New holes to test players from start at PGA C'ship

British Open champion Jordan Spieth hitting from a fairway bunker at the new fifth hole during a practice round for the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow.
British Open champion Jordan Spieth hitting from a fairway bunker at the new fifth hole during a practice round for the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

CHARLOTTE (North Carolina) • Quail Hollow will unveil three new holes at this week's PGA Championship, changes that are expected to make the course significantly tougher for the world's best players at the year's final Major.

What used to be a fairly gentle start at the course in Charlotte will now give players little chance to ease into their rounds, according to Kerry Haigh, who is in charge of the course set-up for the PGA of America.

He expects the first three holes to exact as heavy a toll as the brutally difficult last three, which have come to be known as the Green Mile.

The three new holes all come early - the first, fourth and fifth - while the 11th green has been moved 40 yards further back.

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Also, a new strand of hardy grass will make it possible for the greens, all of which have been regressed, to be presented firm, even in the heat and humidity of a southern American summer.

While the US Open has a reputation for presenting the toughest test in golf, the PGA of America is more interested in providing a fair challenge.

  • Three new holes at Quail Hollow

  • HOLE 1 (PAR 4, 524 YARDS)

    The opening hole has been lengthened from 418 yards to 524 yards and is a combination of the previous first and second holes.

    It is now a left-to-right dogleg, and a long tee shot will place players on an elevated landing zone.

    From there, the green sits 20 feet below and is protected by three large bunkers.

    HOLE 4 (PAR 3, 184 YARDS)

    A new short hole was constructed from the former par-five fifth hole and the par-three fourth presents a fresh challenge to players.

    Framed by a group of tall pine trees, the fourth should require a six- or seven-iron to clear another three large bunkers.

    The trees will not come into play, but shots that fly long may end up below the green surface and risk an up and down.

    HOLE 5 (PAR 4, 449 YARDS)

    The old par-five has been shortened and doglegs gently from left to right.

    It is said to be a very "birdie-able" hole but a well-placed tee shot is needed to find a fairway protected by bunkers on either side.

    Players will also face a narrow green that is protected by a deep front bunker.

"I'm never one to predict a winning score," Haigh, the chief championships officer of the PGA of America, said. "Hopefully we present in a way that challenges the players."

One thing that would not change about Quail Hollow is the variety of holes that make it an enjoyable experience to play, and even more fun to watch.

All three par-fives are reachable in two shots for many players under normal conditions, and there are two "drive-able" par-fours - the eighth and 14th holes - always a fan favourite.

However, there are also some beastly holes where everyone will gladly escape with a par and run to the next tee, none more so than the new 524-yard par-four first.

"There is a nice mix of about six birdie holes, six reasonable and six tough," said Haigh.

He also added that the rough would not be particularly long, which should give players a chance at recovery shots.

The bunkers have been redone as well, now with a type of sand that is also used at Augusta National, and Haigh is determined to make sure the rough will not be long enough to impede balls from rolling into the traps.

"We try to bring bunkers into play," he said.

"If you're going to build new bunkers, you don't want rough in the way to stop balls from running in."

Newly-crowned British Open champion Jordan Spieth, who is seeking the PGA Championship title to complete his career Grand Slam, was unfazed by the changes.

"They didn't change that much," the 24-year-old American, who finished tied 13th last year, said.

"Really, (holes) one, two and four and five. They made one essentially an extremely long par four by combining the old one-two, and then they split up No. 5 into two holes, that par five, into a three and four.

"Other than that, it stayed the same."

REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 09, 2017, with the headline 'New holes to test players from start at PGA C'ship'. Print Edition | Subscribe