Journey to Augusta : Valhalla Golf Club #99

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Valhalla Golf Club – September 21st 2014

After my semi-let down at The Pete Dye Course at French Lick (yes, I’ll get that posted soon, I’m just still fuming from the day), I was really looking forward to visiting Valhalla Golf Club and getting some good vibes going on this short weekend trip. From the moment I pulled up to the gates, I knew it was going to be a fantastic day. If someone can convince me there are 98 better clubs in the US, I’ll give you my golf clubs and buy you a Valhalla membership. So without further ado, let’s enter the gates together of…

Valhalla Golf Club

Valhalla GC

#99: America’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses (Golf Digest 2013-2014)

NR: World’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses (Golf Digest 2013-2014)

My 2 pm tee time couldn’t have been set up any easier. Luckily, my head pro is connected to more people than I even realize, and his good friend just happened to be the GM at Valhalla. So once we arranged the tee time, he reached out to me personally (an incredibly nice gesture) to welcome me to Valhalla. He made it clear that I was welcome to show up as I pleased at the Club and enjoy the facilities prior to my tee time and then my caddy would meet me on the first tee. So of course, I did just that as it was BEAUTIFUL 70 degree day in Louisville…

Valhalla Golf Club

I usually have the range all to myself at my home Club, but here was something special. I took my time and enjoyed the early afternoon around the range and practice area. My caddy showed up about 1:45 and we took advantage of an open 1st tee and started on our way. The following picture is looking back down the dogleg left 1st.

Valhalla Golf Club

After a slightly unfortunate start (flyer lie), I started with a fun double. I’m going to stop sharing my score from this point as the day was more about enjoying a tough course weeks after the PGA (and I played poorly so I have nothing to brag about as usual!).

Next up came the Par-5 2nd (yes, Par 5 for members). Don’t worry; I easily avoided needing Feherty to help me find my ball…

Valhalla Golf Club

 

Valhalla Golf Club

You can see some of the area out to the left where Jason Day miraculously made his 4 at the PGA. Unreal what he was able to do from that mess.

The third hole is a beautiful little Par-3 (not so little from where we were playing) and allowed me to push my streak of pars to two consecutive holes (I’ve decided to only update on holes where I actually played golf like a capable adult!).

Valhalla Golf Club

The course opened up for the 4th and 5th holes, if only for two holes prior to the 6th hole. I’ll give all the readers a moment to try to picture Hole 6 at Valhalla for just a moment… Got it? Yeah, it’s a MONSTER in person…

Valhalla Golf Club

My caddy told me that it is widely considered the hardest hole in all of Kentucky. I’m voting it as the hardest hole I’ve ever played. I smashed a driver to the end of the fairway, and what did I have in? Only 250 yards off a downhill lie in the first cut of rough. Yeah, not fun, but an absolutely phenomenal hole. I know that even the pros struggled with the hole during the PGA, but it’s amazing to think of some the clubs they used into the green (7-iron? Really Rory?)

Valhalla Golf Club

It was a welcome relief to turn around back into daylight for the spectacular visual of the 7th hole and it’s majestic split fairway.

Valhalla Golf Club

I decided to take a huge line towards the power line in the background and absolutely crushed it directly on that line. That left me with about 230 into the green from the dead center of the right fairway.

Valhalla Golf Club

What I did from there, we just won’t mention. Let’s just say the number turned into slightly larger than I would have liked. I blamed my bad golf on the beauty of the course that day, whether my caddy bought that excuse or not. But to my defense, look at that pin! I need to stop going after pins…

After 7, a little Par-3 for the 8th hole was next, followed by a nice long walk to the back tees of the 9th hole. Completely worth the walk once you arrive on the tee box of 9.

Valhalla Golf Club

Hole 9 is a beautiful hole that moves to your right up-hill towards the clubhouse in the background. This may have been my favorite tee shot of the day. It is one of the first holes that you see after you park and walk towards the clubhouse, but the beauty of the hole is really from the back tee box back in the trees.

After finishing 9 (and running to the car to get my calculator to add up my score), we had a nice short walk through the parking lot to the tee on #10, which is next to the PGA of America offices. Not a bad place to work in my opinion. After a less than desirable drive was followed by a great 4-iron punch shot, I was left with a nice lie in the fairway to a back-right pin. Dead aim knocked it to 25 feet and SOMEHOW finally rolled in a put. This is the approach to #10 that never seems to end, but finally did in a birdie for me…

Valhalla Golf Club

If you ever make it to Valhalla, and your caddy tells you not to aim at the pin in the back-left of the 11th hole, do as he says………. But it is a beautiful, long, tough Par-3 in its own right…

Valhalla Golf Club

The 12th hole left little to be described besides running into the first member and his young son on the course. You have to love that (I can’t wait for my 8-month old to be able to walk and carry a club), and also the fact that I had the place practically to myself on a BEAUTIFUL late summer day.

The 13th hole needs no description for its beauty and strategy required…

Valhalla Golf Club

After I pulled my tee shot a bit, I was left with a very awkward, short approach over the moat and rock wall guarding the green. Luckily, a half wedge managed to hold about 10 feet from the pin, but alas, just a par. A very cool, unusual approach shot for sure…

Valhalla Golf Club

The 14th hole can only be described as the ‘Rickie Fowler Blow-Up Hole.’ Sad as the kid was so close. I didn’t blow up here, but the result was less than optimal.

Valhalla Golf Club

Hole 15 requires a strong tee shot, which then requires a high fade into a green that runs diagonal from left to right (oh, and from almost 200 yards out on the approach). My caddy said it was one of Jack’s favorite holes because of the shot shape you had to hit. I said it was not one of my favorite holes, as you can see from the green below…

Valhalla Golf Club

Hole 16 and 17 were great in their own rights, but I was too focused on playing poorly to take any pictures. Two good holes, two bad bogeys. Although I did sink a 20-footer on Hole 16 and was thinking about walking it in like Tiger did back in the day… But, I didn’t think I should disgrace that moment by walking in a putt that put me at 13-over par for the day…

Hole 18 (I got to play it in the light Rory!) was spectacular. First, let’s look out over the bunker where Tiger’s ball magically bounced backwards…

Valhalla Golf Club

And now a look at the entire hole…

Valhalla Golf Club

And then I ventured down to where Rory was and found, quite possibly, the shot of the day…

Valhalla Golf Club

And lastly, from my tee shot in the fairway looking up to the green and the clubhouse.

Valhalla Golf Club

I’ll admit that at this point, I was less concerned about playing out the hole, and more concerned with going and pretending to be Tiger Woods first and Bob May second from where they hit their shots in the 2000 PGA. The pin was literally paces from the location that day, so I of course hit a few putts and a few bunker shots to get a feeling of what each of them faced (somewhat) that day. It was pretty cool to relive those memories…

So the final tally, I shot an 88 from the tips. Deal! J It was windy… And I have a million other excuses that you aren’t allowed to use when playing a place as special as Valhalla. I don’t understand the criticism of the course from a major tournament standpoint. I’ve loved every tournament I’ve watched at Valhalla and have an even greater appreciation for it after having walked the course.

My experience of the course was absolutely phenomenal. If you have a chance to go to Valhalla Golf Club, you will truly be treated as a member by everyone encountered. The staff that I met was incredibly friendly and generous with their time to show me around Valhalla. It is, in my opinion, a phenomenal track and a great experience to play. I’ve been lucky to push my total “Top 100” courses to 12 played now, and I’ll say that Valhalla Golf Club is right up there after Oakmont and the renovated Pinehurst #2. I’m appreciative that the course is rather close to me in St. Louis, as I might just have to go back when I try to mix it in with a trip to Victoria National. Maybe in 2015…

 

Follow Andrew Ganey:

Join me on my "Journey to Augusta" with the help of my good friend Mathew. I am a single-digit handicap looking to play (and write about) all the top courses in the US. I am looking to make all sorts of new friends that share my passion for this great game while playing all the finest courses in the US. I look forward to setting up my next game anywhere, anytime!!

One Response

  1. ACG
    | Reply

    [email protected] Appreciate it. You guys are the epitome of class and I enjoyed every minute of my day! (cc )

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