How The PGA Championship Can Forge A Meaningful Identity
A long-standing complaint about the PGA Championship is that it has lacked a meaningful identity since the end of match play in 1957.
The Masters is all about Bobby Jones and Augusta National. The US Open is the self-proclaimed toughest test in golf. The Open is the original, and the major of the links. Meanwhile, the PGA Championship is the only all-professional major, but that doesn’t seem to be enough.
I think the answer lies in geography. Especially with its May scheduling, the PGA Championship should position itself as the major of the American South.
The PGA Championship is already on its way. Next year (2024), the PGA Championship is in Louisville, Kentucky. In 2025, it will be at Quail Hollow. In 2027 the PGA is at PGA Frisco (Texas). Congressional in Maryland has the 2030 event. In 2034, the major is back in Frisco. In 2022, it was at Southern Hills in Oklahoma.
Other than recurring trips to Pinehurst and California, the US Open is almost exclusively blueblood Northern (and particularly Northeast) clubs. There’s a certain sameness to their setups and look.
Moving south of the Mason Dixon will give the PGA Championship a different look (think Spanish Moss on Live Oak trees, loblolly pines and slow-moving waterways). It opens the possibility of seeing some different architects and styles.
The US Open is a bit repetitive on the architectural front: Fowler/Thomas, Ross, Fownes, Flynn, Neville (but Fowler again pokes his head in), Tillinghast, Ross, Flynn, Neville/Fowler, Fownes, Ross, Ross, Neville/Fowler, Fowler/Thomas, Ross, Fownes, Neville/Fowler, Ross, Fownes, Flynn, Ross.
The youngest of the US Open courses dates to 1923 (although all have undergone restorations). My own home course is old — Washtenaw Golf Club, 1899 (course link) — and I could play it every day forever. Variety, however, is indeed the spice of life, and it is nice to get out.
I am reminded of the saying “those who only know one country, know no country.”
(As an aside, I’ve played and reviewed 300 golf courses, so I’ve seen some variety)
I am certain that there are plenty of great clubs in Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana that could host a PGA Championship. Arizona and New Mexico might be too hot in May. The average temperature in Jackson, Mississippi in May, however, is 83.
Offhand, I can come up with Colonial, Austin CC, Kiawah Island, Congaree, Shoal Creek, Greystone CC, Fallen Oak and East Lake, (to be fair, I’ve only played Colonial, so I’m working on name recognition and reputation alone).
Fazio’s name is on a couple of those, but there’s also Nicklaus, Rees Jones, Pete Dye and Perry Maxwell (Ross did East Lake). I am certain that the PGA could find others to showcase. George Cobb (Quail Hollow), Gil Hanse (PGA Frisco), Jack Nicklaus (Valhalla) already offer some variety. Congressional has had a committee of architects over the years (Devereux Emmett, Robert Trent Jones, Tom Fazio, Rees Jones and most recently Andrew Green).
Adding a Coore and Crenshaw original (Ozarks National?) would be fantastic. How about a Davis Love course? Or a Joe Lee? There are a lot of possibilities for variety.
I’d love to hear from some readers with knowledge of southern courses and suggestions for PGA Championship venues.