Gil Hanse and Company tamed the Texas Prairie to build the East Course at PGA Frisco

by | Nov 5, 2021 | PGA

In this phase of their career, almost 30 years later, you could understand when course architect Gil Hanse and his partner Jim Wagner no longer wanted to get their hands dirty. For them though … well, that’s the best part of the job.

It’s true: Despite a portfolio of internationally recognized designs and an almost legendary status in the industry, Hanse and Wagner still feel more comfortable in the cabin of a bulldozer than in a posh office. So when her company was hired to design and build the much-touted East Course in the PGA of America’s new Frisco complex in Texas – the course that would one day host tournaments like the PGA Championship, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship – the duo couldn’t wait to play on North Texas soil and see what they could create.

They first identified which of the property’s natural elements they wanted to highlight. Panther Creek, which also plays a prominent role on the neighboring West Course at Beau Welling, was added to the list, as were the area’s numerous hills, arid gorges, and mesquites. From then on, they had to develop hole layouts that incorporate these attributes without deriving from those who have played golfers elsewhere. So they jumped on their heavy machines and began to experiment.

“I would be lying if I didn’t say that with every push of the bulldozer there is a possibility that something will change or that I will see something differently,” Hanse admits. “I say, ‘Well, it could do that,’ or it could spark an image where I say, ‘Hey, the ninth green in Southern Hills does this, so maybe we could do that.’ Basically, once you master the equipment, you can set it up however you want. We always arrive on site with pretty clear goals, certainly with the route and a conceptually really good idea of ​​where we start each hole, but where we stop changes every time. “

PGA Frisco | East course, No. 13

The results are remarkable, particularly the long par 3 13th hole of the East Course, which has a dramatic drop to the left of the green, unlike anything Hanse and Wagner had ever built before. Then there are holes 10, 11, and 12, which have been lifted out of the Panther Creek floodplain and accented with wetlands, and the eighth hole where Hanse and Wagner drilled another sharp bead, exposing exposed shale for added character .

As for the style of play, golfers can expect to be tested. For starters, it’s the longest course that Hanse and Wagner have ever created. But at a time when top touring professionals can hit the ball for miles, the length alone is not enough to protect the par.

“Jim and I like to think about the mental challenges,” says Hanse. “Is there any way a top level golfer might feel a little uncomfortable with what he sees? We think to challenge these types of players you have to make them a little uncomfortable. “

In order to achieve this, Hanse and Wagner deliberately designed the course in such a way that the strong wind from Texas plays along as well as the often solid fairways and greens.

“When you have fixed conditions, it is difficult to predict what will happen,” continues Hanse. “Will the ball bounce and check twice? Will it hop and check three times? Is that not checked at all? Those are the questions we wanted to ask the players. “

Even so, Hanse – the man who shaped the thing with his own two hands – believes that once people start playing the East Course, they will find that it’s not nearly as scary as it initially seems.

“If players are thoughtful about approaching our course, choosing the right tees and thinking about the right way to play golf holes, they will surely find ways to get around without too much difficulty,” he promises . “I hope we’ve struck the right balance where it will be a challenge every time a big championship comes to town, but also something that everyone else who plays it will enjoy.”