Byron Nelsons legacy lives on

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byron nelson
A larger-than-life statue of Byron Nelson is the focal point of the clubhouse area at TPC Las Colinas

DALLAS – Every golf city has a godfather. Pinehurst has Donald Ross. Orlando has Arnold Palmer. In Dallas it’s none other than Byron Nelson. Without Nelson, who won a record 11 consecutive PGA Tour events in 1945, Dallas wouldn’t be known as the golf destination it is today.
 
Four Seasons Resort at TPC Las Colinas
Web site
 
How to get there
From DFW airport, take TX-97 North. Merge onto TX-114 E toward Irving. Take MacArthur Blvd. exit and turn right. The resort is one mile on your right.
 
How to play it
Summer Escape Package – 2 Nights at $195/night, 25% off all activities (golf, dining, spa, tennis), kids under 12 dine free off kid's menu.
 
19th hole
Racquets offers casual dining. Located near the tennis courts and fitness center.
 
In hosting the HP Byron Nelson Championship and Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial in successive weeks in May, Dallas-Fort Worth is the only metro area with two regularly scheduled PGA Tour events. And with more than 200 golf courses, it’s also one of the most abundant golf destinations in the country.
 
The most notable golf resort in the area is the Four Seasons Resort at TPC Las Colinas, host of the aforementioned HP Byron Nelson Championship and the only AAA five diamond resort and club in Texas. Because of its convenient location in Irving between DFW airport and downtown Dallas, it’s no surprise that it’s a popular spot for the business traveler.
 
What’s unique about this property, however, is that it has three different types of customers: Members, resort guests and PGA Tour players. Striking the same chord with each guest no matter who they are can be a delicate balance, one the resort prides itself on maintaining.
 
“We have Tour players who are members; we have members who are hotel clients; and we have corporate meeting customers who are both,” said general manager Michael Newcombe. “It's about giving our customers great service at every turn and treating them with the utmost respect at every opportunity.”
 
With properties in impressive locales from Hawaii to Switzerland, the Four Seasons brand personifies luxury and relaxation. And while Dallas may not be the most exotic vacation destination, elements of style are evident throughout the resort, especially since the completion of a $60-million renovation to all facilities.
 
The 431-room hotel and adjoining villas provide plush accommodations. A European-style spa offers tranquility. A pool and lazy river encourage a little fun in the sun. All in all, the resort is impressive in every aspect. But at the TPC Las Colinas the golf is the most talked-about attraction.

 
The influence of Byron Nelson
Originally designed by Jay Morrish, the TPC at Las Colinas opened in 1983. Its founding member, oldest employee and oldest tenured employee was Byron Nelson, who along with fellow Texan Ben Crenshaw collaborated with Morrish on the design.
 
tiger byron
Tiger Woods shakes hands with Byron Nelson during the 2004 tournament in which Tiger finished 4th.
Three years after the resort opened it became the home – along with neighboring Cottonwood Valley – of the HP Byron Nelson Championship, becoming the first-ever tournament to be named after a professional golfer.
 
And despite his passing in 2006, Nelson’s legend is still alive.
 
“He taught us so much about the game, the community of golf, the history of the sport and the human spirit,” remembers Paul Earnest, director of golf at Las Colinas . “Ultimately, he was our ambassador in every sense of the word.”
 
Inside the clubhouse a Hall of Champions has been created, with a significant portion dedicated to an exhibit in Mr. Nelson’s honor. It’s replete with some of his most prized possessions, including his first-ever golf trophy and his journal, which includes detailed notes he made during his historic 11-tournament winning streak.
 
Farther down the hall is a wall of champions. Names like Woods, Mickelson, Els, Singh, Stewart and Price are evidence of the respect Tour players have for not only supporting, but winning Lord Byron’s tournament.
 
As players head toward the first tee they pass by a statue of Mr. Nelson, which serves as a constant reminder of the man who left a permanent impression on everyone he came in contact with.
 
And the best part is that you can walk where champions have walked. Las Colinas has the feeling of a premiere private club, but it’s open to the public. It’s the way Byron wanted it, so it’s the way it will be.

 
The redesign
During the late 1990s and early 2000s, TPC Las Colinas started to show signs that it was in need of a redesign. Though the field for the HP Byron Nelson Championship continued to be strong each year, it was more a respectful tribute to Mr. Nelson than it was a positive indictment on the quality of the golf course. Players claimed that as equipment improved, shot values around the course worsened.
 
da weibring
D.A. Weibring credits Byron Nelson with being his golf and design mentor.
In 2007, players got their wish, and plans for a redesign were put in motion. A committee including Earnest chose five-time PGA Tour winner and current Champions Tour player D.A. Weibring for the job.
 
“D.A. impressed us with how much research he’d done,” Earnest said. “The passion he demonstrated was overwhelming.”
 
A major part of Weibring’s research was aggregated from a simple note he sent to every PGA and Champions Tour player regarding the current state of TPC Las Colinas:
 
-Is the challenge design or agronomic?
-Favorite / least favorite holes.
-What would you change?
-Do you want to help?
 
“We received more than 100 responses from players,” Weibring recalls. “I asked Tour employees for their input too. I like tapping into and creating that team environment.”
 
Though Weibring has several other designs on his resume, including TPC Deere Run – host of the PGA Tour John Deere Classic – this project was unique because of the 11-month window with which he had to work. Officials wanted to stage the 2006 tournament, shut down immediately, and open again in time for the 2007 event.
 
“From the beginning we knew if we focused on paying respect to Byron, everything would fall into place,” Weibring said. He credits Nelson with being his golf and design mentor.
 
To collaborate on the project, Weibring commissioned the help of PGA Tour players Harrison Frazar and J.J. Henry, two Dallas-area residents with complementing approaches to the game. Frazar prefers a high, left-to-right ball flight while Henry favors a low, right-to-left shot shape. Both have a passion for course design.
 
In all, the course routing didn’t change but 17 out of 18 holes were reworked to some degree (No. 8 was the only hole that wasn’t changed). While a par of 70 remained and the course was only lengthened by 200 yards, mounding around greens was made more difficult and fairway bunkers were strategically placed. The result was a course that fits the eye of today’s Tour player.
 
“One of the biggest things we found is that players are unhappy when you take driver out of their hands,” Weibring said. “So it was important for us to try and get driver back in their hands eight to 10 times during the round.”
 
While the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive (it was awarded 2008 Redesign of the Year by Golf Inc.) the biggest compliment in Weibring’s eyes is the course’s newfound ability to challenge all different types of golfers. At the 2008 HP Byron Nelson Championship, long-hitting Adam Scott won a playoff against Ryan Moore, who is more of a position player.
 
Weibring made it a point to give the course flexibility. Options for different tees and pin placements mean 'the volume can be turned up or down,' making the course playable for recreational golfers and pros alike.
 
Whether you’re playing golf, staying in the hotel, or strolling the grounds at the HP Byron Nelson Championship, the Four Seasons Resort at TPC Las Colinas is an exceptional golf experience.