Nicklaus describes changes made to Valhalla
By John Holmes, PGA.com
The Jack Nicklaus-designed course at Valhalla has hosted world-class events almost from the day it opened in 1986. Among those events are the 1996 and 2000 PGA Championships, the 2008 Ryder Cup, and the 2004 and 2011 Senior PGA Championships.
Ahead of the 2014 PGA Championship, Nicklaus and Valhalla officials rebuilt all the greens and made a few other upgrades to the course. Here, in Jack's words, is his description of the updates to the holes that we'll see. Also, click on the hole number to see a flyover video of that hole:
The changes at Valhalla were initiated because the construction of the greens failed over time, which is not uncommon after 25 years. The gravel layer and the mix in the greens seemed to not work anymore. They [Valhalla management] said, well, since you're going to do that, maybe it would be a good time to renovate and make a few odd changes from some comments that have been [made] over the years at events held at Valhalla.
No. 1, a 446-yard par 4: We changed the first hole a little bit and naturally changed the size of the green a little bit, expanded it a little bit more in the front and put a bunker in the front right in a deep grass hollow. The green did not drain in any direction before. Now it drains off the front and the front left, and actually drains a little bit off the back left and the back right, but now functions very well.
No. 2, a 500-yard par 4: The second hole, which was converted [from a par 5] to a par 4, really didn't have a par-4 green. It had a par-5 green. So while we were constructing it. We took a hollow out of the right center of the green and changed the bunkering a little bit and made it a little bit more user-friendly for a par 4 receiving a second shot than it would be receiving a wedge on a par 5.
No. 3, a 205-yard par 3: We restored some of the pin placements, particularly on the back left of the green, which made me actually even a fan of them. We got a pin position [near] the back left bunker. Changed the bunker a little bit on the left side of the green. Changed some minor things in the middle of green.
No. 4, a 372-yard par 4: We felt the green was probably a little bit too severe from top to bottom. Didn't have enough cupping area on it, so we expanded the cupping areas both on the right side and the left side of the green and lessened the slope between the two sides.
No. 5, a 463-yard par 4: We added a bunker down on the right side. We didn't really do much to the green there, softened the contour.
No. 6, a 495-yard par 4: A very, very strong par 4. We moved the green back previously. We had played it and decided that they needed more pin placements so we made some adjustments on the right side of the green.
No. 7, a 597-yard par 5: There were some changes made on the driving area a little bit, added another bunker on the left side. Brought the hazard right up to the green's edge. Didn't do a lot with the green. Minor things with the green.
No. 8, a 174-yard par 3: The eighth hole is kind of a unique golf hole in that when Floyd's Fork floods, that green was in jeopardy. That's why it sticks so high up in the air. We had the green probably a little bit more severe than it needed to be, and so we softened the green a little bit – keeping the contours similar but softened it to make more pin placements and a little bit more bail-out, and I think a much more user-friendly hole. I think the players will like it a lot better.
No. 9, a 415-yard par 4: We changed a little bit of the bunkering off the tee. Couldn't do much around the greens. Left that pretty much alone.
TAKE THE TOUR: Check out photos and descriptions of each hole at Valhalla
AMBITIOUS MODERN COURSE DESIGN: Bradley Klein talks about Valhalla
No. 10, a 590-yard par 5: On the second shot there's a swale that goes from the second shot to the green. We opened that swale up so you could actually get a view down to the green. Before, it gave you a glimpse, but now you have a pretty good view and the hole still feeds in from a shot that's hit down the left with a fade, runs down to the green, can run on green in two. So pretty good hole.
No. 11, a 210-yard par 3: We moved the green to the left. Put it into the side of the hill. We made some adjustments in it, and I think it's a much better hole than the hole that was there.
No. 12, a 467-yard par 4: We really haven't done anything off the tee. The green was a decent-sized green, but it had too much pitch off the front and too much pitch off the back coming into to the green, which limited the pin placements. So we spread it a little bit to get more pin placements. I think it's a much better hole.
No. 13, a 350-yard par 4: We took one of the bunkers out on the right. Instead of stopping the ball on the right and letting it play from the bunker to the green, it now gets way down the hill – which probably if somebody does bail out to the right, it makes a more demanding second shot. The green, we put a little bit more contour in it to more define the pin placements, and we tried to correct some of the walk-off wear problems behind the green going to the next tee.
No. 14, a 217-yard par 3: There was more pitch in the back of the green than needed to be. A lot of times, the ball would hit in the back and just roll right back into the middle of the green. We changed a little bit of that, laid the green down a little bit. There's more pin placements on the green and I think it's a little bit better golf hole.
No. 15, a 435-yard par 4: We have a bunker on the left side now, and we have better pin positions on that green. Before, we had a hollow in there that got a little dysfunctional at times, and we putt a little pot bunker to the right of the green next to the water. All that makes for a more attractive and also a better visual playing golf hole.
No. 16, a 508-yard par 4: We totally rebuilt the green, [added] a bunker front right and a bunker left and a bunker in the back. And they have created several pin positions. We are going to use that for the fans' Pick the Hole Challenge. I think it's a good hole for that.
No. 17, a 472-yard par 4: We did a little bit off the tee – we've taken a big tree down off the left and I think that opens it up. The green, we just made it a little bit more user friendly but didn't really change it much.
No. 18, a 542-yard par 5: The 18th green, again, we made it a little more user friendly. Instead of making it look like three tiers, we tried to blend the tiers together a little bit more and create more pin placements, and make it a little bit more aesthetically pleasing green.