Listen to Austin 360 Radio

PGA of America's move to Texas has architect Beau Welling thrilled

Tim Schmitt
Golfweek
The PGA Omni in Frisco will sit adjacent to a pair of championship golf courses and the new headquarters of the PGA of America.

Golf architect Beau Welling certainly has an impressive résumé — creating Bluejack National outside Houston is among a growing list of notable works — but when he was one of five to be considered for the two courses at the PGA of America’s new Frisco headquarters, the Brown University product was ready and willing to check any ego at the clubhouse.

“This is a huge, huge deal,” Welling said last week at a groundbreaking ceremony for the Omni PGA Frisco Resort. “When they called me — and they originally set it up like they were going to hire one architect to do everything — and they called me after and said, ‘Hey, we really want to get you involved, but we don’t think we can let you do the whole thing. Would you be willing to do a part of it?’

“I was like, ‘Man, I’ll design the parking lot.’”

And while the parking lot will probably be magnificent, the PGA of America instead tasked Welling with one of the two championship courses on the property north of Dallas — Gil Hanse designed the other — on a complex that’s expected to house 26 championships in the next dozen years, including two PGA Championships.

Construction continues on the new PGA of America headquarters in Frisco, which will be more centrally located for members who come to train than the previous home in West Palm Beach, Fla.

More:Expectations high as Tom Fazio’s Driftwood golf course nears completion

The courses — Welling’s West and Hanse’s East — are just part of the fun planned for this suburb north of Dallas. The Omni project, which includes 501 guest rooms and seven four-bedroom golf villas, is also a component. The hotel will feature a dozen restaurants/food shops, three pools (including an adults-only rooftop infinity pool), 127,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting and event space, and a destination spa.

A 10-hole short course called the Swing and a 75,000-square-foot putting course called the Dance Floor will add to the flavor of the property.

“Does it get any cooler than that? The Dance Floor, the Swing, the East and West Course,” said Jim Richerson, the PGA of America president. “This is not only going to be a resort project; it’s going to be a project that’s going to make memories and create moments for families and generations to come — not only to get into the game, but to spend time as families.”

“I’m sure it’s going to have effects throughout the country for the game of golf,” Welling said. “I could see all that from the very beginning, and so that’s why I said I’d design the parking lot. I just wanted to be involved. I’m so thankful and extraordinarily honored to be involved.”

Spieth on rangefinders: Meh, whatever

Next week’s PGA Championship at Kiawah Island in South Carolina will be the first time distance-measuring devices — rangefinders, if you will — will be available for players to use at a major.

The PGA of America announced earlier in the year that the PGA Championship, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship will all allow the finders.

Is it a big deal? Jordan Spieth doesn’t think so. He and caddie Michael Greller will use the rangefinders, but Spieth said in advance of this week’s Byron Nelson Classic that he’d forgotten they’d be eligible for the major. And the former Texas Longhorn also doesn’t think it will make a significant dent in the pace of play,

“I guess I remember someone mentioning that a long time ago, but I had totally forgotten until right now. So, yeah, I don't see why you wouldn't, but also … we have been checking our yardage books and cover numbers and back of green numbers for eight years now. I think shooting the pin is just a confirmation of what we're doing elsewhere,” Spieth said. ”So I have a hard time seeing it speed things up, unless you get it way offline or you're out of contention.

“We'll plan on using it, but I think it will be more confirmation than anything. It's not going to be we just step up, shoot it and go. I mean, these pins get tucked and the wind's blowing and you’ve got to figure out a few more things than just the number to the hole.”

The United States Golf Association’s Rules of Golf have allowed the use of laser rangefinders and GPS devices in casual play and tournaments since 2006, but a local rule allowed a tournament committee to ban such devices. At elite professional levels of play, the devices still have not been embraced for competition rounds, though they have been allowed in the U.S. Amateur since 2014. They are still not allowed during competition rounds at PGA Tour events or at the U.S. Open and British Open.

Kaitlyn Papp reads a green during the 2020 U.S. Women's Open in December. Papp and the Texas women's golf team advanced to the NCAA Tournament after tying for second in the Louisville Regional on Wednesday.

Texas women advance, but chaos at regional

The UT women’s golf team finished second in the Louisville Regional on Wednesday, advancing to the NCAA Tournament in Scottsdale, Ariz., but the real story from the tournament was who didn’t play.

The NCAA canceled the Baton Rouge Regional due to course conditions that were deemed “playable,” just not at a “championship level” after heavy rains throughout the week.

That led LPGA star and longtime Texas golf advocate Stacy Lewis to respond on Twitter by saying, “There’s a lot I could say on this but @NCAA you failed these kids ... Be creative, be willing to adapt, and most importantly let their play decide who plays for a National Championship! Proud of @UHCougarWGolf, they will be back!!!”

Meanwhile, the Longhorns advanced for the fifth consecutive time after tying for second at the regional, with stars Kaitlyn Papp and Agathe Laisne both in the top 10.

Texas coach Ryan Murphy said the team drew off the recent death of Longhorns football player Jake Ehlinger, the brother of former quarterback Sam Ehlinger.

"There is no doubt in my mind that we received help from Jake today. Our team definitely played with some heavy hearts this week. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Ehlinger family in this incredibly difficult time," Murphy said. "I'm proud of this team. They deserve to be going to Scottsdale. They have been resilient through significant challenges, as we've all experienced, and come through it. Again, I'm so proud of them."

Tim Schmitt is the managing editor for Golfweek and golf coordinator for the USA Today Network. He lives in Round Rock within a driver and subsequent wedge from Dell Diamond.