Valhalla Golf Club, a Jack Nicklaus design, opened for play in June 1986. Only 10 years later it hosted its first major championship.

While the club is hosting the PGA Championship this year for the first time in a decade it is no stranger to historic championship golf. The three PGA Championships (1996, 2000, 2014) and the Ryder Cup (2008) stand out, but the club has also hosted two KitchenAid Senior PGA Championships, and a boys and girls Junior PGA Championship.

To get you ready for the strongest field in championship golf, here are 10 things to know about Valhalla.

  1. Although the club opened in 1986, it was a dream that began five years earlier when Dwight Gahm dreamed of creating a “golf only” facility with a championship course that could host some of the game’s biggest events. Gahm (pronounced GAME) and his three sons hired Jack Nicklaus to design the course on 486 acres of rolling terrain. Nicklaus said the site was a “golf designer’s dream because there is a variety of terrain, vegetation and water to work with.” There were as many as 40 different possible course routings at one time, but the final layout was approved and in spring of 1984, construction started. Two years later, the club 18 miles east of downtown Louisville, opened.
  2. Six years after the club opened, in 1992, it was awarded the 1996 PGA Championship. The PGA of America believed the club could challenge the best players in the world, that Louisville was a supportive community and that there was plenty of transportation, accommodations and entertainment to support the Championship all on one central location. Mark Brooks and Kenny Perry were tied at 11 under par after 72 holes of the 1998 PGA Championship and Brooks won with a birdie on the first playoff hole.

  3. It is rare for a club to host another PGA Championship so quickly, but it was back at Valhalla in just four years for the 2000 Championship. In one of the best, most dramatic major championships in the history of the game, Tiger Woods beat Bob May in a three-hole aggregate playoff to win his fifth career major and third straight. Both men made exciting birdies on the 72nd hole to force a playoff – Woods also birdied 17 – then Woods rolled in a long birdie putt on the first playoff hole and walked after it while pointing at the ball when it was 3 feet from the cup. It’s a moment that’ll live in PGA Championship lore forever.

  4. Although it had been eight years since the PGA Championship, the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship was at Valhalla in 2004, when Hale Irwin won. But the 2008 Ryder Cup brought millions of eyeballs back to the club and was a wonderful week, pitting Paul Azinger’s Americans against Nick Faldo’s Europeans. The U.S. had lost three straight Ryder Cups and five of the previous six. With Kentuckians Kenny Perry and J.B. Holmes on the squad, the Americans took a nice lead after the first day, but Europe closed the gap on Day 2. But the red, white and blue won 5.5 of the first 8 points in Sunday singles to take an insurmountable lead and win by 5 points.

  5. In 2012, the club underwent a hefty renovation to prepare for the 2014 PGA Championship. All 18 greens were rebuilt, bunkers were either added or renovated, a new irrigation system was installed to help with some drainage issues and the practice range was expanded.
  6. Valhalla delivers again. The last time the PGA Championship was here was a decade ago, in 2014, when it was held in August. Like in 2000, the finish was wild, not because of a playoff, but because of near darkness and threatening weather. Eventually, Rory McIlroy topped Phil Mickelson by a shot to win his second straight major and third consecutive PGA Tour start, making him the first since Tiger Woods in 2008 to accomplish the feat. But the rush to finish before darkness on the 72nd hole was bizarre when McIlroy and Bernd Weisberger, playing in the final pairing, played up the 18th hole with the penultimate pairing, Mickelson and Rickie Fowler.

  7. Valhalla founder Dwight Gahm passed away on March 7, 2016, at age 96. Keith Reese, the club’s General Manager who started at Valhalla as an Assistant PGA Professional in 1989, told the Louisville Courier Journal: “What has always struck me is how humble and caring his family is, and I think that started with Dwight and filtered down.”
  8. A massive clubhouse renovation began in 2017 and cost nearly $4 million. There was major reconstruction of the 15,000-square-foot clubhouse, which included the locker rooms, dining facility and meeting rooms. The project was said to make the space feel more inviting and like more of an overall upscale golf experience.
  9. Akshay Bhatia won the 2018 Boys Junior PGA when he holed an eagle chip from off the 18th green. He turned a one-shot deficit into a one-shot victory and became the first two-time winner of the championship after also winning it in 2017. Bhatia, now 22, won the PGA Tour’s Valero Texas Open last month for his second Tour victory, and is in the field this week at Valhalla. It’s his first PGA Championship appearance and only his third major start. (Side note: Valhalla founder Dwight Gahm’s great-grandson, Campbell Kremer, competed in the 2018 boys championship and tied for 35th place.)

  10. The 2021 Girls Junior PGA provided some history too as 15-year-old lefthander Anna Davis dominated by ending with a 15-under-par total to win by seven shots. Davis went on the win the Augusta National Women’s Amateur the next spring and is now one of the top freshmen in the country playing at Auburn. She’s ranked No. 25 in the country. Shortly after that championship was over the club began renovations to prepare for this year’s PGA Championship.

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