…where the Ryder Cup was won by the US on Sunday, is a top-100 private club in Kentucky.
The Valhalla Golf Club where this week’s Ryder Cup is to be played, is a private club located 20 miles from Louisville in Kentucky.
It so private, in fact that only members and their guests and guests with reciprocity are welcome to play on it’s highly rated, 18-hole, Jack Nicklaus championship course.
Valhalla, the great hall described in Norse mythology where the souls of Vikings feasted and celebrated with the gods after their daily battles, is in it’s modern form, the Valhalla Golf Club, the culmination of Dwight Gahm’s dream of building a world-class course capable of hosting a major golf championship.
It is also the culmination of a history-making partnership that has the purpose of bringing championship golf to Louisville on a regular basis and has resulted in it becoming the first course to be owned by the PGA of America.
Gahm (pronounced “Game”), a prominent Louisville business leader and golf enthusiast, had, from the word go, dreamed of creating a traditional “golf-only” club in Louisville with a course of sufficiently high standard so as to be able to host a world-class championship event like the 2008 Ryder Cup and the majors that have proceeded it
In 1981 Gahm and his three sons – Walt, Gordy and Phil – commissioned Jack Nicklaus to build a private golf facility on 486 acres of rolling Kentucky terrain that would provide its members with the highest level of service.
It would also have to be good enough to host a major championship and with all this in mind, the Valhalla Golf Club, located approximately 20 miles east of Louisville, opened its doors in 1986.
Named as one of the top three new private golf courses in the US in 1987, on the first year it became eligible for the award, Valhalla today remains the No. 1-ranked course in Kentucky and one of Golf Digest’s 100 greatest courses in America.
Valhalla was soon recognised by the big guns of golf and in 1996 it staged it’s first PGA Championship.
That Valhalla was able to offer “a world-class golf course to challenge the best players in the world, a supportive community, a top-ranked convention destination with excellent transportation, housing and entertainment services, and a central location reaching several major metropolitan cities within a 150-mile radius” was clearly recognised by the PGA of America.
Late in 1996 after Jim Awtrey, the PGA’s CEO had walked the course with Gahm senior and disclosed that it was the PGA’s dream to operate a limited number of high-quality championship courses, a deal was struck.
In November 1993, an agreement was negotiated whereby The PGA agreed to purchase 25 percent of Valhalla Golf Club.
After the successful conclusion of the 1996 PGA Championship, The PGA assumed 50 percent ownership in the club and announced it would return to Valhalla Golf Club in 2000 to play the 82nd PGA Championship.
At the conclusion of the 2000 PGA Championship, The PGA exercised the right to purchase the remaining interest in Valhalla.
Valhalla Golf Club immediately made its mark on spectators as well as the players at the 1996 PGA.
The spectators found some of golf’s most spectacular viewing areas at the Club’s natural amphitheaters.
The scenic par-5, 542-yard 18th for example, handled 20,000 spectators and the area surrounding the green on the par-4, 422-yard 17th accommodated a gallery of more than 8,000.
Valhalla Golf Club’s front nine traverses a low-lying parkland setting where 650,000 cubic yards of earth were moved to build up tees, greens and fairways to a level that would protect the course from major storm damage.
Valhalla’s greens, tees and fairways are a combination of Pencross and Penway bent grass strains and there are 42 sand bunkers strategically positioned throughout the course, 24 of them added by Nicklaus in the past two years while redesigning the course for this week’s event.
Nicklaus also rebuilt four greens completely and added nine new tee boxes.
Of course, the US Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger, has also had his say in the redesign which will ensure that Valhalla presents a challenge that is completely opposite to the K Club’s narrow fairways and slow greens on which Europe thrived when they thrashed the US 18½-9½ two years ago
The course can play 7,500 yards, but it probably won’t be set that long for each of the three days of competition.
In fact, it’s expected that the par-4, 13th hole – which has an island green – will be played at least one day during four-ball matches as a drivable par-4 of 260 yards.
Valhalla’s slick greens feature distinct tiers and sections that provide a variety of challenging hole locations.
The primary rough is Kentucky bluegrass with fescue making up the secondary rough. The incoming nine holes were carved out of higher, tree-covered terrain with a shallow creek that would come into play on four holes.
COURSE GUIDE: To see Valhalla head pro Keith Reese’s course guide at Valhalla on our special Ryder Cup micro site you should click here
The 17,500-square foot clubhouse, featuring a 45-foot Rolex clock tower and a veranda overlooking the 18th green, opened in February 1996. The clubhouse, in the traditional Louisville design, blends both Midwestern and Southern accents.
The long-standing Valhalla Golf Club course record of 6-under-par was shared by Nicklaus and Larry Mize – each posting these scores after winning respective Masters championships in 1986 and 1987.
But in 2000 Maria Olazabal shot a 63 at the PGA championship to set the current record
MAJORS HOSTED BY VALHALLA
The 1996 PGA Championship won by Mark Brooks in a play-off with Kenny Perry
The 2000 PGA Championship won by Tiger Woods in a play-off with Bob May
The 2004 Senior PGA Championship
The 2008 Ryder Cup which tees off on Friday, September 19.
Like any respectable private golf club, Valhalla offers:
– A clubhouse with excellent wining and dining facilities, showers and locker rooms and top notch conference facilities.
– a practice facility that includes a driving range and practice greens and bunkers
– Expert tuition by PGA professionals
– An online and public pro-shop carrying a wide range of international brands
– Caddies, club cars, golf trolleys and clubs for hire
NOTE: Acceptable credit cards include VISA, MasterCard and Amex
– Members and members with one guest may play anytime
– Members with two or three guests may play before 12:00 pm or after 2:00 pm
– Unaccompanied guests may play before 11:00 am. or after 2:00 pm, based on availability
SATURDAYS, SUNDAYS, HOLIDAYS:
– Members and members with one guest may play anytime
– Members with two or three guests may play after 10:30 am.
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