For most of us, golf season is winding down. But, for the AT&T Byron Nelson staff and volunteers, it’s go time—as they prep this Texas tour-de-force for one of the biggest changes the event has seen in decades.
Next year’s Nelson will be held at Trinity Forest Golf Course on May 14-20, 2018. It’s a new course, with a very different look, and a relocation from the suburb of Irving to the southern sector of Dallas.
In many ways, it’s a complete reinvention of a classic. Near everything is changing, except for the tournament’s underlying mission.
“We’ve been putting a whole lot of work into how this golf tournament is going to transition to this new facility and one thing that we’ve learned is, there’s no ‘the way we’ve always done it’ anymore,” explained Jon Drago, AT&T Byron Nelson tournament director. “That said, in our planning, we’ve kept a few important things in mind. We wanted to make sure that whatever we do, we make Byron Nelson proud. We want to ensure a great experience for the players, sponsors and fans. We want to integrate sincerely into our new neighborhood. And most importantly, we want to stay true to our mission to promote and support Momentous Institute.”
Here’s a preview of the some of the changes.
The 411 on Trinity Forest Golf Course
Although Trinity Forest Golf Course is relatively new, the vibe of this Bill Coore-Ben Crenshaw design is definitely Old School.
It’s a links-style course that sits on a rolling meadow that covers approximately 150 acres. Instead of a lush green, perfectly manicured landscape, Trinity Forest has a very natural look; with native grass and dramatic bunkering—more reminiscent of courses in Scotland than the typical fare on the PGA TOUR.
“We feel like golf today might have gone a little too progressive, where it’s more point A to point B. With that, some of the fun, the excitement and the variety of golf has gone away,” said Harrison Frazar, PGA TOUR player and Trinity Forest Golf Course tournament liaison. “The idea (with Trinity Forest) is to turn back to the Golden Age of golf course design, where shot-making and creativity—and all of those things that are part of the historical tenants of golf—matter. We want to bring those tenants back, and challenge golfers in ways that they are not being challenged right now at a lot of venues.”
Trinity Forest will also change with the seasons. There will be wildflowers blooming alongside the native grass in the spring; dusty browns, greys and purple hues in the heat of summer. Instead of molding the earth to conform to an artist’s rendering, Coore and Crenshaw left the ground’s natural ripples, humps and hollows as is, incorporating these into their design to add character.
“We wanted the course to look natural, like something that’s been there for hundreds of years; not something that was created by man or technology,” Frazar said.
If you want a firsthand view of what Trinity Forest Golf Course will look like for the tournament in May, you have that opportunity right now. The AT&T Byron Nelson team has put together a virtual app that lets fans experience what it will feel like to be at the new venue, before it’s even built out.
Definitely worth a download.
The Spectator Experience
Anyone who’s been to the AT&T Byron Nelson knows it’s as much about the party as the golf. It’s the see-and-be-seen place for anyone in the surrounding metropolitan area; with something for everyone, of every age; golfer or non-golfer; families, singles, kids, juniors and seniors alike.
Will that proverbial party train also head south?
“We know that, after 35 years at one place, there’s a certain level of discomfort spectators may be feeling right now. So, there are a lot of elements we are building here that will give them a similar experience to what they’ve had in the past,” explained Eddy Moore, longtime Salesmanship Club member and 2018 tournament chair. “The Pavilion, the plaza entry, the atmosphere will all be similar to what they’ve experienced. “
Other elements will remain the same, but be served up in a different way.
“We plan to build the same types and same numbers of hospitality suites that we had at the TPC Four Seasons. But, the way this golf course is designed, we have the ability to spread those areas out throughout the entire golf course,” Moore said.
For those who actually enjoy watching the golf, Trinity Forest makes that a little simpler, too. The course is set up as a large rectangle. That makes it easy for spectators to walk around to different holes to take in all the action, in fewer steps.
No question this will be a boon to the Nelson’s ever-present stiletto-wearing crowd.
Title sponsor AT&T will be out in force, bringing all of its fan favorites to the new venue, including the ever-popular Fan Dome and Kid Zone.
“There are so many good things about this tournament,” said Angela Ross, vice president of external and legislative affairs at AT&T. “It’s going to bring an excitement to the area (southern Dallas) that hasn’t been here before and give the event a new home. But more importantly, we’re supporting our friends and the children over at Momentous.”
By now, you’ve probably gotten the gist from the quotes. Everyone, from the Salesmanship Club members to title sponsor AT&T; from tournament staff to volunteer, is over the moon about Momentous Institute.
For good reason.
This magical non-profit organization transforms the lives of more than 100,000 children through therapeutic and educational work focusing on social emotional health. It directly serves 6,000 kids and family members each year through its nationally acclaimed Momentous School, innovative services, research and training. To date, the Nelson has raised more than $155 million for the organization, making it one of the most financially successful charity events on the PGA TOUR.
“What we are able to do at Momentous Institute simply wouldn’t happen without the Salesmanship Club and the funds from the AT&T Byron Nelson,” said Michelle Kinder, executive director for Momentous Institute. “Our focus is kids and social emotional health—how they manage emotions, reactions and relationships. We give them the tools they need to reach their full potential.”
According to Kinder, social emotional health matters in the short term because kids who can’t manage their emotions, their reactions and their relationships often struggle with learning. It matters in the long term because 90 percent of high performers are also high in emotional intelligence.
“There are three things we believe. We believe we should expect momentous outcomes for every single child, regardless of their circumstances. We believe in focusing on strengths—the strengths of the child, the strengths of the family and the strengths of the community,” Kinder said. “And we believe that Dallas can become as good of a place for children as it is for business—and we’re really happy to be a small part of that.”
All beautiful reasons to support the AT&T Byron Nelson, the tournament that is and always will be about so much more than golf—no matter where it’s played.