First impression of new Byron Nelson venue: This is going to get wild


DALLAS — Trinity Forest Golf Club sounds like something we’ve heard about before: wealthy investors enlist name architecture firm to build a different place than the other courses in town.

It’ll be links style. It’ll have a different clubhouse vibe. And the course will be unlike anything golfers in these parts have seen before. …

And?

Trinity Forest is most certainly links style and it’s definitely unlike anything the PGA Tour has ever played. Things may get a little crazy. Maybe even slightly goofy if the wind really blows. But this new addition to the AT&T Byron Nelson Classic will turn heads as the wildest venue added to the Tour since 1982’s debut of the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass.

Most players will not care for Trinity Forest. Expect at least one “they wasted a good landfill” reference to the site’s previous configuration next to the heavily wooded Trinity Forest. The antipathy will surface because this is a design forcing players to play away from the pin to feed balls toward the hole. That kind of golf takes time to figure out and two practice rounds here won’t be enough.

For some Tour players reared on softer, “right in front of you” and decidedly inland settings, this will shock.

par 4 18th
The par-4 18th hole at Trinity Forest Golf Club.  (Geoff Shackelford/Golfweek)

The Bill Coore-Ben Crenshaw design is the closest thing to inland links golf you’ll ever find thanks to a melding of the new Trinity Zoysia turf — named for this place and cultivated by David Douguet in Texas — conspiring with wild ground features that do not look very extreme. The club is dedicated to firm-and-fast golf. This is Coore and Crenshaw’s boldest design in the use of centerline bunkers, discreetly zany design features and enormous greens.

The average square footage at most courses is around 6,000. Trinity’s clock in at 14,000, with one double green in the 36,000 square-foot neighborhood that takes 45 minutes for two people to mow during tournament week. Meanwhile, the short par-4 fifth is only 5,600 square feet.

And mostly everyone will just talk about the rollercoaster ride that is the 17th where the “Crenshaw Village” tent will become the best seat in the house. There will be aces and eights.

Aesthetically, Trinity Forest will not impress on television due to the harsh Texas sun and traditional camera stands which flatten out the ground features. And that’s where this momentous debut for the minimalist design movement becomes fraught with danger. After all, for every reference you’ve heard about Coore and Crenshaw or Hanse or Doak or Bandon, the this is the first course by this tribe of old-school thinkers to be built with big-time tournaments in mind.

Sure, Coore and Crenshaw’s Kapalua is an old friend but was first and foremost a resort course that morphed into a tournament venue. Hanse’s redo of TPC Boston is just that: a renovation.

Trinity Forest is Space Odyssey: 2001 in 1968. It’s Camden Yards in 1992. Chuck Berry playing Johnny B. Goode in 1958.

The Scots and Brits will chuckle when they see Trinity Forest since its features resemble some combination of Cinque Ports, Dornoch and the Old Course. But in Texas where so much golf architecture mediocrity resides and on the PGA Tour where the ground game is so rarely played, Trinity will open eyes. Add the AT&T Byron Nelson’s place as a tournament long known for a water-strewn holes with huge fountains and lift, clean and place seemingly every year and Trinity Forest will invoke a wide array of emotional responses.

Yet if players, fans and folks at home keep an open mind, they are in for some seriously wild golf viewing. There will be balls funneling to holes and balls landing in places that look like bad shots that turn out perfect. And there will be balls getting thrown into the forest out of frustration.

If allowed to breathe like a fine wine, Trinity Forest should prove to be another major step in golf’s movement to return to its architectural roots, only with a bunch of eye-opening new twists.

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