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Frisco STYLE Magazine

Growing Places

Apr 01, 2022 ● By Lisa Sciortino

It will be about a year before PGA Frisco’s pair of 18-hole championship golf courses, 10-hole short course and 75,000 square-foot putting green see any official play. However, that doesn’t mean the lush spaces are currently void of activity.

It’s quite the opposite, in fact, as a highly skilled team of specialists and others works most days to maintain the fairways, greens and surrounding landscape at the 665-acre site.

The PGA Frisco agronomy team is comprised of more than three dozen staffers in various roles including superintendents, equipment managers, application foremen, irrigation techs and groundskeepers. The team, which is expected to double in size as the facility nears its opening date, is led by Roger Meier, senior director of golf course maintenance operations.

 A PGA employee for more than a decade, he previously served as superintendent at the Jack Nicklaus-designed Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky, before joining the PGA of America headquarters team here in November 2019.

Meier earned a bachelor’s degree in turf grass science management from State University of New York (SUNY) College of Agriculture and Technology at Cobleskill and has spent his career working in the golf industry. While at Valhalla, he oversaw the redesign and renovation of its course, which hosted a trio of championships in 2011, 2014 and 2018.

He calls PGA Frisco “really an incredible project. We talk a lot about (how) we really feel like this is the new home for golf in America.”

The “West Course,” designed by architect Beau Welling of South Carolina-based Beau Welling Design, is “a little bit more player-friendly,” Meier says, than the “East Course,” which was designed by architect Gil Hanse​ of Pennsylvania-based Hanse Golf Course Design. The latter will be where the 26 championships that are scheduled during PGA Frisco’s first dozen years of operation will be played.

Construction on the golf courses was completed late last summer and now “we are fully grassed out,” Meier says. He and others on the agronomy team currently are tending to about 450 acres of the entire facility, including the surrounding landscape that is abundant with native grasses and wetlands.

Rest assured, there’s much more to the agronomy team’s work than merely watching the grass grow.

“Even though it’s 46 holes of golf, our acreage is big enough to where it really encompasses about four golf courses,” Meier explains. “We are maintaining the golf course today like any other golf course. We’re not as intense as if it (were) an open facility, but we are maintaining things to a pretty high level” as well as collecting data about how the grasses perform at various times during the year.

Getting established

Ground was broken in June 2019 and PGA Frisco’s courses began taking shape in January 2020. The construction process “was pretty challenging,” Meier says, due to the the native Blackland Prairie soil at the former pasture site. “It’s a really interesting soil. When it gets wet, it swells and it gets really sticky and when it dries out it turns, in essence, into concrete.

“One thing we wanted to ensure here … was that the facilities perform well, and the biggest concern for us was really drainage,” he says, especially given that future championship games will primarily be hosted during the spring, historically the wettest time of the year in North Texas. Upward of 450,000 linear feet of total drainage (the equivalent of about 85 miles) has been installed at the site.

Meanwhile, both the East and West courses were capped with about five inches of sand over the native soil to improve drainage as well as provide a growing medium for the grasses. Bunkers and other sloped areas saw sod installed while all other areas underwent a process called sprigging, which involves harvesting grass stolons (above-the-ground stems) that are planted and eventually grow to fill in an area.

Several varieties of Bermuda grasses were installed at PGA Frisco, including one called NorthBridge, which was bred at Oklahoma State University. It is known to tolerate the cold temperatures that North Texas can experience during the wintertime.

Meanwhile, TifeEagle Ultradwarf, another Bermuda grass variety, was selected to cover the putting surfaces and Lazer Zoysia, a variety developed at Texas A&M University, was chosen for the putting green.

 “There’s a tremendous amount of research out there for us in our industry (that has been conducted) at a lot of different facilities across the country that we used” to select grass types, Meier explains. “It’s really not an easy process.”

Because PGA Frisco will be a public course and the property will also feature the 510-room Omni PGA Frisco Resort, he says it was important that the grasses also be able to handle the amount of traffic that people and golf carts bring. “We did our due diligence and our homework, certainly working with the breeders of these grasses to make sure we’re making the right selections.”

Those selections were put to the test in February 2021 and 2022, when snow, ice and several days of freezing temperatures enveloped North Texas.

When the cold snap hit last year, the courses had already been sprigged and grassed. However, “a lot of those areas weren’t established certainly a hundred percent,” Meier recalls, “… so we did have some impacts throughout the facility,” primarily on the East Course where “we definitely saw a little bit of dessication.”

With the courses now fully established, he is confident such weather anomalies won’t be the cause of much concern – or damage – in the future.

Preparing for play

The agronomy team currently is “conditioning and mowing the grasses just like any golf course would,” Meier says. “It’s a little different just because we’re not open yet, so we’re not necessarily pushing the envelope in regard to mowing heights, but eventually we will.”

Next year, the team’s focus will turn to conditioning the golf courses through such practices as Vericutting (which helps grass retain water, better absorb nutrients and aids in smoothing and firming surfaces for improved playability), bringing mowing heights down and defining fairway perimeters and playing areas to “really try to get the golf course groomed out prior to opening.”

There are upward of 7,000 irrigation heads stationed throughout the PGA Frisco property, part of what Meier describes as the facility’s “highly sophisticated” computerized irrigation system. Every sprinkler head can be individually programmed and controlled to precisely adjust the run times as well as the amount of water deposited in a specific area.

The courses are irrigated with effluent water that is collected by the City of Frisco at a pair of wastewater treatment plants that are connected to a retention pond. PGA Frisco has contracted with the city for a maximum allotment of 3 million gallons of the water per day.

Although the courses required extra water during the construction and growing processes, “By no means are we using that amount of water” currently to keep them looking green and healthy, Meier says. He adds that PGA Frisco and his team are working to be “stewards of the environment. We use a lot of technology to determine irrigation demands” with the assistance of such tools as ground and handheld moisture sensors as well as aerial drone imagery.

When the first games of golf are finally played on PGA Frisco’s courses next year, Meier says the plan is to be able to offer “experiences for all levels and abilities of golf – from introduction to the best in the game. Our goal is to provide a world-class golf experience and grow this great game.”

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