Curiosities about PGA Championship venue

This week, the Valhalla Golf Club will host its fourth PGA Championship. In the last edition held in 2014, Rory McIlroy clinched his last major victory with a one-stroke lead over Phil Mickelson.

by Andrea Gussoni
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Curiosities about PGA Championship venue
© Getty Images Sport - Warren Little / Staff

This week, the Valhalla Golf Club will host its fourth PGA Championship. In the last edition held in 2014, Rory McIlroy clinched his last major victory with a one-stroke lead over Phil Mickelson. The number of majors hosted by this club is remarkable considering it opened its doors only in 1986.

Besides various PGA Championships, it also hosted the Ryder Cup in 2008. Designed by Jack Nicklaus, the course was intended from the outset to host prestigious tournaments. Thanks to the club's ties with the PGA of America, it hosted its first major just ten years after opening.

Situated near Louisville, Kentucky, the terrain proved excellent for a golf course. Gentle undulations, natural watercourses, and ample spaces allowed Jack Nicklaus and Desmond Muirhead to design expansive fairways intricately woven through streams and meadows.

Valhalla, curiosities

In true Nicklaus style, the course caters to high-level players and favors fades on approach shots to the greens. A Tradition of Last-Hole Deciders The Valhalla course has always provided great spectacle.

In all the majors hosted, including two Senior PGA Championships, the tournaments have been fiercely contested, with the winner always decided on the final hole. In three instances, the Wanamaker Trophy was clinched after a playoff.

Tiger's Putt Even those unfamiliar with the Valhalla Golf Club have likely seen footage of the 16th green. At the first hole of the playoff in the 2000 PGA Championship, Tiger Woods sank an 8-meter birdie putt, pointing at the ball when it was still a meter and a half from the hole.

One of Tiger's most iconic moments, it features prominently in highlights of his career and the tournament. Continuous Modifications Over the years, the course has undergone several radical changes. Besides constructing new tees and relocating some holes, all greens were reconstructed in 2012, and various bunkers were added.

For this edition of the tournament, the fairway surface has been changed from the traditional Agrostis (bentgrass) to Zoysia. This warm-season grass will make the playing surface firmer, ensuring more bounce and spectacle.

Another Island Green The significant earthworks undertaken during construction allowed for the creation of unique greens, such as the island green on the 13th hole and the famous horseshoe-shaped green on the 18th. The island green on the 13th is one of the most iconic images of the course, although the 315-meter par 4 has never been particularly dramatic.

Although reachable with a drive by the world's best players, the green is too penal to attempt from the tee. In recent editions, all players have employed the same strategy: a mid-iron from the tee to leave a preferred distance sand wedge approach, resulting in many birdies and very few balls in the water.

The Kentucky Derby Connection Louisville, Kentucky, is famous for the annual Kentucky Derby, arguably the world's most famous horse race. Thus, the PGA Championship at Valhalla has always had many connections to equestrianism, including the most subtle: the shape of the 18th green. The green on the 515-meter par 5 is, in fact, horseshoe-shaped.

Pga Rory Mcilroy Phil Mickelson
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