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Opinion & Analysis

Ari’s Course Reviews: Trinity Forest Golf Club

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Editor’s Note: Ari Techner is a well-traveled, golf-course connoisseur who’s setting out to review the best golf courses in the world. The views and opinions expressed in these reviews are his own. 

This week, the PGA Tour makes its way to Trinity Forest for the Byron Nelson. Trinity Forest is the newest course played on Tour; it just opened for play in the fall of 2016. The course was designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, and the native Texans have created an incredible, links-style course that plays firm and fast, and it requires the golf ball to be played along the ground as much as in the air.

I’ve been lucky enough to play Trinity Forest a number of times now, and I can honestly say it is one of my favorite courses to play in the country. It is filled with variety, angles and strategy and allows me to play similar to how I’d play in Scotland or Ireland, which is the style I prefer to play.

Hole No. 10 at Trinity Forest

Related: Check out our hole-by-hole photos of the front nine and back nine

Most of my favorite courses are built on great sites. Whether it’s along the ocean in California or Oregon, or in the Sand Hills of Nebraska, or along the Sebonak Bay in New York, most of the top courses start with a great piece of real estate. Trinity Forest was the opposite. The course is built on what was an active landfill until the mid 1960s. From the time the landfill closed until they started working on the course in 2014, it was used as an unauthorized dump site for many of the local citizens of South Dallas. You could find all kinds of things on the site including large appliances and boats… there was even an old car on what is now the 17th green.

Building the course was quite the undertaking due to the unique traits of the land. The entire site was capped by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers with an impenetrable cap, preserving the natural humps and rolls of the property. Then the entire property was covered with a minimum of 2 feet of sand. Due to the cap over the ground, Coore and Crenshaw could not dig down into the ground at all when building the course — they had to build up instead. They basically had to identify the lowest point of the lowest bunker floor and build the entire course up from there. They also could not plant any trees. They were told to make the course long enough for the PGA Tour but were given free reign to design the course how they wanted. This was not a course built with the Tour’s continuous input. The only change the Tour made was to switch the nines from the original design so the tournament finished in front of the clubhouse. This is how the course plays day-to-day now for the members, also.

A new strain of grass was also invented just for the course and the desired firm and fast conditions. Being located in Dallas, the developer and designers knew that the normal warm weather Bermuda or Zoysia would not provide the desired conditions. So they invented what is now called Trinity Zoysia, which is a shallow root Zoysia hybrid that comes very close to imitating the seaside Fescue playing surfaces you see on true links courses.

The resulting course is a modern links gem of the finest order. There are very few places in the USA that you can play an authentic links game and it is shocking to find that one of them in Dallas, Texas.

The tee shot at the par-3 2nd hole

Aside from my obvious enthusiasm for the firm and fast conditions, the course itself is fantastic. It has a tremendous amount of variety and a spectacular set of green complexes. From many places on the course, the best way to get the ball close to the hole is to use the contours of the ground instead of going through the air.

Trinity has one of the best sets of par 3s anywhere. Hole No. 2 plays around 200 yards for the members with a carry over a large bunker that ends 25 yards or so short of the green. The ground tilts to the right and the ideal shot lands short and left of the hole, then chases on and to the right. Hole No. 8 is one of the best super short par 3s in the world. It plays around 100 yards to an incredibly unique green that is split into two bowl-like sections; the left bowl is about twice the size of the tiny right side. The green falls away and to the right at the front, and a golf ball landing short will chase on and stay on the green. The 12th hole plays around 185 yards over a little valley to a green that is long and narrow, and slopes back-to-front and hard right-to-left. The ideal shot is a draw that lands on the right side of the green, or on the short grass right of the green, and uses the contour of the ground to kick onto the green close to the hole. The 17th hole plays about 170 yards for the members to a double-tiered green that slopes hard from front-to-back and right-to-left. If the hole is in the front section, you must land the ball short left of the green and let the ball kick on to get it to stay on that level. To a back hole location, a ball that lands on the front will bound over the hill to the back section. Trinity Forest has a very unique and amazing set of par 3s and it will be very interesting to watch the pros tackle these holes.

As for the five-pars, there will be three of them for the Byron Nelson, and they are all great holes. Hole Nos. 1 and 7 are both mid-length par fives where the optimal line is close to the hazards off the tee. The first hole has a big, round, heavily contoured green, while the 7th green sits on the side of a hill more naturally, but it can be just as devious if you miss in the wrong place. The 14th is one of the best holes on the course and one that has given me fits; it’s a par 5 that plays between 550-600 yards depending on the tee and plays uphill to a fairway that is split in the middle by a nasty, deep large bunker. More bunkers flank the right and left side. The golfer must make a decision as to where to place their tee shot and then pull off the shot as they imagined, or find themselves in a very difficult situation with their second shot. The next shot goes over and down the hill with a ton of room left and more bunkers right. The ideal line is close to the bunkers and the green falls away from front-to-back, but is very deceptive as it doesn’t look like it falls away nearly as much as it does. This is a very tricky green that I have 3 putted, or putted over the green into the bunker, more than I care to admit. A putt from the front of the green to the back looks at first glance to be slightly uphill but plays very much downhill.  This is a great example of some of the subtlety at Trinity Forest that will be tough for the players to pickup after only a practice round or two.

The tee shot on hole No. 3 at Trinity Forest

The par 4s are also fantastically varied. Hole No. 3 is a mid-length hole with a bunker cutting sideways directly in the line of play off the tee, and it has a huge, double green shared with the 11th hole. Hole No. 4 is a long hole that plays along a fall off on the right side to a fall away green with danger everywhere. The 5th hole is a world class short hole that plays less than 300 yards to a tiny pushup green set behind an imposing bunker where many people walk away frustrated with a par or much worse. The sixth is one of my favorite holes, with a wide fairway split in the middle by a couple bunkers to a wide green with a false front and fall away in the back half; the strategy off the tee is entirely based on that day’s hole location. Closing out the front nine, hole No. 9 is a very long uphill hole with a fantastic green where the second shot must land right of the green over a couple scary bunkers set about 40 yards short of the green and use the contours to chase your ball onto the green.

Hole No. 12 at Trinity Forest

The back nine opens with a mid-length hole that plays as a slight dogleg right around some really cool, scar-type bunkers with an oval shaped, slightly pushed up green with fantastic contours on and around it. Hole No. 11 plays as a long par 4 for the Byron Nelson but as a 5 for the members. The hole opens up past a couple of fairway bunkers off the tee and plays to the right half of the large green shared by the third hole. This is another green with fantastic internal contouring my favorite of which is the ridge that just rings the right and back edge of the right side of the green and can be used to get the ball close to hole locations on that part of the green. The 13th hole is another long hole that doglegs slightly to the left with a rolling fairway that is interrupted about 125 yards short of the green by a natural grass area and a dirt path. The green tilts from right-to-left with trouble left of the green and short grass right. No. 15 goes uphill off the tee between a couple of bunkers up to a small pushup green with falloff on all sides. The 16th doglegs to the right between some bunkers and has a small, organically-shaped green with a falloff in the back that reminds me of the restoration work Coore/Crenshaw have done at Shinnecock Hills. Lastly, No. 18 is a long and straight hole with a minefield of bunkers along the right side and a green that falls slightly from front-to-back and hard left-to-right. A great finishing hole for the tournament or a casual round between friends.

All-in-all, Trinity Forest is just a fantastic course that promotes everything I love about strategic, firm and fast golf. Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw deserve MAJOR kudos for creating such and amazing golf course in such an unlikely location. The tournament this week, which I was told will be setup very much like a major championship, will be very unique and exciting to watch and I for one cannot wait to watch it all unfold.

Check out more photos of the course here: Front Nine and the Back Nine

Other Course Reviews from Ari

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Ari Techner has been obsessed with golf since he was a kid. His first job was at Carls Golfland picking the range as a 14 year old. He attended the University of Michigan and then the Professional Golf Management program at Ferris State University. At 23, only a little more than a year after graduating from college, he founded Scratch Golf Clubs where he served as President/CEO for 13 years. He is one of the world's most accomplished Club HOs having once completed a 4 round tournament with 4 different putters and finishing in the top 5. He is happy to be free of the shackles of Scratch Golf, giving him the opportunity to HO more than just drivers and fairway woods again! The only thing Ari loves more than golf clubs is golf courses. He has traveled all over the world playing golf, having played most of the USA Top 100 and most of the great courses in Ireland, Scotland and England. He is currently the Director of Business Development for King Collins Golf Course Architecture an up and coming design firm responsible for Sweetens Cove Golf Club the 59th ranked course on Golf Week's Top 100 list and only the 2nd 9 hole course to ever make the list. When he first played Sweetens Cove he was so impressed with the work that King Collins had done that he became a part of the ownership group when the opportunity presented itself. He is also a member at 4 courses in the USA Top 100 including 2 in the Top 20 and a Royal club in the UK that was designed by Old Tom Morris in 1864.

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Opinion & Analysis

The biggest influence on your child’s development in sports

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If you had the answer to youth development, you would have a very busy calendar. But joking aside, no one holds the golden ticket. The development of children is multi-faceted, diverse, and certainly does not follow a linear pattern; but what is possibly the most important factor to consider in your junior program?

Forget the grip, length of swing, or throwing skills. Social aspects are arguably the greatest influence on youth development and actually underpin everything we do. More worryingly, they have often been dismissed and unaccounted for in widely used participant development models, such as the Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) model.

So, what social aspects may be affecting children on your program?

Family

Parents are the bulk of this category and can often, but not always, act as role models whilst providing access and opportunity for children. On the reverse, parents can be can harmful and grouped into

  • the uninterested parent, who is never present
  • the overcritical parent, who is never satisfied
  • the yelling from the sideline parent, who often shouts louder than the coaches
  • the parent who coaches, who often contradicts the coach
  • the over-concerned parent, who is afraid of the dangers of sport and threatens to remove their child.

Do any of the children enrolled on your programs have parents that sound like the above? And how could this be affecting their performance and development?

It may also be worth mentioning at this point that siblings also play a huge part in development for obvious reasons related to motivation and role models. Have you ever wondered why it is so common for the youngest sibling to be the best goalkeeper? Is this luck? Another classic is children turning up late for sessions: this is obviously completely out of their control and coaches should not single out or highlight the fact that a particular child is late. The late child often wanders in with their head down, embarrassed about the fact they are turning up late.

Finally, has a recent divorce or family death affected a child in your Saturday morning class? The reason for their quietness and ‘uninterested look’ may in fact be stemming from a much deeper root. And to not pick this child for a team or to single him out for not being interested would be a disaster move at this point!

Socioeconomics

These are closely linked to parents and are quite simply financial factors. The cost of memberships, transport, equipment and time can often be a barrier for children. Can the family afford to pay for practice buckets out of sessions? And how could this be affecting a child’s development? Furthermore, should a child who hasn’t been practicing be inadvertently singled out when the reason for not practicing may often be totally out of their control? Again, how can we as coaches best handle these situations?

From a slightly different angle, how does the child in the group who has ‘hand me down’ clubs and an old scruffy bag feel? And how does the fact all the other children have brand new shiny clubs make them feel? More importantly, how can we as coaches make that child feel at ease?

Schooling/education

The guy that Henry sits next to on his first day of high school could quite possibly shape his future. The influence of peer groups is a huge factor in how attitudes, interests and ultimately behaviors are developed. Furthermore, the friendships developed at golf sessions could be pivotal in future development. What are we doing as coaches to create the best possible social environment for our players?

Additionally, the provision of sport varies across schools and can limit opportunities for different groups of children. This is totally out of a coach’s control but must be acknowledged. The popular named fundamental movement skills can heavily be influenced by the amount of school sport experienced; are children being dismissed from ‘talent ID’ programs for a lack of fundamental movement skills? And is this purely down to a lack of opportunity to develop these skills?

Finally, relative age effect has been shown to play an important role in youth sport and relates to the birth month of school children. Children born close to the start of the academic year (September in the UK) are often selected for school teams as opposed to children in the same year group that are nine months younger (born in Spring/Summer of the following year). The reason for being selected is often only because these children are bigger and stronger so therefore ‘suit’ the team better. So much for little Billy who loves the game but just gets “out muscled” by the big kids! (is this just bad luck?).

How can we tackle these issues?

Of course, we cannot hand out questionnaires to children and parents demanding fine details about their personal lives, however a big part of this puzzle does lie in TALKING to children and parents.

Talking to children/parents during a session about more than their grip or posture is invaluable for everyone involved.

  • For starters, these chats will help you build relationships with the children, a vital component of Self Determination Theory which is linked heavily to lifelong participation.
  • You will start to gather important information about the child. It is surprising what you may find out, but this is not nosey!  Discovering that a child is being picked on at school may in fact be the most important thing that child has ever told you.  And can for sure help you in how you behave and interact with that child.
  • Some of the most useful sessions are the ones spent talking for over half the time with the parents. Finding out what is going on in a child’s life could play a pivotal role in how you interact with different children.
  • Also, spending time with parents educating them is just as important. Let them know your plans/views.  Pushy parents are the evil in youth sport but education can help them change their approach. Imagine if you could change the car journey home conversation from, “Why did you miss that putt?” to, “Did you enjoy that today? I love watching you play!”

Summary of points

Whilst participation development models that acknowledge physical, technical, and other assets do hold great value, a model that completely disregards any social aspects of development has to be questioned. Below are the important take home points

  • Social aspects underpin everything we do and an acknowledgement of unique social situations is paramount in youth development
  • Luck can often play a huge part in youth development
  • Children should not be judged or selected based upon something that is out of their control.
  • Be aware of relative age effect/biological age…..(but, do not make it your priority as neurological age is more important than biological age!!
  • Talking to parents and children is the key catalyst to bridging the gap between development and social issues.
  • The relationships we develop with children are critical to motivations and lifelong participation.

Reference

Bailey, R; Collins, D; Ford, P; MacNamara, A; Toms, M; and Pearce, G. (2010). Participant Development in Sport: An academic review.

 

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Courses

Hidden Gem of the Day: St. James Bay Golf Club in Carrabelle, Florida

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These aren’t the traditional “top-100” golf courses in America, or the ultra-private golf clubs you can’t get onto. These are the hidden gems; they’re accessible to the public, they cost less than $50, but they’re unique, beautiful and fun to play in their own right. We recently asked our GolfWRX Members to help us find these “hidden gems.” We’re treating this as a bucket list of golf courses to play across the country, and the world. If you have a personal favorite hidden gem, submit it here!

Today’s Hidden Gem of the Day comes from GolfWRX member Bimmer1, who submitted St. James Bay Golf Club in Carrabelle, Florida as his gem of a course. Situated within the North Flordia pines, St. James Bay gets praised for both its value, quietness and excellent layout in Bimmer1’s description of the course.

“I’ve played this course for good prices over the years. Excellent and challenging layout.  I’ve been out there when there is almost no one on the course at all.  I often wonder how they have enough money to keep it in the shape they do.”

According to St. James Bay Golf Club’s website, those good prices range from $35-$59 in summer, while their winter rates drop into the $30-$45 range.

@GroupGolferFL

@StJamesBayGolf

@Porteous3187

Check out the full forum thread here, and submit your Hidden Gem.

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Courses

Hidden Gem of the Day: Aguila Golf Course in Phoenix, Arizona

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These aren’t the traditional “top-100” golf courses in America, or the ultra-private golf clubs you can’t get onto. These are the hidden gems; they’re accessible to the public, they cost less than $50, but they’re unique, beautiful and fun to play in their own right. We recently asked our GolfWRX Members to help us find these “hidden gems.” We’re treating this as a bucket list of golf courses to play across the country, and the world. If you have a personal favorite hidden gem, submit it here!

Today’s Hidden Gem of the Day was submitted by GolfWRX member evgolfer, who takes us to Aguila Golf Course in Phoenix, Arizona. The course sits at the base of South Mountain, offering up some stunning scenic mountain views, and in his description of the track evgolfer praises the fair test that the course offers up to players of all levels.

“I love it because the price is always right as a City of Phoenix municipal course. The conditions are usually fairly decent. Also, the course presents a fair challenge to me as a high handicapper and still appeals to low caps. It is easily walkable. Not surrounded by houses, not overly tight or cramped. Designed by Gary Panks. Not overly penal.”

According to Aguila Golf Course’s website, in peak time, an 18 hole round can be booked for $29, with the rate rising to $44 should you wish to add a cart. While, off-peak the price drops to $34, which includes a cart.

@TheHectorRios

@VernonLorenz

@HSTuscon

Check out the full forum thread here, and submit your Hidden Gem.

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