Built In '86, Outdated in '06

The Louisville Courier-Journal's Jody Demling takes an extensive look at Jack Nicklaus overhauling Valhalla in preparation for the 2008 Ryder Cup.

Nicklaus was in town yesterday to oversee ongoing construction of the most extensive changes in the 20-year history of the course he designed in eastern Jefferson County as Valhalla prepares to play host to the 2008 Ryder Cup.

 About 1,000 trees have been removed, four greens have been dynamited and transplanted (one didn't meet his approval and will move again) and the No. 2 hole may play as a 535-yard par-4 for the professionals.

"I thought we had a pretty good golf course to start with, but times have changed," Nicklaus said. "It's been 20 years since we did the golf course, and golf equipment has changed dramatically. And the ability of the players has changed dramatically with the equipment.

"To challenge the ability of the players today we needed to add some length and spice to the golf course, and in some places we have softened it a bit."

Hey, but it had 20 good years.

Nicklaus spent several hours touring the course with several PGA of America officials, original course owner Dwight Gahm and course superintendent Mark Wilson, among others.

"We have to take the golf courses and make it fit today's game, and that's what we're trying to do," Nicklaus said.


Every hole will be affected in some way. The grass on all 18 greens is being replaced. Greens on the sixth, eighth, 11th and 16th holes are being rebuilt, and bunkers are being added to seven holes.

"(The PGA) is turning Jack loose and making it modern," said Gahm, who sold the course to the PGA after the 2000 event. "He's doing everything he wants to do, and it's going to be even better.

"I'm just glad he's not using my money."

Nice line!

Valhalla played 7,167 yards for the 2000 PGA, won by Tiger Woods in a playoff with Bob May, but will play about 7,500 yards from the back tees when finished.

"We sat down (with Nicklaus) and came up with a vision of how we can take Valhalla and modernize it and challenge today's players and do it well," PGA of America chief executive officer Joe Steranka said.

This is fun...

Members are allowed to play the course, but all the holes are using temporary greens in the middle of the fairways and course officials said play has been slow. But PGA officials said this will strengthen the stature of the course, which is listed among the top 100 nationally by several publications.

Listed among the top 100, yet it's undergoing a complete facelift. I'm not sure if it's an indictment of the rankings, or the equipment situation.

The biggest change is at the par-4 sixth hole that played 421 yards in the 2000 PGA. The hole is a dogleg right where the second shot must be hit over Floyd's Fork.

But Nicklaus said the green is being moved back 80 yards and into an area that is surrounded by trees, making it a longer hole where a second shot would likely be 200-220 yards after PGA players hit a 3-wood or long iron off the tee.

"It was already an exciting hole," Nicklaus said. "It's actually a par-4 that, I think, they're not going to be able to play a wedge to, if there is such a thing in this world today. It's going to be a beautiful golf hole."

The green on the par-3 eighth hole has been rebuilt, and the tee has been moved back a bit. The green was dropped four feet, allowing for better viewing.

Nicklaus spent a great deal of time at No. 11, a par-3 that played 168 yards in 2000. The original green has been destroyed, but after looking at the new layout Nicklaus said the green will be moved back and a little farther left from the original green. The hole will likely play 200-205 yards.

"The green you are looking at down there do not expect it to be there," Nicklaus told the media gathered around No. 11. "How it got there, I'm not sure. Probably my mistake. But we're moving it back, and it will work out nicely."

Nicklaus said No. 16 already had a new tee built since 2000, and now the green is being pulled together with the No. 17 tee box. He also said he took "some of the humps" out of most greens because "they got too severe."

Uh...they got severe, or were severe?