Valhalla ready for 2014 PGA Championship

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The renovations are wrapping up and Valhalla Golf Club is just about ready to reopen.

The eastern Jefferson County course was closed on September 12, 2011, and golfers will tee it up for the first time on the renovated layout on September 1.

"Basically all the planting has been done," Valhalla head professional Keith Reese said. "The greens were seeded, the back nine was seeded at the end of November, the front nine was seeded in mid-March, but it's amazing, with the weather we've had, how they've caught up with each other. Our plan right now is we're just putting some finish work on the golf course for the next couple of months and then we're going to open for play on September the first."

Course superintendent Roger Meier has worked with his staff of 35 men and women, coordinating with the Jack Nicklaus Design team and other contractors, working 12 hour days, 7 days a week.

He says that after the work began, they decided to increase the scope of the project. "The project was a complete renovation, originally we were talking about just renovating the greens, and then we took the opportunity, since we were closed, to go ahead and do a lot of different things," Meier said.

Among those other things, redoing all of the bunkers on the course. They all were either cleaned up or received new drainage. A state of the art irrigation system was also installed.

Every green was redesigned. "All 18 championship greens on the golf course, and we renovated the north end of the practice facility," Meier said."53,000 square feet of teeing space on the north end, as well as putting and chipping greens."

A few holes received some special attention, notably 2, 3, 10 and 15 .

On #2, the green was shifted a few paces to the left, a greenside bunker on the right was moved back and a collection area was added. "The look of the green, the green complex, the mounding, has changed a great deal," Reese said.

A monstrous bunker to the left of hole #3 was reduced by about two-thirds, and the bunker on the right of the hole was expanded. It now wraps around to the front of the green.

The green complex on #10 underwent some noticeable improvements. "It'll look the same from a distance, but when you get on it and start putting, you'll notice that the contours are a lot different," Reese said.

Jack Nicklaus added a bunker on the front right of the green on hole #15, and also shortened that green by about 4 paces. Nicklaus visited the course four times during the project. "It's a really neat experience, I mean obviously, the greatest golfer of all time, and the chance to walk side by side on this property," Meier said.

These moves were the first major infrastructure updates to the course since it opened in 1986. Nicklaus designed the course on land that had been a farm owned by Louisville native Dwight Gahm and his family. The P.G.A. of America completed purchase of the course in 2000.

"The infrastructure that we put into the greens, taking advantage of a lot of technology in regards to, for example, a soil sample sensor technology," Meier said. "We put sensors in the ground and we can monitor temperature and heat and salinity. We basically have a vacuum system underneath the greens where we can extract excess moisture out of the greens, if we get rainstorms. Electrical infrastructure to put fans up, if we need to put cooling fans on the surface of the greens. A lot of technology to prepare us for all of the these conditions that we are facing."

Drainage and irrigation issues have come up at both the 2004 and 2011 Senior P.G.A. Championships hosted by the club.

"The greens, we've designed the mix under the greens, the sand based mix, the greens drain phenomenal," Meier enthusiastically told us."The water infiltration rate is at over 30 inches an hour. Rain water or irrigation moves through them quickly. They dry out quickly, which is very important in this part of the country. dry is very good. The drains have been installed on several of the holes that we have had problems in the past. We've had some true tests of rainfall and one of the good indications is just taking carts out there the day after a big rainfall, which we haven't been able to do before. The drainage was also to allow for firmer playing conditions."

The course hosted the United States victory in the 2008 Ryder Cup and the P.G.A. Championship in both 1996 and 2000. Tiger Woods playoff victory over Bob May will go down as one of the great finishes in Major Championship history.

The course that the world's best will contend with next August will be far different, around 400 yards longer for starters.

"A lot of it has been, you know, we want to get the golf course in the best shape we can, day in and day out for the membership," Reese said."But also it's going to help with our tournament and assuring that we're in the proper condition come August of '14" Meier added, "Part of the project and the work that we've done was to ensure a championship golf course day in and day out. We are considered the flagship golf course for the P.G.A. of America, and we want to be in tournament condition on a daily basis, or close to it."

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