Golf Life: PGA date change creates opportunity for exciting new venues

Aug 11, 2018; Saint Louis, MO, USA; Justin Thomas hits out of a bunker on the 18th hole during the third round of the PGA Championship golf tournament at Bellerive Country Club. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports Jeff Curry/USA TODAY Sports

Golf Life: PGA date change creates opportunity for exciting new venues

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Golf Life: PGA date change creates opportunity for exciting new venues

The PGA Championship often has been called golf’s “fourth major.” That’s largely a reflection of its position on the calendar, as the year’s final men’s major.

It also, however, reflects a popular view of its standing relative to the other three majors, despite the fact it has the strongest field. The Masters has the best date and the biggest TV audience. The U.S. Open is our national championship. The British Open is so big globally that it’s known, both grandiosely and simply, as just The Open.

The other three majors also tend to win the battle of the venues. Every golfer dreams of playing Augusta National, and many golfers happily pay thousands of dollars for the chance to travel to the British Isles to play any course on the Open rota. Even the U.S. Golf Association, with a few exceptions, tends to nail the venues, if not the set-up of the courses.

The PGA, by contrast, has made more questionable choices. Over the past decade, it has visited such clubs as Hazeltine, Atlanta Athletic, Valhalla, Quail Hollow and, this year, Bellerive. All of those are fine clubs if you live in those cities, but it’s hard to imagine television viewers watching most recent PGA Championships and thinking: Wow, I’d love to play that course.

Next year the PGA Championship moves to May. The date change creates the potential to take the championship to new cities and courses that would not be feasible if the tournament remained in August.

While most of the PGA Championship schedule is set for the next decade, it’s not too early to dream about courses that could bring some much-needed juice to this major.

Here are five options, taking into account weather conditions in May vs. August, along with the potential for fan and corporate support.

Shadow Creek Golf Club, North Las Vegas, Nev.

The PGA Tour visits Las Vegas in the fall for a tournament that gets swamped by coverage of the NFL and college football. That’s a missed opportunity. Las Vegas is a city crying out to host big spectacles, and Shadow Creek is a course everyone wants to see and play.

 

Whisper Rock Golf Club, Scottsdale, Ariz.

Scottsdale already is home to the season’s most-raucous tournament. Imagine returning three months later for a similarly festive PGA Championship. It will be hot, but probably not as stifling as the conditions this week at Bellerive. And who wouldn’t want a glimpse of ultra-private Whisper Rock, a 36-hole facility that is the home course for many of the Tour pros based in Phoenix. Here’s all you really need to know about Whisper Rock: The Tour pros actually pay the six-figure membership fee. How often does that happen?

Maridoe Golf Club, Carrollton, Texas

I haven’t yet seen this new Steve Smyers design, but it’s creating a lot of buzz in the Metroplex. Its located in Dallas’ booming northern suburbs and was built with the hope of hosting big tournaments. Owner Albert Huddleston is said to covet a U.S. Open, but a PGA in mid-May would make more sense in Dallas. Kevin Hall, a Golfweek course rater from Dallas, recommends Maridoe as a course that’s built to challenge great players. He also notes that it’s a wide-open venue with excellent spectator sightlines.

The Blessings Golf Club, Fayetteville, Ark.

Tyson Foods chairman John Tyson built Blessings 15 years ago with the intention of creating one of America’s most difficult tests of golf. Anyone who has visited the club, which serves as the University of Arkansas’ home course, knows he succeeded. He also created first-class practice facilities and a stunning, modern clubhouse that could host a big event. A mid-May date would beat the muggy Arkansas summer heat. There’s also the potential for strong corporate support; aside from Tyson Foods, Northwest Arkansas is home to Wal-Mart and J.B. Hunt Transport Services, among other large employers.

Bluejack National, Montgomery, Texas

The fact that Tiger Woods’ team designed this course creates an automatic hook for golf fans fascinated with all things Tiger. Bluejack National is located in the booming suburbs northwest of Houston, in an area that should draw strong corporate support. The course, which draws much of its design inspiration from Augusta National, opened in 2016 and sits at No. 37 on Golfweek’s Best Modern Courses list. Gwk

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