If you think all grass is just grass, you’ll get an argument from PGA Championship defending champion Jimmy Walker.
The Quail Hollow course has been made over since it last hosted the Wells Fargo Championship in the summer of 2016. Four holes were modified and/or moved in an aggressive 90-day renovation that closed the course to members.
Walker, who won his first major at Baltusrol (N.J.) last summer, said switch toward more Bermuda grass, rather than rye, will change the playing conditions when the 99th PGA Championship is held in Charlotte Aug. 10-13.
Walker grew up on Bermuda grass courses around Texas and Oklahoma during his formative years in golf.
“It has the potential to play completely different than it used to,” Walker said at a news conference Monday to promote Charlotte’s first golf major.
Quail Hollow was awarded this event in 2010. While the Wells Fargo Championship is a popular annual event for touring pros, they won’t see the familiar layout.
“We’re used to playing it with rye grass everywhere. It has a potential (with Bermuda) to play really firm and really fast. That’s when golf gets really hard - when you start losing control of the golf ball,” Walker said.
“Bermuda rough tends to fly a lot, or it could come out where you get some horrendous lies. Guys are going to have to deal with that: ‘Am I going to get the big jumper?’ Or ‘Will I get the really soft shot that comes out?’
“Even around the greens, Bermuda rough is very hard to chip out of. The greens ought to be fast, and that’s the biggest variable, I would think.”
Quail Hollow officials determined they needed to change the grass on the greens to deal with an imperfection in the surface. That procedure would close down the course for three months, right after the conclusion of the 2016 Wells Fargo.
Golf architect Tom Fazio recommended the club use that window to make long-envisioned changes to a handful of holes. That meant club president Johnny Harris making a pitch to the PGA in February of 2016 to approve major construction within months of the tournament dates in Charlotte.
“We said, ‘Look, we’re going to (finish on time): Give us a shot,’ and they said yes,” Harris said. “I looked at Fazio and said, ‘Are you sure we can do this in 90 days?’”
It took some convincing, and Quail Hollow’s can-do reputation made a difference, according to Kerry Haigh, the PGA’s chief championships officer.
“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 recalled.
“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.”
Three construction firms collaborated to get it all done on schedule. What changed:
▪ Hole No. 1 is now a par-4 540-yard dogleg right.
▪ A new par-3 was built to replace No. 2, which was eliminated to extend No. 1.
▪ Hole 5, formerly a par-5, is now a par-4 dogleg right.
▪ Bunkers were added to No. 11, and the green was pushed back.
Harris described the intended effect this way:
“All of it has made it more important to hit all the clubs in your bag.”
Bonnell: 704-358-5129: @rick_bonnell