Native Texan Ben Crenshaw captured the Byron Nelson Golf Classic in 1983. Thirty-five years later, a course he co-designed will host the event for the first time. Gentle Ben and his design partner, Bill Coore, have rolled out a remarkable private spread called Trinity Forest on a sandcapped former landfill just 10 minutes south of downtown Dallas. The 400-acre track is treeless, but it’s surrounded by the 6,000-acre Great Trinity Forest, creating an almost arena-like effect for golf. The quality of the architecture, the terrain and the infrastructure prompted sponsor AT&T and the PGA Tour to move the venerable Byron Nelson event there starting in May 2018, a shift that takes it from the cushy, suburban TPC Dallas Las Colinas (and the onsite Four Seasons hotel) to a somewhat grittier urban area. Opened to preview play in the fall of 2016, Trinity Forest’s heaving canvas, ever-present winds, close-cropped, fast Zoysia fairways and firm, quick Champion Ultradwarf Bermuda greens will present pros with the most links-like test this side of the British Isles. And test them it will.
“I’ve had some rounds where I shot 7-under, and I’ve shot 7-over out there,” says Trinity Forest member Jordan Spieth. “It’s not very difficult off the tee. It’s about where you position the tee ball—which half of the fairway—to be able to hold the greens on approach shots. It’s a second shot course, where you’ve got to really think about where you’re leaving the ball, because everything looks very spacious. There are no trees, you can work different [ball] flights, but it’s very challenging if you’re not really focused.”
Typical of a Coore-Crenshaw layout, strategic options and a ground-game emphasis predominate. Also noteworthy are the assorted shapes, sizes and placements of bunkers, not to mention the complete lack of a water hazard, virtually unheard of on the PGA Tour these days. Among the memorable individual tests are the drivable, 315-yard, par-4 fifth, with its elevated turtleback green that repels any imperfect approach; the monstrous, uphill-then-downhill 630-yard, par-5 14th; and the third and 11th holes, which share a massive, 36,000-square-foot double green. On a course that favors feel, imagination and local knowledge, stamp Spieth as the early tournament favorite in 2018.[gallery:13664751]