What a 15-handicap would shoot at PGA’s Valhalla, according to teaching pro

Scottie Scheffler

Scottie Scheffler hits his tee shot on Saturday on the 13th hole at Valhalla Golf Club.

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Xander Schauffele and Shane Lowry shot 62s. John Daly an 82. Scores have been mostly low at this week’s PGA Championship, though Valhalla Golf Club has shown its teeth on occasion for the professionals.

But an average player, say, a 15-handicap? 

From the tips?

With tournament rough and tournament greens and tournament pins?

Tracy Phillips thinks high 90s. With some caveats. 

Phillips is a good source. He played three practice rounds here, then shot a four-over 75 during Thursday’s first round and an 80 during Friday’s second round. He’s also a teaching pro, at Cedar Ridge Country Club, just outside of Tulsa, Okla. He’s seen all kinds of players. 

So Wednesday afternoon, a GOLF.com reporter asked him this:

If a 15-handicap played from the tips right now, what would they shoot?

“If they’re straight,” Phillips said, “they could probably shoot high 90s here.”

Really? OK. 

“If they’re crooked, it would be 100s, for sure, because the rough is awfully tough.”

Phillips then brought up himself. He’s 61 and 5-foot-4.

“The combination of the different grasses, it’s — again, for a person 5-4, you don’t have a built-in angle of attack. It’s thick. And the green surrounds, entries into the greens, they’re aren’t a lot of greens that you can roll shots up into. So if I miss a fairway, there’s a good chance I’ll miss the green. 

“And so yeah, 15-handicap would have a hard time.”

What’s the hardest hole for them?

“Well, it depends on how far they hit it off the tee,” Phillips said. 

Tracy Phillips
He’s 61. He quit for 20 years. And he’s playing the PGA Championship
By: Nick Piastowski

“The 17th hole [a 477-yard par-4], if I don’t have a downwind situation, I have to hit a really good ball just to get it to the fairway. I wished they had mowed out a walk path, it was a little cut smaller and a little bit bigger so that I could aim toward that. To be able to at least hit it from a little bit of the short grass. 

“But obviously, it’s just 18 great holes, 18 tough holes. So they’re all tough.”

The DP World Tour social media team posed a similar question to Jon Rahm and Min Woo Lee, though the player in question was decidedly better. 

What would a scratch player shoot?

Lee guessed 10 to 15 over par.

“It’s tough,” he told the DP folks. “I mean, I’m a pretty long hitter and it’s long for me. So yeah, some of the par-4s, most of the par-4s, you’re going in with 8-iron or more, so a scratch handicapper would probably hit, I don’t know, 5-iron, 6-iron in, probably more. So yeah, I would say 10 for the people that would get mad and then 15 — I think scratch handicap would shoot 15-over.”

And Rahm? He thought they’d have a hard time breaking 80. 

“Never seen it, though? Never seen the course before?” he said to the DP World Tour social media team. “It’s very hard to say because there is a lot of length to it so it would depend on what scratch golfer. Tough par-3s and some really tough finishing par-4s. From the back, today we had a couple that if we didn’t hit it good, we wouldn’t have gone all the way to the top with the wind the way we had it so 17 is automatic bogey. 

“I mean, I would say a scratch golfer, who if he doesn’t have a lot of experience and enough length, I have a hard time seeing him breaking 80. If it’s somebody with length with maybe a little bit more golf experience, they can shoot something in the high 70s. But it’s a challenging course out there. Thick rough, even if you’re in the fairway you can put yourself in some difficult spots. 

“So I would say somewhere between mid-70s to 80.” 

Nick Piastowski

Nick Piastowski

Golf.com Editor

Nick Piastowski is a Senior Editor at Golf.com and Golf Magazine. In his role, he is responsible for editing, writing and developing stories across the golf space. And when he’s not writing about ways to hit the golf ball farther and straighter, the Milwaukee native is probably playing the game, hitting the ball left, right and short, and drinking a cold beer to wash away his score. You can reach out to him about any of these topics — his stories, his game or his beers — at nick.piastowski@golf.com.

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