One walk around WinStar Golf Club’s sprawling 350-acre grounds and you’ll no doubt notice one thing – the microscopic attention to detail. From perfectly manicured fairways and the subtle undulations of its 36 Bermuda greens to the level of customer service every WinStar guest has come to know and love, there’s nothing mundane about this resort golf experience.
But how did the remnants of a peanut farm in the heart of the Red River Valley become one of Oklahoma’s most sought-after golf destinations? To understand that, you need to get in the minds of former PGA TOUR professional and renowned golf course architect D.A. Weibring and his design partner, Steve Wolfard.
As WinStar World Casino and Resort continued to grow into one of the world’s premier gaming and entertainment destinations, the team discussed the possibility of adding golf to their roster of amenities. WinStar landed on Weibring-Wolfard Golf Design, led by the five-time PGA TOUR winner. The firm’s portfolio is rich with projects all around the world, including Byron Nelson Japan and TPC Deere Run, the host of the PGA TOUR’s annual John Deere Classic.
Taking philosophies from historic golf course architects like Donald Ross, A.W. Tillinghast and Allister MacKenzie, Weibring and Wolfard set out to create a destination for golfers of every skill level.
“We wanted to build a golf course that was not only visually striking, but that was good for everybody,” Weibring said. “Our philosophy is to build a playable golf course for every skill level. We want golfers to be able to bounce the ball onto the green and play golf on the ground. But I wanted it to have a balance and not only be attractive for the beginning golfer, but also a better player as well.”
WinStar Golf Club wasn’t always the grand property with two championship 18-hole courses you see today. Before Scissortail and Redbud, the golf courses came in stages. The team built an original 18 holes in Phase One, followed by nine more a few years later and a final nine completed in 2018. Focusing on a classic design, Weibring-Wolfard utilized the natural features of the property to complement its routing.
“One of the things we did with this property is highlight one of Oklahoma’s most unique features – the red dirt in some of the waste areas,” Weibring said. “In general, we try to build the golf course into the property rather than on top of the property. Of course, you have to move some earth when you’re in a flat river valley for some contrast, but we aimed to focus on the idea of a resort look.”
Oklahoma is no stranger to strong golf course design. Classic examples of some of the world’s greatest architects – including the aforementioned MacKenzie, Pete Dye and Perry Maxwell – dot the Oklahoma landscape. And with a nearly four-decade career playing the world’s greatest golf courses including Augusta National, Pebble Beach and Pinehurst No. 2, D.A. offered inspiration from some of his past playing and design experiences.
“I grew up in Illinois and played a lot of public golf, but getting on TOUR and getting to play the best golf courses in the world certainly was an influence for me,” Weibring said. “I’ve always believed that because of these influences, I’ve erred toward the ‘golf on the ground’ concept. It’s easy to build a hard golf course, with long, tight fairways and ridiculous contours on the greens. The challenge is to build a course that has a nice variety for every level of golfer. When you build something that can challenge both a low handicapper and still give a beginner the chance to get around the golf course, I think you really have something.”
If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then Weibring’s vision has come to life in south-central Oklahoma. Proper routing was priority number one for the design team, ensuring a mixture of wind variance into par threes and par fives. Tee box selection allows the courses to play less than 5,000 yards or more than 7,200 yards. Short grass around the greens gives every player the chance to score.
“We have a balance chart we use to make sure there’s no redundancy on the golf course,” Weibring said. “When you play professionally for 40 years, you learn what works and what doesn’t. Our goal is to find that balance and give them an option.”
With two championship-level golf courses, a state-of-the-art golf academy and the same first-class amenities you’ve come to enjoy at WinStar World Casino and Resort, it’s no wonder why it’s become a destination for golf enthusiasts around the world.
“People who have come up to play WinStar Golf Club have come back and told us, ‘wow, I didn’t know that golf course was this good,’” Weibring said. “That was the goal – to build a property that fit the eye of golfers at every level of the game. When you create a track that challenges them to commit to every shot, then you know you have something.”