CHASKA, Minn. – Hazeltine National Golf Club is a lovable brute.
That’s the early impression players are getting at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship this week.
One caddie called it a “bomber’s paradise.”
Catriona Matthew, the 2009 Women’s British Open champ, agrees power is especially useful this week.
“It’s tough thinking of a course we’ve played set up longer than this,” Matthew said. “But you don’t know where the tees will be once play begins.”
The par-72 layout is set up at 6,807 yards on the scorecard, almost 250 yards longer than the U.S. Women’s Open was set up at the Country Club of Charleston two weeks ago. That was a par-71 layout.
“It’s going to play difficult and long,” said Nelly Korda, one of the tour’s big hitters. “I have a bunch of 6- and 7-irons into greens this week.”
The par 5s are so long that Ariya Jutanugarn is considering putting a driver in her bag to give her a chance to reach some of the long par 5s. She rarely puts driver in her bag.
“A lot of the par 5s are not reachable,” said Danielle Kang, the 2017 Women’s PGA Championship winner.
The third hole, the first par 5 on the course, is 568 yards.
The 13th hole, a par 3, is 204 yards with a narrow opening in front.
The 16th is 380 yards but can be played at 240 yards as a drivable par 4.
Kerry Haigh, the PGA’s chief championships officer, said the fairway widths are “relatively generous,” averaging 30 yards in width, with the rough to be topped off Wednesday evening at 3½ inches. The greens are firming up quickly with sun and wind factors through this week.
“It’s a wonderful course,” Haigh said. “Everything is right in front of you, straight forward. There are no tricks. It’s well bunkered, with plenty of movement in the greens. It’s just a good test of every aspect of the game.”
Haigh said the plan is to play the 16th at 240 yards as a drivable par 4 on one day, though he said weather could nix that plan. There’s water to the right of and behind the green.
“There’s been a lot of talk about that hole,” Haigh said. “If we move it up one day, which we probably will, it will be 227 to the front of the green. The hope is almost every player in the field, if they want, can go for it. So, everyone will have to make a decision.
“If you’re long and right, there’s water, but if you are short and left, you still may have a tough chip.”
It’s the Aon Risk-Reward Challenge Hole this week. Korda said there’s definitely risk to weigh against reward.
“I think it’s actually harder as a drivable par 4,” she said.
Overall, players are giving the course strong reviews.
“It’s a pure track,” Korda said.
“It’s a ball striker’s course,” Kang said.
Stacy Lewis predicts double digits under par should win.
“But I don’t think anyone is going to say it’s easy,” Lewis said. “The greens are firm, and I think that’s going to be the hardest part. Going to be hard to get it close to some pins. A few holes, you’ll have some longer irons in.”