Behind the scenes at Quail Hollow: How a course prepares for a PGA Championship
Charlotte golf fans have been flocking to the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club for years. So when the PGA Championship arrives at the same course next month, they should feel right at home, right?
Not so fast.
Yes, both events feature PGA Tour golfers and unfold on the same pastoral patch of prime south Charlotte real estate. But that’s where the similarities largely end – and even the course itself has been significantly reshaped since the last Wells Fargo in 2016.
As one of golf’s four annual major championships, everything has been super-sized at the PGA Championship, from the crowds to the number of star players to even the merchandise shop. The PGA is expected to draw more than 40,000 fans on some days – compared with about 35,000 at the Wells Fargo.
Charlotte’s first-ever golf major will rank among the most prestigious sporting events the city has hosted, joining the likes of the 1991 NBA All-Star Game, the 2016 NFC Championship game, prominent NASCAR races and men’s and women’s Final Four college basketball games in the ’90s. The NBA All-Star Game is scheduled to return in 2019.
Jordan Spieth’s recent victory at the British Open super-charged the importance of this year’s PGA Championship, to be held Aug. 7-13. If the Texan wins at Quail Hollow he would become just the sixth golfer to win all four major tournaments, known as a Career Grand Slam.
“There are four times a year when golf transcends sports,” said tournament director Jason Mengel. “The next stop is Quail Hollow for the PGA Championship.”
This year’s event has surpassed all past PGA revenue marks for ticket and corporate hospitality sales, officials have said. Tickets for the competition have been sold out for months, although passes for Monday and Tuesday practice rounds are still available. The intense demand came even though Thursday-Sunday tickets went for $95 per day, steeper than the $50 starting price for this year’s Wells Fargo.
The two events have separate organizers, so it’s not surprising they have their own ways of handling transportation, pedestrian flow and other logistics. The PGA is run by a national sports organization, the PGA of America, while the Wells Fargo is run by a local nonprofit, Champions for Education, with the San Francisco-based bank serving as the title sponsor.
Of course, the other big variation has nothing to do with the organizers. The PGA is traditionally played in August when the average high temperature in Charlotte is 87.5 degrees, according to the National Weather Service, versus 78.9 degrees in May when the Wells Fargo is typically held.
Fans are advised to dress properly for the heat, drink lots of fluids and apply their sunscreen. The course will also have plenty of concessions stands, hydration stations and misting fans.
With the tournament just two weeks away, here’s a look at what to expect at the PGA Championship.
Quail Hollow became a regular stop on the PGA Tour in 2003 after local business leaders, including club president and Charlotte developer Johnny Harris, helped land the Wells Fargo, then known as the Wachovia Championship.
Even as that event grew in popularity, Harris continued to lobby golf officials for a chance to bring a major to the city. In 2010, the PGA Championship announced it was coming to Quail Hollow in 2017, and next month the event becomes reality.
Over the years, many golf fans have developed their preferred way to get to the golf course during tournament week. But they’ll need to shake up that routine for the PGA. That’s because the transportation set-up has been switched up.
Surrounded by neighborhoods, Quail Hollow doesn’t have any on-site parking except for golfers and their caddies. That means people who want to drive to the event have to park at off-site lots and take a shuttle.
That’s similar to the Wells Fargo, but some of the PGA lots will be in different locations. And you have to order a $15 pass at pgachampionship.com ahead of time for each day. At the Wells Fargo, parking is included in the cost of the ticket.
Depending on the day, the PGA lots are at Bojangles’ Coliseum, Carowinds amusement park and Ballantyne Corporate Park. Unlike the Wells Fargo, there is not an uptown shuttle.
In a new twist at the PGA Championship, ticket holders can also ride the Lynx Blue Line for free to the Sharon Road West stop, where free shuttles will be available. The tournament has also arranged a lot where Uber drivers can pick up and drop off fans. If you live close, another option is to walk or ride your bike.
“Make your decision on how to get there today,” Mengel said. “Don’t wait until on the way that morning.”
Once you’re there
At the Wells Fargo, the main entrance is by the practice range, feeding fans into the first nine holes of the course first.
At the PGA, the entryway will be around the 18th green, so fans will start their day at a different point before they spread out to their favorite spots or follow their preferred golfers.
Once they’re on the grounds, fans will encounter some of the obvious differences from the Wells Fargo. The crowds will be more robust, with more than 200,000 expected during the week. The course itself has undergone significant work, including the moving or modification of four holes. And a green fence surrounds the perimeter of the course, making it tougher to ogle the upscale homes lining the fairways.
Jan Ivey, marketing director at the Wells Fargo Championship, says the PGA Championship will be like a “golf tournament on steroids” because of its larger scale.
“I think we’re all going to be surprised and entertained and probably a little lost,” she said. “It’s just going to look so dramatically different. I’m very excited about it personally because I’ve never seen Quail being staged the way it’s being staged. I’m excited about it just to see how different it’s going to look from us.”
Just like at the Wells Fargo, hospitality tents – the luxury suites of golf – will line Quail Hollow’s holes. The PGA, however, will have an even bigger presence and use different spots.
While the Wells Fargo typically has between 50 to 60 companies using the main hospitality venues, the PGA Championship has more than 100, with about 5,000 guests per day. In addition to the separate corporate chalets, the PGA has also sold tickets to its Wanamaker Club, an air-conditioned, sports-bar like area with TVs and premium food and drinks.
For those looking to top off their day with some PGA gear, the tournament will sell shirts, hats and other swag from a massive 45,000 square-foot shop. For those who want a sneak preview, it will be open to the public Aug. 5 and 6. No tickets are required, and parking and shuttle service will be available from Charlotte Catholic High School, 7702 Pineville-Matthews Road.
The players, the purse
The recent Wells Fargo Championship – held in Wilmington this year but returning to Quail next spring – had a strong field, with six players among the top 20 in the world.
But the talent at the PGA will be on another level. Every year, the tournament boasts of having the strongest field in golf, and this year is no different, with most of the top 100 players expected to be teeing off.
Spieth, only 24, has played at the Wells Fargo Championship before, but hasn’t been a regular attendee. This year he will be in the spotlight as he seeks to become the youngest player to capture a Career Grand Slam. The others include golf greats Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.
Other big names expected to join Spieth at this PGA include Jason Day, Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy. Tee times will come out Friday Aug. 4.
The purse for the PGA will be announced during the week of the championship, but in 2016, it was $10 million, with the winner taking home $1.8 million. This year’s Wells Fargo had a total purse of $7.5 million, with the winner claiming $1.35 million.
“You will be hearing roars around the property,” Mengel said of the four days of tournament play. “That support is going to create a great atmosphere for the players as they compete for a championship.”
What you need to know about the PGA
▪ When: Aug. 7-13 at Quail Hollow Club, with tournament play running from Aug. 10-13.
▪ Tickets: Thursday-Sunday tickets have been sold out for months, but Monday and Tuesday practice rounds are still available at www.pgachampionship.com. Each ticketed adult can bring four “juniors” (ages 17 and younger) for free. Those with a military affiliation – active duty, retirees, reserve and national guard – can also attend for free and bring a guest. Present a military ID at the main spectator entrance.
The PGA of America and PrimeSport have an official ticket exchange at https://www.primesport.com/d/pga-championship-tickets for fans looking to buy tickets on the secondary market.
▪ Transportation: Buy your parking passes ahead of time at the PGA web site, or use the light rail, Uber or walk or bike.
▪ Fan guide: Do’s and don’ts are outlined in a fan guide available at this shortened web link: bit.ly/2vb95y5. Mobile phones are allowed with some restrictions. Fans will go through metal detectors before they enter. Backpacks and drawstring bags aren’t allowed, but bags no bigger than 10 inches by 10 inches by 10 inches are permitted.
▪ Television: CBS and TNT will provide 28 hours of live coverage.