DALLAS – The Trinity Forest chatter boils down to a takeaway no one saw coming: players are adapting to a design far different than they are used to playing outside of the United Kingdom and many are even wanting to see the course play firmer and faster.
The PGA Tour, however, is taking a more cautious approach to this extremely fun, extremely zany inland links featuring some of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw’s boldest design elements.
The 150 or so members at Trinity Forest play the course firmer and faster than players will experience in this week’s AT&T Byron Nelson. Even the caddies, who played a preview event here a year ago, said they are surprised how much slower the course is playing.
The contributing factors are are mowing height and some recent spring weather finally sending the Trinity Zoysia on its merry warm-weather growing ways.
The PGA Tour has a long-term goal to make Trinity Forest into a beloved venue anchored by this marvelous, if unorthodox design. A Year 1 debacle – either in the form of Chambers Bay-like memories or six-hour rounds, would kill any chance of the venue succeeding.
The players hoping to see superintendent Kasey Kauff present them super firm and fast golf confirm they can still play the ball on the ground, though we may see more putters and lob wedges around the greens than crafty 8-irons.
But the players questioned also seem aware of the big-picture stakes.
“I haven’t heard any players say this place is unfair or real challenging or anything, because they’re able to control the speed of the greens and the speed of the grass,” Hunter Mahan said.
Geoff Ogilvy is an unofficial ambassador for Trinity Forest even though his course design firm lost out on the bid to Coore and Crenshaw. The Australian stayed in touch with the club through founder Jonas Wood as his firm worked on nearby Shady Oaks, even filming tournament preview videos shared with Tour players who were on the fence about the course. He also happens to think the design is brilliant.
“The grass is a bit slower now than I’ve seen it, for sure,” Ogilvy said. “The Tour’s advanced set-up staff have pretty specific kind of set-up guidelines and I think it was probably a little bumping up against their extreme edge for set-up when they first saw it. So they’ve set it up how they like to set it up.”
Ogilvy wants to see the course succeed long term and is understanding of the slight raise in fairway mowing heights from what members enjoy.
“This is so different from what we do every week,” he said. “I don’t know what to expect and don’t want any crazy balls rolling 50 yards off greens.”
Adam Scott, who hit a gloriously low iron that landed well short of the 18th green in his pro-am round, is more concerned with the green speed better matching the fairway speed.
“I think it’s going to be a little hard to control anything running up on to the green,” he said. “(Trinity Forest) kind of needs to find that good balance point of challenging and fair. … Firm is definitely a good thing.”
Mahan, who has also taken on unofficial ambassadorial duties as a Dallas resident, echoed the big-picture view of those wanting to see Trinity Forest evolve into a must-play venue.
“I think the course is probably going to play slower than it’s intended to play, being the first year and being this course is still growing,” he said. “I think the true vision of this golf course isn’t going to be quite realized just yet.”