A look at the changes made to Quail Hollow for the 2017 PGA Championship
A professional golf tournament has not been played at Quail Hollow since James Hahn beat out Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson in the 2016 Wells Fargo Invitational in May. That’s because this year’s Wells Fargo Invitational was bumped to Eagle Point because of the upcoming PGA Championship at Quail.
Since that tournament, though, the golf course itself has undergone some serious renovations in front of hosting its first major championship. Let’s take a look at some of those with the year’s final major just two weeks away.
These changes to the course took place in a very condensed amount of time. As Hahn was finishing off his second PGA Tour win on the back nine of the course, the front nine was already undergoing treatment.
Few places in Charlotte are reimagined more frequently — and more privately — than the exclusive club on Gleneagles Road. This past May 8 (2016), as soon as the last group teed off on the final day of the Wells Fargo Championship, construction crews descended on the course and began a 12-week renovation process that would have taken five or six months on most other courses. But Superintendent Keith Wood didn’t have that kind of time. The club’s president, Johnny Harris, wanted to have the course open to members by the fall.
That led to one of the most remarkable renovations of a golf course in the country, involving three new holes, overhauled fairways, reshaped greens, and the addition of areas for grandstands and spectators — all in three months. “I don’t think I’ll ever come up with any project like this again in my career,” says Wood, a 20-year veteran in the industry.
Here are three other changes to the Quail Hollow track.
1. New Bermuda: A type of grass called Champion Ultradwarf Bermudagrass has been installed on the greens at Quail Hollow. It will be as pure as the driven snow, and it should erase all memories of that nightmare 2013 event at the course in which the bentgrass greens were as splotchy as any PGA Tour event in recent memory.
2. Thousands of trees removed: We will see a sparser Quail Hollow than when we last saw it in 2016. Many of these trees were removed to allow more sunlight to hit the greens, but some were removed to re-shape the golf course, according to the Charlotte Observer.
3. Four-ish new holes: The first and second holes were meshed into a single hole, a 540-yard par 4. The fifth hole was changed from a par 5 to a par 4. A new second hole was built, a par 3. The 11th was given extra bunkering. This is an oddity, for sure, but not much has changed in terms of the actual landscaping of the track.
Golfers will see a totally different front nine (and greens) than they have seen in past years at this course. Jimmy Walker thinks it could lead to higher scores because of thickened rough and a faster track.
Kerry Haigh, the PGA’s chief championships officer, said he was a bit dubious about reformatting the course some 16 months before this year’s major, but Quail Hollow nailed it.
“They lay out all these plans on the table, and thank God we were sitting down; 16 months before the 99th PGA Championship (they) want to totally rebuild three holes and change the green on No. 11,” Haigh told reporters. “I’m not sure anywhere else we could have had that faith to make such significant changes to what is already a fantastic golf course.”
This may not make a material difference in who wins the golf tournament. Quail Hollow has produced some big boy winners in the past including McIlroy, Tiger Woods and Fowler, and given what we’ve seen in the last few years at major championships, that’s not likely to change in two weeks at the 99th PGA Championship.