In time for the 37th Ryder Cup Matches, GolfChannel.com Courses & Travel caught up with Valhalla Golf Club Superintendent, Mark Wilson. Hes been in the business for 37 years, including the last 20 at Valhalla.
GC.com: What are some of your fondest memories from the 2000 PGA?
MW: The script read for Tiger to win and in a playoff, no less. The atmosphere was electric here at Valhalla. The script reads for Americans to win here.
GC.com: How is the course different now than in 2000?
MW: The routing is the same but the look is different. We rebuilt four greens and reworked all 65 bunkers. In addition, we cut down almost 8,000 trees while building numerous rock walls. Weve also created a six-acre waterscape on No. 7 and a waterfall on No. 13.
GC.com: What are the toughest holes?
MW: First, you have the 495-yard dogleg-right sixth hole. This green was moved back 80 yards. Moving to the back nine, we moved the tee back 70 yards on the now 510-yard par-4 16th which now has a new green and green complex. We moved the 17th tee back 40 yards, stretching this uphill par-4 to 475 yards. Nos. 5 and 12 have traditionally played difficult. No. 5 has four new fairway bunkers and No. 12 remains the same.
GC.com: What is the rough like?
MW: Right where we want it: Short intermediate rough (1 ) with a little lettuce around the greens.
GC.com: Which holes are best for match play?
MW: With a double fairway, No. 7 gives players a choice off the tee. The left option allows players the opportunity to go for it in two. No. 13 will also be exciting, especially if we play it up and they attempt to drive the green. The par-5 18th is always interesting with the chance for a closing eagle.
GC.com: What do you think will be the pivotal hole?
MW: Nos. 10, 11 and 12 is our version of Amen Corner.
GC.com: Do you think Valhalla favors the Americans?
GC.com: What type of player is the course suited for?
MW: It favors the long hitter and accurate iron player. [Designer] Jack Nicklaus gives you an ocean off the tee and tightens it up for your second shot to bunkers close to the greens and an average 5,500 square-foot green. All par-5s are reachable for the long hitters.
GC.com: In your time spent with Captain Azinger, what impresses you most?
MW: His sense of humor.
GC.com: Has captain Azinger asked for your input on course setup?
MW: Yes. We met several times leading up to his final captains picks.
GC.com: Which Ryder Cup players have you seen most on the grounds at Valhalla?
MW: Kenny Perry and Steve Stricker.
GC.com: What is something people may not know about Valhalla?
MW: We are now just 22 years old but developing name recognition and tradition.
GC.com: What is the weather like this time of year? Could it play a factor?
MW: I am hoping for perfect weather: High of 78 and low of 62. Theres a little wind this time of year and September is historically our driest month.
GC.com: Ryder Cup prediction?
MW: The underdog Americans should come through and I think we will use home court advantage as much as possible.
GC.com: Valhalla hosted one of the most exciting majors in history, and now the Ryder Cup. Whats next for Valhalla?
MW: (Laughs) A private little sleepy golf club for a while.