Vallhalla 101: Everything You Need to Know About the Course

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  • Chris Hamburger, Valhalla’s golf pro, recommends several viewing spots: the bleachers behind hole No. 1 (“Not shaded but lots of action,” he says); the ridge above the bunkers along the right side of No. 7’s fairway (“Not too sunny until the afternoon”); No. 10 (“The sun will be setting at your back in the afternoon and you can watch ’em just go after it with long drives”); and No. 17 (“It seats so many people, and it’s late enough in the round that you’re going to see some action”).
  • How can you follow an in-flight golf ball, anyway? “It’s hard to do,” Hamburger says. “The best way is to be behind the golfer.”
  • There will be 350 port-a-potties. An estimated 8,500 cases of beer will be consumed. Nine miles of gallery rope. Eighty-five gallons of green paint were used on the wooden bleachers erected throughout the course.
  • Our favorite nicknames: Thor’s Hammer (No. 8), Odin’s Revenge (No. 12), The Island (No. 13), Two Tears (No. 14) and No Mercy (No. 17). 
  • “I think Michael Jordan has played the course once,” Hamburger says.
  • No. 18 is called Gahm Over. The Gahm (pronounced game) family, led by Dwight Gahm, wanted a golf course on its nearly 500 acres and recruited legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus to design it. Valhalla opened June 24, 1986, and the PGA took over ownership in 2000. “Dwight Gahm is 95 now and doesn’t play a lot of golf,” Valhalla GM Keith Reese says.
  • No. 6 is called The Bear, which is one of Nicklaus’ nicknames.
  • Outside the clubhouse, look for the statue of Gahm and Nicklaus surveying the land.
  • “When you miss greens out here, that’s when it gets difficult,” Reese says. “But any hole out here can tie you in knots. The course is very accommodating from that standpoint.”
  • A hole-in-one board in the clubhouse features nameplates of members who’ve aced hole No. 3, 8, 11 or 14. During the 2000 PGA Championship at Valhalla, Vijay Singh aced par-3 No. 14. What we’re saying: head to 3, 8, 11 or 14 if you want to catch a hole-in-one. We feel like there’ll be one on Friday.
  • The pro shop sells U of L and UK FootJoy-brand golf shoes.
  • Valhalla customs and traditions: “Denim of any color is not permitted.” “Gentlemen are asked to wear a collared shirt.” “Women must wear a collared shirt or golf blouse.” For ladies: “Shorts may be worn and must be no higher than four inches above the knee.” For gents: “Shorts may be worn but must not pass below the knee or be higher than four inches above the knee. Cargo shorts are not permitted.” Not as strict during PGA weekend, but still: Don’t show up in a Big Blue Nation tee, OK?
  • In Norse mythology, Valhalla is the final resting place for heroic warriors.
  • The clubhouse features signed scorecards from Tiger Woods (who won the PGA at Valhalla in 2000) and Mark Brooks (’96). Fun fact: Louisville native Bobby Nichols won the PGA Championship in 1964, in Columbus, Ohio.
  • The clubhouse’s dining room has massive windows that overlook the course. Framed on the wall: some of the scratch paper Nicklaus used while designing various Valhalla holes.
  • The clubhouse will be off-limits to spectators during the PGA, which even takes over the locker room. If a big-name golfer (of the Tiger, Phil or Rory variety) uses your locker, the attendant will probably be cool and leave the famous nameplate there for you.
  • It’s summer in Louisville. Don’t forget your antihistamines. 

This article appears in the August 2014 issue of Louisville Magazine. To subscribe, visit Loumag.com

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