.

"It is symbolic in that it gives southern Dallas the opportunity to shine while also making the way for economic development opportunities," Dallas mayor Mike Rawlings said of the project.

Power Play in "Big D"

The golf course deal was conceived by top AT&T officials in conjunction with Southern Methodist University and the First Tee of Dallas. SMU will build a facility at the course for its golf teams, and First Tee will have the use of a small nine-hole course on the north end of the site.

The city is mandating that 25 percent of rounds at the course be available for public play. But most of these will be through charitable tournaments or similarly organized events instead of individual daily-fee tee times. The majority of the play at the course (to be called Trinity Forest Golf Course) will be available to its members.

The council authorized a 40-year lease agreement with the Company of Trinity Forest Golfers, the nonprofit entity that will control the facility. The course, to be designed by the team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, will be located on the 400-acre former landfill and is expected to cost between $20 million to $60 million to develop.

Part of the Site for the Proposed Trinity Forest GC

The developers will likely consult closely with the PGA Tour to build a course specifically for the Byron Nelson Championship and potentially other tournaments, according to Jeremy Stone, a real estate consultant at Stone Hospitality Real Estate who was part of the evaluation team.

"The new golf course will address specific needs that are not being met at the current location, such as the golf course design," Stone said. "Right now, it's really crowded and there's not a lot of space there that most of the PGA tournaments like to have. It's hard to re-create several hundred acres anywhere to have a site specifically designed for a PGA event."

AT&T, which moved its corporate headquarters to Dallas from San Antonio in 2008, will become the new title sponsor of the Byron Nelson Championship in 2015, taking over that role from Hewlett-Packard.

The Byron Nelson Championship's current contract with the Four Seasons Resort and Club in Irving runs through 2018.

The idea for a premier golf course on Dallas city land began taking shape in fall 2011. Organizers of the new facility say they already have 100 commitments for membership at Trinity Forest, which is worth $15 million based on the $150,000 initiation fee. They're also set to contribute $20 million of their own money now that the project has received city approval. Construction is expected to begin very soon.

There's a lot of work that needs to be done over the next five years, however. The landfill has been closed for about 30 years and remediation teams from the city of Dallas have already begun capping efforts. Most of the $12 million the city has agreed to spend in the deal is for site cleanup, including environmental remediation. Because of a state order, remediation is required for any commercial use of a landfill. If all goes well, the course will be completed in spring 2016.

Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw

Coore/Crenshaw Working at Cost

Many architecture firms expressed interest in the job, but Coore & Crenshaw, one of the world's top design companies, was hired in December 2012 for the three-year project. Trinity Forest represents the kind of challenges that characterize the work of the firm, which is providing its services at cost.

According to preliminary plans, Trinity Forest will be carded at approximately 7,300 yards from the tips and play to a par of 71 with 11 par-4s, four par-3s and three par-5s.

Expect Coore and Crenshaw to stay true to their "minimalist" roots and create a layout with no water hazards and few trees, but plenty of gnarly grasses swaying over a wind-blown landscape surrounded by forests and lowlands. Elevation changes on the site are only about 35 feet, so there will be no dramatic highs and lows. From the tallest point on the course, the fifth fairway, views of downtown Dallas will be available in the winter, but those will be blocked by trees when they're in bloom and leafy.

"It will be a natural look with smooth contours that ripple and roll, ever cascading," Coore said. "The fairways will be expansive with meandering hills."

Three holes will cross a deep ravine and another three will feature split fairways, giving players risk/reward options. The most dramatic hole could be the par-3 eighth, which winds downhill over the ravine with a forest on the right. Most of the greens will be slightly elevated. The grass types for the fairways and greens have not been determined.

"It's a landfill, but it's a landfill with character," said Crenshaw, an Austin native and two-time Masters champion.

Coore said the layout at Trinity Forest will have a links feel, taking advantage of the rolling hills. "My first reaction was, 'Um, it's a landfill,' but the site wasn't what I expected," he said. "It's got some highs and lows, different elevations, so it's got some life to it. We just walked around and said, 'Let's let the land guide us.' We believe the site could have an extremely good golf course, one that looks very interesting and one that we felt very excited about."

Landfill courses face potential problems with the settlement of waste years after construction, but officials say a vast amount of the settling on the site has already occurred, and the methane gas production is low.

Much can change in three years, and complications with the landfill could potentially force minor alterations. But Coore said the firm's finished products usually stay close to their original sketches.

Steve Habel is a freelance writer contributing Cybergolf news stories, features, equipment and book reviews and personality profiles from his base in Central Texas. He also works as a contributing editor for Horns Illustrated magazine, a publication focusing on University of Texas sports, and is a contributing writer for Golfers' Guide and Golf Oklahoma magazine, Texas Links magazines and Golfers Guide. Habel's main blog ( features news on golf and the Longhorns, and another ( chronicles his many travels, including playing more than 600 golf courses since 2008. Habel is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America and the Texas Golf Writers Association.