Valhalla Golf Club – Played 2016
- Rankings: Golf Digest #99
- Location: 15503 Shelbyville Road, Louisville, Kentucky
- Year: 1986
- Architect: Jack Nicklaus
- Course Access: Private
- Walking Rules: Carts & Caddies Available
Score Card Information:
- Gold: 7,540 yards, Par 72, 76.4 Rating/148 Slope
- Black: 6,975 yards, Par 72, 74.1 Rating/143 Slope
- Green: 6,540 yards, Par 72, 71.6 Rating/138 Slope
- Blue: 6,070 yards, Par 72, 69.8 Rating/129 Slope
- Silver: 5,240 yards, Par 72, 70.8 Rating/124 Slope
Valhalla Golf Club was a place where I didn’t know a member. I was still able to work out a game there right after tax season. It was a nice treat after a busy few months at work. Luckily it was close enough to drive up and back in a weekend.
For you history buffs, Valhalla is the great hall described in Norse mythology where the souls of Vikings feasted and celebrated with the gods. The golf course was a creation of local businessman Dwight Gahm who made his fortune in kitchen cabinets. He built the course with the intent of hosting a major championship. That feat was accomplished in 1996 with the PGA Championship won by Mark Brooks. The club has hosted many other big events including additional PGA Championships (2000, 2014), Senior PGA Championship (2004, 2011), Ryder Cup (2008), and the PGA Club Professional’s Championship (2002).
Starting in 1993 after meetings with Gahm and Jim Awtrey (then CEO of the PGA) the PGA began purchasing an ownership stake in Valhalla. By 2000 they owned the entire course. Since then they have enlisted Mr. Nicklaus to make continuing improvements to the course to keep up with the times.
Some interesting architectural information on the course; the greens, tees and fairways are a combination of T1 and Penway bent grass strains, there are 62 bunkers, and the primary rough is Kentucky bluegrass with fescue making up the secondary rough.
The clubhouse is 17,500 square feet that has a veranda overlooking the 18th. It also has a 45-foot Omega clock tower. It can be seen in the photo below.
The grill features some great memorabilia. See below for some awesome Nicklaus stuff.
When I made my way into the locker room to change my shoes I was greeted by a man named Norman. He is know as Stormin’ Norman around these parts. There were a few pictures behind his station and he told me the stories behind them. There was one of him with Jack Nicklaus in 1986, another was an artist’s sketch with Valhalla misspelled, another at the 2008 Ryder Cup on balcony with Norman and Paul Azinger, and finally one with Rick Pitino the legendary college basketball coach. Additionally he showed me the two championship rings he was wearing. One for Louisville and one for Kentucky. He considers Pitino a friend and the rings are evidence of that. He was an animated character and very happy to share information about the club. I felt very welcome in his domain.
You can also observe photos of some wonderful golfers as seen below.
As I mentioned above the PGA owns the course. They have built the building seen below right on site near the tenth tee. I am sure it helps when they stage events here so people do not have to be in temporary structures.
Hole 1 – 390 yards – Par 4
The first tee shot is pretty open. The trees on the left are in play. The best play is right in line with the tee boxes in front.
The pros play this hole as a par 4 which makes it a brutish hole. For me it was a very manageable par five. The landing area is a little tight so I went with three wood. The creek runs all the way up the left side.
All the danger on this hole is to the right. Floyd’s Fork runs along that side. My caddie, Steve, told me that the Fork runs throughout the whole property and is the only creek you see. A solid shot shouldn’t really have any trouble with the water. The middle of the green is the best play.
This hole is a definite birdie opportunity. You can approach it two ways. If you are a bomber you can go at the green. Shorter players can put a 200 yard shot in the fairway and go pin hunting. The fairway is out to the right in this photo.
The open nature of some of the front nine holes make it challenging to pick lines. I always find that hard, but appreciate what the treeless terrain is demanding from you. You can carry the bunker on the right with a good drive, but a good line is left of it with a slight cut.
This hole is a beast. The toughest on the front nine for sure in my book. The creek is all along the right side. It was not able to be carried by me so I hit three wood into the left fairway. The positioning of the creek forces you to lay back off the tee and face a longer shot into the green.
You have a decision to make on this tee. You can play to the left or right fairways. The left is smaller and more of a risk. You can get home in two either way so I tried the right fairway. Really anywhere but the water is fine.
This one-shotter is right out in front of you. Clear the front bunker and you are in the driver’s seat.
There is no let up on this hole. Uphill the entire way makes this a long par 4. The bunkers are definitely in play since I hit into one. The shape of the hole favors a fade.
This is the hole Rory eagled in the 2014 PGA. If you remember, it was the low stinger it looked like he hit on the bottom of the clubface. I didn’t get there in two! A little draw off the tee is ideal here.
This is a tough hole if you have a case of the lefts. It drops off on that side severely. The front bunker is very deep. There is a little short grass if you come up short on the right.
This is a tough one. The hole bends to the right and the fairway runs out once you get over the hill.
See what I mean by running out of fairway. You can also see my caddie leading the way. He was an awesome guy. A retired local, he knew the course inside and out. We had great conversations all day. It was really peaceful to walk the course with him.
The second shot is a brute. It is all carry to the green unless you want a lush lie.
This is the signature hole at Valhalla. You will see what I mean when we get to the green. The tee shot is straightforward since you don’t need driver. You do need to avoid the bunkers. Also, a push to the right down in the trees will leave you with the most difficult shot on this hole.
The approach shot features the rock walled green with water all around. It may seem a little contrived to purists, but I think it fit the hole in this sense. You need to be on the green here or you are going to be wet.
My caddie suggested I play the tips on this hole to experience what the pros did. The green seems so far away. It is surrounded by bunkers and requires a solid shot. I lucky hit my best shot of the day here.
Steve told me this is one of his favorite holes on the course. I can see why. It is tranquil with the water flowing and the isolated nature of the hole. You will want to hit a slight draw.
This zoomed in photo shows that there is not a lot of room for your approach. The bunkers pinch in tightly and the water is right next to the green. This hole requires the most precision of any approach.
You needed a draw on the last, but a fade works best here. The trees and rough encroach on both sides. A slight fade at the cart path in the distance is the best line.
The penultimate hole is a tough uphiller. The landing area is wider than it looks. You should hit one up the mower line.
This plaque is right off of the eighteenth tee. It is a great quote from one legend to another. Goose bump stuff.
If you are on the right side of the hole it is not a good angle to go at the green. You have to over water and a deep bunker to go at the middle of the green. The left side of the fairway is more desirable.
My time at Valhalla was phenomenal. I was treated very well by the whole staff and couldn’t have felt more welcome. Thank you to all of them for the day! The course is definitely built to host big championships. The property is large and the overall scale of the place is big. I believe they accomplished their goal of being a championship venue. Even so, I still had fun playing it and didn’t feel beat up when I was done. Tee it up there if you get the opportunity.