Trinity Forest Golf Club
Texas, United States of America

Seventh hole, 555 yards; When Coore & Crenshaw completed the course, the first nine was actually the back nine and vice versa. When the PGA Tour came here, they thought that 1) the then eighth and ninth were epic and felt like a seventeenth and eighteenth (in which they were correct) and 2) the last three holes (today’s seventh, eighth, and ninth) could produce swings that were perhaps too wild for a finish (in which they were also correct but why frown on such drama?). Coore tells the story: ‘ The 7th runs beside severe land so we thought we should stretch it around the corner and make it into a risk/reward par 5. In that way, it would be a nice counterbalance to the two shot 4th that runs the other direction along the same dramatic falloff. We wanted our Home hole to be stout, so that only left that back corner for a little one shotter. Both Ben and I were thrilled by the variety and possibilities found in this three hole finishing stretch.’  The PGA felt otherwise, and the nines were reversed, but the Tour’s brief stay here proved something that the members and Coore & Crenshaw already knew – this three shotter is a 3 or 8 hole! Anything can happen and often does. Two well struck draws reward the player with an eagle putt but those draws best not become hooks. The fairway itself has a right to left bias, so the right hand player is already wary about the impact his stance may have on the shot. Making such fiddly adjustments to one’s stance is part of the charm of a round at Trinity Forest, just as it is on a links course. It helps make both experiences just as rewarding the fiftieth time as the fifth.

The high bunker lip before the green is actually 45 paces prior to the start of the putting surface. Carrying that bunker is paramount or like at the 5th, the player is left with one of those miserable ~ 60 yard bunker shots.

The 7th green is twice as long (50 yards) as it is wide (25 yards) and perfectly hugs the elevated edge of the property. A miss left is death while a miss to the right leaves the golfer with a shallow channel with which he must contend. The slight right to left cant of the putting surface only adds to the tension of trying to get up and down from the right.

Eighth hole, 140 yards; The author had never seen something akin to a double punchbowl green until this one and now he hopes to see many more. What a novel, fabulous idea, and it comes three decades plus deep in the Coore & Crenshaw partnership. To deploy such a green at the end of a monstrously long two shotter might not constitute good golf but to do so at the end of a tiny one shotter is a stroke of genius. According to Coore, ‘We only had room for a tiny one shotter. A pair of bowls could be made out and they provided the inspiration for the putting surface. We couldn’t cut down though and tall tees would be out of place, so the 8th is semi-blind, which adds to the fun.’ Perhaps the thought of a semi-blind, short, one shotter to a wild green as a penultimate hole might have been too much for the Tour but regardless of when one confronts the hole in the round, it is not one that will be forgotten!

The first curiosity about this tickler is that much of the putting surface is obscured from view from the tee.

The day’s hole location is in the left bowl while …

… the next day’s was in the right. There are plenty of ways to get a ball close but if you end up in the wrong bowl, an air of melancholy descends on what is otherwise a very fun playing experience.

Taken in January when the turf is dormant, the bold green contours are even more starkly evident.

Ninth hole, 465 yards; The chess match between the player and architect continues at the ninth with a central bunker located 130 yards from the front edge of the green. Having gratefully seen his tee ball skirt past this bunker in round one, the player decided in round two not to contend with it. Laying back with a three wood off the tee, he was left with a 50 yard (!) longer approach, that’s how much respect he gave the central bunker. However, the player was arguably too respectful, giving up too much with the three wood. That was the conclusion he arrived at until his driver went into the central feature in round three! So what is the correct play?! The only thing for certain is that firm playing surfaces introduce more confusion and doubt than soft ones. If the fairway was soft, the player could more confidently dial in a tee ball that ends up close to the bunker. As it is, the golfer needs to remain wary, knowing full well that a tee ball might run for 50 yards, stopping only when it plops into a bunker. This is especially true as the hole is played downwind 80% of the time. For the approach, should the player be coming in from 175+ yards and the wind is greater than 10 m.p.h from behind, the line is not the green as the ball will land and assuredly roll off the back slope. Rather, any caliber player must aim at the right edge of the green and use the ground to deaden, or slow down, the ball before then releasing it into the middle of the putting surface. Any player should be content with that outcome on a breezy day. All of this is magnified if the player hits his tee ball tee down the safe, right side of the fairway (away from the hazard) because now the green surround’s pronounced right to left tilt works against the player. Jonas Woods describes the ninth as ‘such a fun challenge’ – and the same applies for the entire course. Indeed, Woods smiles when he hears players who took dead aim at the flag later complain about ‘the bad break’ they received on nine; they simply played the incorrect shot. Trinity Forest tests the golfer’s ability to problem solve like few other American courses – and it takes multiple rounds in all different wind conditions to fully understand the questions being posed.

The approach is every bit as interesting as the tee ball. Believe it or not, a draw at the right flag pole might well see the ball finish close to the hole, such is the right to left tilt of the land/green. Additionally, note the wonderful ripples contained within the fairway – such micro-contours are a defining factor at Trinity Forest.

Eleventh hole, 520 yards; Bouncy-bounce playing conditions particularly flourish on 200+ yard shots as there is more time/room for the ball to interact with the ground. The three shot seventh and eleventh holes parallel each other but run in opposite directions so one of them is likely to be reachable on most days. What a delight to witness a bullet three wood land 30-40 yards short of this green, take off, and climb up and over a pronounced knob found at the front of the putting surface. Such a shot simply isn’t supposed to be available in the middle of the United States – but it is here.

The high knob at the front of the 11th green provides similar attributes to the one that fronts the 14th green on The Old Course at St. Andrews.

Twelfth hole, 205 yards; A perfectly routed hole, with the tee on the west side of a 45 yard wide wash and the green on the east. The hole plays diagonally across it and highlights in technicolor that to successfully play Trinity Forest, one has to aim at point x to end up over by point y. The lowest, least inspired form of golf is when the player is free to (dully) aim straight at a target, knowing the ball will land and obediently sit tight. Golfers can stay on the range to determine who can hit it closest to what flag; there is no charm or thought in doing so. Trinity Forest is at the far end of the spectrum from that mundane golf. The golfer has to continually problem solve, looking for clues well away from the target in order to figure out what sort of shot works best. Here, the green extends in length for nearly 70 yards – and much of it can be used to work tee balls into position below the day’s hole location.

Hard to fathom but the aiming point can be the right edge of the green. One thing is for sure: Any ball that lands left of today’s hole location is guaranteed to finish off the putting surface to the left.

Gravity isn’t the golfer’s friend anywhere along the left of the 12th green. In fact, bunker shots played from here need to land ~20 feet onto the putting surface or the golfer risks seeing the ball return to his feet.

Thirteenth hole, 460 yards; Trinity Forest is a dream design for all ages as a corridor of short grass exists on every non-one shotter from the tee ball landing zone to the putting surfaces – except here where a 40 yard long cross hazard bisects the fairway. How close to edge of the hazard the player can drive the ball is the challenge. Even better, the golfer seeks to position his ball along the left edge of the fairway as the green’s pronounced right to left cant frowns upon shots that hit across it from the right portion of the fairway.

A tee ball long left leaves this reasonable approach shot.

Fourteenth hole, 590 yards; There is no way to step on this tee and not be instantly reminded of the mighty fourth on the West Course at Royal Melbourne with its horizon tee shot needing to clear a large central bunker. In fact, as Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw were walking the site, they both chuckled when they arrived here as they both instantly knew how Alister MacKenzie would handle this very situation. Beyond the horizon, the greatest change in elevation (50 feet from the peak of the fairway down to the putting surface) is encapsulated within this three shotter. Coore & Crenshaw have always used the length of three shotters to gracefully cover the most dramatic landforms on sites – and this is no exception.

Alister MacKenzie would no doubt approve of this view from the 14th tee. The wind determines whether the player will go left, right, long or short of the central bunker.

The flag is tempting to the right but the golfer needs to head left to find the fairway with his second.

The wedge approach is laid out neatly before the golfer – but that doesn’t make it any easier. Overzealous spin and the soft sides of the putting surface conspire to work against the desired result.

Sixteenth hole, 390 yards; How does each hole enjoy its own voice at Trinity Forest? The answer lies with its greens and indeed how the greens interact with each other. Just look at the final three. Here, the green is pinched in the front by three bunkers before expanding toward the rear. Meanwhile, the seventeenth green is second only to the sixth as the widest putting surface on the course and the axis of the deep Home green is cocked at a 45 degree angle to the fairway. Each green is wildly different to one another, allowing the first timer golfer to vividly recall the playing specifics of each hole well after the round.

The wash that bisects the property acts as the attractive backdrop to the 16th green.

Seventeenth hole, 200 yards; Another hole/green that scores off the charts high marks for originality. In fact, some Coore & Crenshaw devotees put forward this set of one shotters as their best. That’s a big call but just to suggest that a set built on a landfill could rival a collection like those at Lost Farms in the billowing sand dunes of Tasmania is a testament to what was accomplished here. This hole is made by a ‘hot dog’ feature, a long spine that existed exactly where Coore wanted to put the green. To cut it would have required a special permit, then the removed matter would have needed to be bagged, and hauled away in an enclosed truck. It all would have been hugely expensive so Coore just incorporated the feature within the putting surface with stunning success.

The penultimate at sunset. A golfer accustomed to point-to-point golf might take dead aim at the flag while his opponent elects to hit a fade at the left edge of the green and watch the ball go on a ~ 40 yard journey up, then right, and finally down toward the hole.

Who builds a 50 yard wide green that mimics rolling ocean waves?! Coore & Crenshaw, and thank goodness for that. The pronounced spine past the hole existed and it became a matter of how to incorporate it within the expansive putting surface.

Eighteenth hole, 485 yards; Even though Coore & Crenshaw built this hole as the ninth, it sure feels like a Home hole, in part because it finishes in front of the luxe, minimalist clubhouse. Three central hazards populate the fairway, each seemingly better placed than the last. Consternation reigns, though the golfer must steady himself quickly for one more smooth swing. The approach perfectly embodies the course’s overarching challenge, namely where pray tell should one look to land his approach to end up by the day’s hole location. As a foil to the ninth, this green features a strong left to right cant and the 50 yard deep green affords numerous vexing hole locations.

The ideal drive skirts past three central bunkers and leaves the golfer with a reasonable stance and this approach angle. Ideally, the player’s last full shot of the day would deaden into the hillside left and then trickle down to this hole location, a most fitting conclusion to a design that emphasizes the ground game.

What a loss for the PGA Tour to not play here anymore as this course examines so many playing aspects that the other tour stops don’t. With the possible exception of the recently re-grassed Plantation Course at Kapalua (also a Coore & Crenshaw design), no other Tour stop features faster playing surfaces than what Kauff routinely presents here. In short, Trinity Forest represents an entirely different brand of golf from the American norm. The downside is that means that it can be misinterpreted when in fact it should be embraced. With the specter of having bleachers set up for four months now removed, peace and solitude reign. And guess what? The membership completely filled out (even during the pandemic) and the club is bustling with happy members.

The virtues of the course and club were highlighted one evening when a gentleman came in with a small satchel of hickory clubs. The proximity of Trinity Forest to downtown Dallas makes a quick loop in the evenings a distinct possibility. Additionally, the blazing, firm playing surfaces and architecture make the course ideal for hickory golf. And if it is ideal for hickory golf, it is ideal for juniors, seniors, men and women. In short, Trinity Forest is ideal in so many respects – even if there is no reason to think such would have ever been possible. The American maestro Herbert Warren Wind once remarked about Maidstone’s architect Willie Park Jr. that he had a sure touch for ‘devising golf holes that looked natural and played well.’ That quote certainly applies to Coore & Crenshaw and their work at Trinity Forest.

The End