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7 things you should know about Valhalla

The 2024 PGA Championship begins this week at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville. Here’s what you need to know about the hosting course.

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Valhalla means different things to different people. For fans of Norse mythology, it is a place of legend. For rock-and-roll fans, it’s a Led Zeppelin song. And for fans of professional golf, it’s a big-time tournament venue in Louisville, Ky., which returns to the scene this week as the host of the 2024 PGA Championship.

With the first tee times set for Thursday morning, here are seven more things you should know about Valhalla Golf Club.

Bear it near Boleni

Designed by Jack Nicklaus and first opened for play in 1986, Valhalla was a tough test from its inception, teeing off at over 7,000 yards. And like many other tournament structures, it has been around for a long time. This week, it will play as a par 71, measuring 7,609 yards from the back tees.

It was a big stage before

This will be the fourth PGA Championship at Valhalla. Mark Brooks won the first, in 1996, over Kentucky native Kenny Perry. Tiger Woods captured his second, in 2000, in Sunday’s epic match against Bob May. And Rory McIlroy returned to third place in 2014, beating Phil Mickelson by a stroke.

It inspires memories of the Ryder Cup

Paul Azinger’s “pod” program. Boo Weekley’s “Happy Gilmore”-inspired horse antics. The butt-kicking given to Sergio Garcia by his future LIV partner Anthony Kim. These are just a few memorable moments from the 2008 Ryder Cup, in Valhalla, where Team USA won 16.5-11.5, ending a three-game winning streak in Europe.

Big-name veterans have fought here, too

Valhalla has also hosted two Senior PGA Championships, and both winners were household names. Hale Irwin took the title in 2004, beating Jay Haas by a stroke. And in 2011, Tom Watson won in a playoff over David Eger, who currently serves as a course rating panel for GOLF magazine. Valhalla, Eger says, puts a premium on driving. In his opinion, the hardest shots on the course come off the tee on the long par-4s: the 2nd, 6th, 12th, 15th, 16th and 17th holes.

Holes have nicknames

Every hole at Valhalla has a moniker on the scorecard, including two inspired by the Louisville Lip himself, Mohammad Ali. The 8th, a 190-yard par-3 with a blue green protected by deep bunkers, is known as “Float like a Butterfly,” and the 12th, a 490-yard par-4, is a tough shooter called the “Sting . like the Bee.” (The 12th is known by many as Odin’s Revenge, a nod to the Norse god Odin, who presides over Valhalla in mythology.)

A young veteran of Valhalla

This will mark the first appearance in the PGA Championship for 22-year-old Akshay Bhatia. But it won’t be the first time he’s been around this place. In 2018, Bhatia won the Junior PGA Championship at Valhalla, successfully defending the title he claimed last year at the Country Club of St. Albans in Missouri.

New moon, new grass

When Woods hit in May, he did it in August. That was the case with all past PGA winners at Valhalla. This will be the first time Valhalla has hosted this event in May. And so, a different era. Also: different turf. In preparation for this year’s event, the bentgrass fairways at Valhalla were removed and replaced with zoysia, which, because it can withstand heavy mowing in warm weather, should play harder and faster during the tournament.

Josh Sens Editor

Golf, food and travel writer, Josh Sens has been a contributor to GOLF Magazine since 2004 and now contributes to all areas of GOLF. His work has been honored in The Best American Sportswriting. He is also the author, with Sammy Hagar, of Are We Have Any Fun Yet: the Cooking and Partying Handbook.

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