Taking my colleague Ben Alberstadt’s post in a different direction, let’s talk about another aspect of this post by Ted Bishop, former President of the PGA. In it, he is essentially lobbying for Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, KY, to become the annual host of the PGA Championship, as well as all Ryder Cup events played in the U.S..
Feel free to read Mr. Bishop’s post for detailed reasoning, but a brief summary is as follows:
- Valhalla is a massive facility that can easily accommodate throngs of fans, as well as corporate and merchandise tents and all the infrastructure associated with such things.
- The course also has an impressive resume of past champions and dramatic golf theater in its tournaments (I will resist latching on to the argument that Augusta National is “not as dramatic and challenging as Valhalla,” as that has already been debated).
- Valhalla is already owned by the PGA of America, who would love to enhance the value of its course.
- Louisville, KY, is adept at hosting major sporting events (i.e. the Kentucky Derby) and is a palatable destination for patrons and sponsors alike.
- With recent discussions about moving the PGA Championship to May, Louisville is about as far north as you could hold that tournament for agronomical reasons.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to some commentary. I would be remiss if I didn’t put forth the disclaimer that I have a unique history with Valhalla. I learned to play golf at their junior clinic in 1988, which was the year my dad joined the club. He is still a member there. I was raised in the Louisville metro area and currently only live about 1 hour east of the course. I know a lot of people at the course. I love Valhalla, plain and simple.
That being said, if I said I were wholeheartedly in favor of this change, I admit it would almost entirely be purely for selfish reasons. Obviously, I would love to have a major championship in my backyard every year. I thoroughly enjoy (and am in awe of) watching the best players in the world shred a golf course that I myself have played (and struggled mightily with) many times.
As a regular golf fan, there’s two sides to this. On one hand, it would be nice to have the familiarity that comes with having a tournament on the same course every year, à la The Masters. Golf fans wind up associating the course with the tournament and you build an emotional relationship with it over the years. Remember Louis Oosthuizen’s double eagle on No. 2 in the final round of The Masters in 2012? Remember Phil’s shot out of the pine straw on No. 13 in 2010? Who’s to say that couldn’t happen with Valhalla, even if it may not be on the same scale as Augusta National? After all, most will remember Tiger pointing his putt into the first playoff hole in 2000 and Azinger spraying champagne after ending the USA’s Ryder Cup drought in 2008.
On the other hand, when you make the decision to marry a tournament with a specific course, you obviously limit yourself in certain aspects. While Louisville is an easy drive from many populated areas such as Cincinnati, Indianapolis, St. Louis, and Nashville, it’s not easy to bring your kids to the tournament if you live in Portland, for example, which one can argue makes it difficult to grow the game. The flipside to that, of course, is that you have the U.S. Open in June to rotate around the country and ensure a broader audience could be reached.
For now, I will have to agree with Mr. Nicklaus himself (also the course designer if you’re unaware) in saying it’s “an interesting concept.” What say you? Comment below.