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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. Valhalla is already owned by the PGA of America, who would love to enhance the value of its course.
  4. Louisville, KY, is adept at hosting major sporting events (i.e. the Kentucky Derby) and is a palatable destination for patrons and sponsors alike.
  5. 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.

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Peter Schmitt does not profess to be a PGA professional or to be certified at...well...anything much in golf. Just another lifelong golfer with a passion for the game trying to get better every day, the definition of which changes relatively frequently. Peter is a former Marine and a full-time mechanical engineer (outside of the golf industry). He lives in Lexington, KY with his wife and two young kids. Follow Peter on twitter and Instagram using the links below.

18 COMMENTS

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  1. I would not propose one course but maybe PGA should only be held on the far west Midwest or West coast to get prime time viewing? That way it can get the feel of being held in one location, get prime time viewing, and ease up on the East Coast bias golf has. If it was held in prime time (on the East Coast) every year, it may start developing an stronger identity.

  2. A) It’s impossible for major titles to carry the same aura;
    B) Attend a PGA and feel its vibe. Whoever “you” is will change her/his mind about it being weak or not at the same level;
    C) Exhibit A: Glen Abbey. Weak course that keeps great golfers from playing Canadian Open. Since PGA is a major, it would only be a few years before inevitable comparisons to TPC and Players Championship were made;
    D) They say “You can’t move the Masters” and “The US Open is the US Open for a reason.” USA have a stranglehold on major titles and perhaps its time to say “2018-US Open is a major. 2019-Canadian Open is a major. 2020-Australian Open is a major.” Rotating the national open status can’t be any more ludicrous than keeping the PGA or the Ryder Cup at one course;
    E) Exhibit B: Oak Hill. 36 holes-take that, Valhalla. East course being returned to its classic greatness. Do they know how to put on a tournament in Rochester? Huh-YUH!

    I could go through the alphabet, but you and I both know that the solution to this is to move majors and team events around as often as possible. Simply no defense in making golf even more exclusive, even if it is geographic.

    • I agree with your conclusion, but I don’t agree with Glen Abbey, they get a good field for that tournament, and the main reason why it’s not better is that it’s after the British version of the US Open.

  3. As the PGA is seen as the “weakest” major I believe that a fixed venue would reduce it further to being just another stop on the tour schedule. An earlier scheduling would effectively make the Open Championship the last major of the season, which would then be concluded in July. With only the FedEx playoffs left you would have created a situation where basically only limited field events are played after the Open. I don’t see this as positive for growth. Leave it when it’s scheduled but make a fixed 5 venue rota to increase the image and establish a “new”history for the event.

  4. The Ryder cup needs to move. That’s part of what makes it amazing. Every 4 years on our soil, different venues.

    Personally I think the PGA should have a set rota of 5 and never vary: Valhalla, Whistling Straights, Maybe Bethpage since they are camped there for a few years, somewhere south-central, somewhere west coast. This touches most of America when you can play there. Whistling Straights is another venue that has become well known with the PGA. For the southern central area, I would propose Southern Hills CC. I’m at a loss for where out west since the PGA really hasn’t been out there a ton.

    I think this gives them a nice consistent rota without throwing in other locations (like the USO and Open Champ), and allows you to build up familiarity with the courses without trying to copy the Masters/Players.

    My long standing on PGA has been they have to change the format somehow. That’s why it’s the weakest event, it feels like any other tournament. I think going stableford, setting up the course easy, and just having birdies and eagles galore and a low scoring (or in stableford’s case high scoring) affair. I want to see what happens when these guys have to keep firing from hole 1-72. Masters is about the history, USO is about being a grind, Open is about the weather, so make PGA about going low.

  5. No way they should make either a one course event. That said, Valhalla is one of my favorite PGA venues and it definitely would be fine with me if the make it the events featured course and give it the tournament every 5 years. 18 there is one of the best finishing holes in Championship golf and that was no more apparent than in the McIlroy Mickelson controversial basically a foursome finish.

  6. This is a great idea. Everything about the present PGA is lacking…a total letdown that nobody looks forward to. It doesn’t even feel like a Major anymore. If it doesn’t work a planned, who says you can’t change it back to how it was? It might take ten years to build some cred though so they’ll have to be patient. Bottom line is that it just can’t be any worse than it is now. Do it!

  7. Drop the PGA and add the Players..or move the PGA to
    A different time of year. I do look at the PGA as the easiest to win out of all 4. I think that’s why it isn’t as prestigious as the others.

  8. Trying to match the feel of The Masters is a fruitless endeavor. Which is why the US Open and (British) Open have a Rota system, making sure to include particular courses in a cycle and having St. Andrew’s every 5 years.

    If you love having Valhalla as a more official site of the PGA. Then do what the others do. Make it the official venue every 3 to 5 years, but keep rotating the courses.

    Ryder Cup, since it changes continents every 2 years, is just a no-brainer to not have it at the same place.

  9. No surprise Crawford supports this “piece”. Nothing solid about it, lol. Peter basically ducks the entire issue, and no mention of historical significance of past venues for either event. Bigger LOL, create an environment like The Masters? That’s just silliness, and again no comprehension of the history/background/elements that make The Masters what it is. Come on now.

    Take a stand and make some intelligent arguments. Former Marines (and respect X 1000) should take these issues head on!

    • Thanks for the comment. I think it’s safe to say it would be a pretty much unanimous consensus among golf fans that the PGA Championship doesn’t carry the same anywhere near the aura or mystique of the other three majors. I can absolutely see why the PGA would like to give their major a shot in the arm. Would this work? Who knows. Ultimately, what I was aiming at is to (a) put my personal bias out there as a disclaimer, and (b) present both sides of the coin. I could envision a scenario where this works and you start to build some pageantry around the PGA. That’s not to say that it would rise to the level of the Master’s, but it could elevate the PGA to some extent (who knows to what extent that might be). I could also see a scenario where the PGA ties its own hands behind their back and doesn’t achieve much of anything. Either way, I do think it’s safe to say the PGA is turning their wheels about how to improve their major. It could be interesting to see how that develops.

  10. Dumbest idea ever. Playing on different courses is what makes both those events somewhat more interesting. It would get really old real quick that it’s always on the same course. And nobody wants to take away the glory from the Masters

  11. I think it could really do the PGA some good. It suffers from fatigue at the end of the season, especially when there are Ryder Cups looming. I don’t know that a permenant home would totally cure it, but over the course of a decade it could really help. I also think Valhalla would be a great venue. May is a beautiful time in Kentucky. The Ryder Cup? Not quite on board with that being in one spot in the states. Solid idea and solid piece, Peter!

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