Brutal traffic leaves players walking(!) to reach Valhalla Friday morning

Valhalla golf club traffic

Cameron Young and Will Zalatoris were seen walking along the road to Valhalla Friday morning., Nick Piastowski

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — While most of the attention of Friday’s PGA Championship coverage was paid to Scottie Scheffler’s chaotic arrest and arrival, it wasn’t exactly smooth sailing for the rest of the field either. Due to immense traffic backups following an early morning accident on the only road of access, numerous players were forced to take measures into their own hands — or rather, their feet. 

Cameron Young and Will Zalatoris were found walking along the side of Shelbyville Road, the main access drive to Valhalla, about a half mile from the club’s entrance. It was just before 8 a.m., and they were already going to be arriving later than normal. Zalatoris felt he had no choice, telling Gabby Herzig of The Athletic he walked two miles along the road just to get past traffic. 

The backup was related to a fatal accident about three hours earlier, where a shuttle driver hit an event worker who had been on foot, shortly after 5 a.m. Local management of the five-lane strip of Highway 60 — which cuts across the entire state of Kentucky— has led to backups most of the week. So much so that Zalatoris suggested to his parents that they don’t even come to the course. The outer two lanes have been shut down for pedestrian and police access, while the inner-most lane has been used for turning vehicles, courtesy cars and shuttles. In other words, there’s not much room.

Due to the location of the accident, players were directed by the PGA of America to avoid accessing the course from the east, and rather exclusively access it from the west. That tacked on (at least) an extra 20 minutes of driving time, according to Harris English, and led to even more cars on the only drag into the property.

Scottie Scheffler arrives to the course during the second round of PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on May 17, 2024 in Louisville, Kentucky.
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“It’s a lot of traffic cones and not really knowing what lane you’re going to be in,” English said. “Definitely a little bit more hectic than we’re used to getting into the golf course. Obviously this morning, dark, raining, it’s hard to see anyway, and you’ve got a lot of lights around, you’ve got a lot of people yelling and pointing and all this stuff. It was very chaotic coming into the course.”

For Mackenzie Hughes, his typical 30-minute commute was tripled, to an hour-and-a-half. Realizing what was happening, the tournament delayed tee times for the day by 80 minutes, which turned out to be just enough time for Scheffler — who had been arrested for an unrelated incident with a policeman — to be released and make it back in time to compete. Zalatoris also told Herzig that he was part of a group of players who considered asking the PGA to delay the entire event by four or five hours to figure everything out.

“Someone picked me up, a driver from the tournament picked me up, and it was obviously a bit messy,” Thomas Detry said after his round. “There was police everywhere.”

Traffic backups can be commonplace at major golf tournaments when the attendance figures swell toward 50,000 per day. It comes with the territory. Players and caddies had to drive through an on-coming traffic lane during the 2021 Ryder Cup in rural Wisconsin because traffic had gotten so bad. But backups don’t often leave players leaving their vehicles.

Austin Eckroat wasn’t far behind Zalatoris and Young, in his own courtesy car, checking the local television broadcast. 

“The first thing I saw was Scottie had been put in handcuffs,” Eckroat said. “I was like, ‘What in the world is going on?’ It was a weird morning.”

Weird enough that Eckroat got out of the driver’s seat and asked his wife to drive the remainder of the way, choosing to hoof it 1.5 miles to the gate. 

“It was a weird morning,” he said. “Something I’ve never experienced.”

Sean Zak Editor

Zak is a writer at GOLF Magazine and just finished a book about the summer he spent in St. Andrews.

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