Valhalla Golf Club

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.
VGC - CLUB 1The grill features some great memorabilia.  See below for some awesome Nicklaus stuff.

VGC - CLUB 4They also have a display of the putter Tiger Woods used to win the 2000 PGA Championship.

VGC - CLUB 3In addition, all four of his scorecards are framed for view.

VGC - TWThe locker room is more modern in style, but elegant nonetheless.  It was very spacious and comfortable.

VGC - CLUB 5When 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.

VGC - CLUB 2As 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.


VGC - PGA 2The driving range is expansive and two-sided.  Check it out below.

VGC - RANGEValhalla has a little different take on the clock.  Many of the others I have featured are Rolex, but this one is Omega so it looks a little different.  Still very cool.

VGC - CLOCKI decided to play the green tees.  Based on the yardage I figured they would provide a good challenge, but not beat me up too much.

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.

VGC 1-1The approach features a deep front bunker, but not much other trouble.  It is angled to the fairway.

VGC 1-2The green has a significant ridge you can see in the photo below.  You will want to be on the correct side of this for easier putts.  It is a big green.

VGC 1-3Hole 2 – 475 yards – Par 5 

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.

VGC 2-1I ended up in the left rough and this is the view from there.  You need to play a draw into the green.  The bunkers short of the green are punishing.

VGC 2-2If you can’t get there in two the shot below is what you will face.  This was a more accessible pin, but pins on the left can be nerve wracking.

VGC 2-3The green is pretty small which makes long approaches difficult, but favors players hitting wedges.

VGC 2-4Hole 3 – 170 yards – Par 3

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.

VGC 3-1Here is a closer look.

VGC 3-2The front nine was more open than I expected.  The photo below shows most of the front side.

VGC 3-3Here is a photo for my wife and all the other nature lovers out there.  You can see the turtles resting on the log having a nice weekend.

VGC 3-4You can see the entire green below.

VGC 3-5Hole 4 – 325 yards – Par 4

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.

VGC 4-1The tee marker below shows the Valhalla logo.

VGC 4-2I don’t have 325 in my bag so I hit long iron off the tee.  With a wedge this shot isn’t overly intimidating.  Avoid the bunkers and you are in good shape.

VGC 4-3This green has a lot of internal sloping around where this pin is located.  It serves as a backstop for pins in that location.

VGC 4-4Hole 5 – 405 yards – Par 4

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.

VGC 5-1The second shot plays back uphill to a green that is open in front.  In firm condition you can run something up here.

VGC 5-2The putting surface is large with subtle contours.

VGC 5-3Hole 6 – 450 yards – Par 4

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.

VGC 6-1This is the approach.  I had a little tree trouble and had to a hit a big draw.  It’s tough to hit anything but a draw into the green.  There is plenty of fairway to bail out if needed.

VGC 6-2Floyd’s Fork is pretty wide in some places.  On the sixth they have this nice walking bridge.

VGC 6-3Here is a look at the green.

VGC 6-4Hole 7 – 490 yards – Par 5 

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.

VGC 7-1Here is a look at the second shot from the right fairway.  If going for it you need to carry the water.

VGC 7-2Here is the approach shot.  Not overly difficult compared to the rest of the hole.

VGC 7-3Below is a look back at the water hazard.

VGC 7-4This closer look at the green shows some of the slope and general green complex.

VGC 7-5Here is another angle.

VGC 7-6This view from behind really accentuates the slope.  You can see it all through the middle of the green.  The runoff areas can create some tight lies for chipping.

VGC 7-7Hole 8 – 150 yards – Par 3

This one-shotter is right out in front of you.  Clear the front bunker and you are in the driver’s seat.

VGC 8-1Here is a close look at the green from short left.

VGC 8-2The wide shot below shows the green is plenty deep to accept many shots.  You can also see the slope around the flag.  This is a big target for a shorter hole.

VGC 8-3Hole 9 – 400 yards – Par 4

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.

VGC 9-1The clubhouse sits at the top of the hill.  I zoomed in so you could see.

VGC 9-2The approach is even more uphill than the tee shot.  Make sure to take the right club.  The bunker to the right is just waiting for a lazy swing.

VGC 9-3The green is quite large.  There is plenty of intermediate slopes in the putting surface evidenced below.  Some of them will feed the ball back towards the middle of the green.

VGC 9-4Here is the view from behind the green.

VGC 9-5Hole 10 – 520 yards – Par 5 

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.

VGC 10-1The second portion of the hole bends back to the left.  I couldn’t even see the green from here.  That was a hell of a shot from Rory.  A lay up is played up the fairway, simple right?

VGC 10-2The green sits back to the right and a good bit lower than the fairway.  You will want to make sure your distance control is on here.  The green is pretty shallow.

VGC 10-3The bunker in front of the green is a tough up and down.  You can see the general slopes of the green below.

VGC 10-4Hole 11 – 190 yards – Par 3 

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.

VGC 11-1This is a little closer look.

VGC 11-2Here is a close look at the green.

VGC 11-3Hole 12 – 420 yards – Par 4

This is a tough one.  The hole bends to the right and the fairway runs out once you get over the hill.

VGC 12-1See 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.

VGC 12-2Here is a closer look.

VGC 12-3Compared to some of the others this is not a huge green.  It does slope ever so slightly from back to front to accept approach shots.

VGC 12-4This look back shows the drop off from the upper fairway.  If your drive runs into that hill good luck getting a good lie.

VGC 12-5Hole 13 – 325 yards – Par 4

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.

VGC 13-1The 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.

VGC 13-2Here is the waterfall behind the green.  The stone work is quite good.

VGC 13-3Here is a view from the next tee and gives you a real feel for the entire putting surface.

VGC 13-4Hole 14 – 165 yards – Par 3 

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.

VGC 14-1The green is very shallow requiring expert distance control.  This hole is built to be a difficult par.  You can also see the big ridge in the green behind the flag.

VGC 14-2Hole 15 – 380 yards – Par 4

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.

VGC 15-1I overdid the draw and had to hit another one.  The green is guarded on the right by the creek and a bunker.  You definitely want to favor the left side.

VGC 15-2Here is the view of the approach from the middle of the fairway.  You can get a better idea of what guards the green.

VGC 15-3This 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.

VGC 15-4Here is the view from behind.

VGC 15-5Hole 16 – 405 yards – Par 4

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.

VGC 16-1The second shot is seen below.  Pretty stock with two bunkers on each side.

VGC 16-2The green is seen below.  I like the look of the bunker next to the putting surface.  You can also see the wavy look of the green from this angle.

VGC 16-3Hole 17 – 390 yards – Par 4

The penultimate hole is a tough uphiller.  The landing area is wider than it looks.  You should hit one up the mower line.

VGC 17-1A good drive will land at the top of the hill.  The green is open on the right, but fronted with deep bunkers on the left.

VGC 17-2Below is a look at the green.

VGC 17-3Hole 18 – 490 yards – Par 5 

This plaque is right off of the eighteenth tee.  It is a great quote from one legend to another.  Goose bump stuff.

VGC 18-1This is the view from the pro tee.  This is what Mark Brooks, Tiger Woods, and Rory McIlroy stared down on the way to victory.

VGC 18-2Here is the view for us regular folks.  The water is definitely in play and must be avoided.  If you can peel a fade off the bunker that would be perfect.

VGC 18-3This view shows the coolness of the setting.

VGC 18-4If 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.

VGC 18-5Here is the approach if you lay up.  Avoid the bunkers and you are ready to roll.

VGC 18-6Here is a look at the green.  There is a big ridge behind this flag that runs off to the other part of the green back and to the right.

VGC 18-7The statue below sits behind the green.

VGC - STATUE 1The sign below lets us know this is Mr. Nicklaus and Mr. Gahm.  The quote at the bottom is a good one!

VGC - STATUE 2My 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.

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11 thoughts on “Valhalla Golf Club

  1. Aloha Jimmy,

    Great post – it pulled a memory and a chuckle out of me.

    I played Valhalla years ago and clearly remember the 13th hole. I was standing in the fairway, holding a wedge, and telling myself, “Look at the middle of the green Wayne, don’t look at he rocks, look at the middle of the green.” But I took a peek at the rocks anyway …and my muscles decided that was where I wanted the ball to go … and they put it there.

    That day did not work out well for me – but that’s okay. I much enjoyed your post. Thank you.

    A Hui Hou,

  2. awesome. The place looks phenomenal. The greens looked fantastic. That must have been a treat to not only play, but to see the history of the place. Congrats on knocking another off your list.

    -Brian “an envious golfer”

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