PGA Championship course primer: 7 things to know about Valhalla

Valhalla Golf Club, in Louisville, is set to host the 2024 PGA Championship

The 2024 PGA Championship kicks off this week at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville. Here's what you need to know about the host course.

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

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

It’s a bear by the Bear

Designed by Jack Nicklaus and first opened for play in 1986, Valhalla was a brawny test from birth, tipping out at a shade over 7,000 yards. And like many other championships layouts, it has only gotten longer. This week, it will play as a par 71, measuring 7,609 yards from the back tees.

It’s been a major stage before

This will be the fourth PGA Championship at Valhalla. Mark Brooks won the first, in 1996, in a playoff over Kentucky native Kenny Perry. Tiger Woods grabbed the second, in 2000, in an epic Sunday duel against Bob May. And Rory McIlroy reeled in the third, in 2014, edging Phil Mickelson by a stroke.

It inspires Ryder Cup recollections

Paul Azinger’s “pod” system. Boo Weekley’s “Happy Gilmore”-inspired horsey antics. The butt-kicking administered to Sergio Garcia by his future LIV compatriot Anthony Kim. These are just a few of the memorable moments from the 2008 Ryder Cup, at Valhalla, which Team USA won 16.5-11.5, ending a streak of three straight European victories.

Big-name seniors have done battle here, too

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

The 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 testy green defended by deep bunkers, is known as “Float like a Butterfly,” while the 12th, a 490-yard par-4, is a stout two-shotter nicknamed “Sting like a Bee.” (The 12th is also known to many as Odin’s Revenge, a cap-tip to the Norse god Odin, who presides over Valhalla in myth.)

A young Valhalla veteran

This will mark the first appearance in the PGA Championship for 22-year-old Akshay Bhatia. But it won’t be his first time around the venue. In 2018, Bhatia won the Junior PGA Championship at Valhalla, a successful defense of a title that he claimed the year before at the Country Club of St. Albans in Missouri.

A new month, a new grass

When Woods beat May, he did so in August. That was the case for every past PGA winner at Valhalla. This will mark the first time that Valhalla has hosted the event in May. And so, a different season. Also: a 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 tighter mowing in warm weather, should play firmer and faster during the tournament.

Josh Sens Editor

A golf, food and travel writer, Josh Sens has been a GOLF Magazine contributor since 2004 and now contributes across all of GOLF’s platforms. His work has been anthologized in The Best American Sportswriting. He is also the co-author, with Sammy Hagar, of Are We Having Any Fun Yet: the Cooking and Partying Handbook.