Gil Hanse, PGA Frisco on Display for the Golf World to See
Gil Hanse has worked on some of golf’s most iconic layouts, helping bring some of the most venerable architectural works of the 20th century into the modern game.
But this week at the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship, his effort at PGA Frisco’s Fields Ranch East will be on display for all of the golf world to see.
The original design will host the first of more than 25 scheduled PGA of America championships with the best of the PGA Tour Champions descending on Texas for a first go-around at Hanse’s newest original triumph.
“It’s very exciting,” said Hanse. “In the restoration world, we touch these golf courses that host major championships. But, at the end of the day while we are super proud of the work we did, our goal is to restore the golf course and bring back the (A.W.) Tillinghast, the (Donald) Ross, the (Alister) MacKenzie, etc. In our minds, if we’ve done a really good job then the focus should be on those guys.
“When it’s one of our original designs there is nowhere for us to look except for us. So, it’s very exciting.”
There has been very little ‘preview’ play for Fields Ranch East, so Hanse laughs when he realizes the first real test of his first Texas effort will be a major championship. There aren’t many majors where the baptism of fire will be some of the best players in the world, but he’s confident the course will stand up to that test.
“We are eagerly anticipating the feedback,” Hanse said, “and hoping it is primarily good.”
Hanse has worked all over the world but never in the Lonestar State until he was tasked to create one of two courses at the PGA of America’s new home in Frisco. Beau Welling did the West course, and the duo did end up working close with each other considering some special engineering exercises that needed to unfold while the work was being done.
The soil, Hanse admits, was “very poor” and the heavy clay ultimately led his team to have to sand cap the entire golf course. They shaped the golf course out of the heavy clay, put drainage in the subgrade, and then added six inches of sand over the entire top of the drainage.
“It was a lot,” Hanse said with a laugh when asked how much sand was brought in.
“If we had stuck with the natural soils there is no way the golf course would have drained properly and if you’re committing to hosting as many major championships as that course is committed to you couldn’t take the risk it wouldn’t drain well.”
At first blush, however, Hanse was impressed with the topography of the land site. That part of Texas is usually fairly flat, so he was pleased with the movement of the land, and the ability to utilize Panther creek throughout the routing. You don’t often get to utilize a creek in golf holes, he said.
He and Welling needed to work together mostly on the movement of water, Hanse explained, as he needed to elevate the East course out of a 100-year-old flood plain. The water had to go somewhere, so the West Coast took the brunt of that movement. However, the two architects worked together to find balance to the two sites.
“There was a ton of collaboration. We had to work together on how everything fit,” Hanse said.
The end result was a “big ballpark” that fit the scale of Texas. There was plenty of land offered to Hanse to work with so the team could accommodate everything that comes along with hosting a major championship. The scores at the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship will really depend on the wind, Hanse explains. Normally if the wind blows a golfer who flights his ball and has control in windy conditions would be favored. Look for someone who plays well on links golf to have success.
“I think because it’s such a new golf course, it’s not like players will have any sort of prior knowledge about how to get around it. This is the maiden voyage,” he said. “But controlling your ball in the wind will be important. The fairways are wide so someone who hits it a long way may, with room to miss, may have an advantage hitting shorter clubs into the greens.”
This will be a special week for PGA Frisco. The 2027 PGA Championship is heading there, along with the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in 2025. But it all gets started this week with the KitchenAid Senior PGA and with the best in the world heading to Frisco, make no mistake – even after a multi-decade career in golf course architecture, Hanse is still very much locked in with how special an opportunity this was.
“We always feel like golf courses need to have a sense of place,” Hanse said, speaking to how Fields Ranch East comfortably fits into its existing Texas landscape.
And after this week, don’t be surprised if the course fits into the landscape of one of the world’s great championship golf-course tests, too.