By Michael J. Solender
Charlotte will roll out the “green carpet” this summer when it hosts the 99th PGA Championship at the Quail Hollow Club from Aug. 7 to 13. The event is largely sold out—in fact, fans and companies broke sales records scooping them up—but you don’t have to have that golden ticket to enjoy the magic.
The PGA Championship
One of four major championships in the realm of men’s professional golf, the PGA Championship is an international sporting spectacular that attracts players, media and spectators from around the globe. The PGA Championship routinely draws an overwhelming majority of golf’s top 100 players. In 2016, the field featured 73 foreign players from 24 different countries.
More than 200 countries will broadcast coverage of this year’s tournament, collectively reaching more than 500 million viewers. The PGA of America—a membership organization representing over 28,000 male and female golf professionals—expects more than 1,000 media representatives to provide in-person coverage of the event.
Since its inaugural tournament in 1916, the PGA Championship has evolved into a premier sporting event, earning the moniker of “The Season’s Final Major” (previously “Glory’s Last Shot”), as it’s the final major golf tournament of the season following the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open.
The list of golfing greats who’ve jubilantly hoisted the 27-pound Wanamaker Trophy—named for the department store magnate who influenced the formation of the PGA of America—is impressive: Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Walter Hagen, Byron Nelson, Sam Snead, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, Raymond Floyd, Payne Stewart, John Daly, Nick Price, Vijay Singh, Kenny Perry, Tiger Woods and Jason Day. Last year’s PGA Championship winner, Jimmy Walker, is slated to defend his title at Quail Hollow this year.
The 2016 purse was $10 million, and the tournament champion took home a cool $1.8 million in addition to a lifetime exemption into the PGA Championship, a five-year exemption onto the PGA Tour, and five-year exemptions into the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open and The Players Championship.
Quail Hollow Club – A True Test of Golf
Quail Hollow brings Charlotte its first-ever major golf championship—and the first PGA Championship in North Carolina since 1974. The stunning course is considered by touring pros to be one of the finest in the Southeast to offer a tough but true test of golf.
Quail Hollow’s course was designed in 1961 by renowned golf course architect George Cobb. It was immediately recognized for its brilliance in reflecting the beautiful, challenging terrain of the Carolina Piedmont region. The course has seen modifications and enhancements throughout the years at the hands of some of golf’s biggest names, including Arnold Palmer (a former member) in 1986 and Tom Fazio in 1997, 2003 and 2016.
It was last year, immediately following the Wells Fargo Championship in May, when Fazio’s latest course renovations were initiated. All 18 green complexes were replaced and switched over to Champion Bermuda grass. Fazio also incorporated design changes to the first, fourth, fifth and 11th holes. Fan viewing and course accessibility were kept top of mind, as modifications included adding more room, new viewing stands and new concession areas, allowing for easy and enjoyable course navigation.
Quail Hollow is no stranger to professional golf. From 1969 to 1979, the club hosted the Kemper Open (most recently known as the Booz Allen Classic), a regular golf tournament on the PGA Tour that saw winners like Tom Weiskopf, Raymond Floyd and Andy Bean. The PaineWebber World Seniors Invitational (most recently known as the Home Depot Invitational) was hosted at Quail Hollow from 1983 to 1989. Miller Barber, Bruce Crampton and Gary Player were among those topping the leaderboard at the time.
Today, many know Quail Hollow as host to the Wells Fargo Championship, a PGA Tour stop that has drawn crowds of around 35,000 since 2003. Tournament victors have included Lucas Glover, Rory McIlroy, Jim Furyk, Rickie Fowler, Vijay Singh and Tiger Woods.
The course features several signature holes, with the 14th hole serving as a standout test. On this hole, the par 4 is a slight dogleg left, which offers up a narrow landing area for tee shots that need to avoid fairway bunkers to the left and right. A two-tiered green awaits a precision shot, as more than 7,100 square feet of surface area makes close placement to the pin paramount. The putting surface is guarded by deep bunkers to the left and middle right, and the 15-acre lake fronting the left side is a watery grave for errant shots.
Infamously dubbed “The Green Mile,” the three finishing holes at Quail Hollow are some of the most feared in professional golf. While the yardage doesn’t quite amount to a mile, it can feel that way for the players. The par-4 16th hole plays 506 yards. The par-3 17th hole plays 223 yards, and the closing par-4 18th hole stretches 494 yards. One of The Green Mile’s most memorable catastrophes befell David Toms, who approached the finishing hole with a six-shot lead at the 2003 Wells Fargo Championship. A disastrous quadruple-bogey 8 awaited him at the 18th hole, but he still managed to claim victory.
Watching the stars convene outside the ropes is as much a spectator sport as the tournament itself, and this year’s PGA Championship is sure to have its share of glitterati. Your best bet for spying the big names around the Queen City is to stop in the known celebrity haunts located closest to the course. Fine South Park eateries like Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House, The Palm, WP Kitchen + Bar and Upstream are all contenders. Meanwhile, The Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge, which is best known for accommodating players and celebrities visiting for the Wells Fargo Championship, promises to be a magnet for major faces. Grab a cocktail or cold beer at the bar because with a delicious, Southern-inspired farm-to-table menu, The Ballantyne’s on-site Gallery Restaurant is a likely hangout.
Major championships mean major parties, and PGA Championship Week in Charlotte is no exception. Check out the Players ParTEE on Tuesday, Aug. 8, beginning at 7:30 p.m. at Quail Hollow. This eighth annual event welcomes the players to Charlotte while benefitting Caddy for a Cure and Cool Kids Campaign. Find out more by visiting playerspartee.com.
Looking for a little celebrity edge? Don’t miss the Tee Party at Phillips Place on Wednesday, Aug. 9. A night of festivities that culminates in a performance by headliner Darius Rucker runs from 6 to 11 p.m. Peruse the rest of the party offerings at phillipsplacecharlotte.com.
The Major Rager brings a night of music, featuring Umphrey's McGee and Moon Taxi, to Charlotte Symphony Park on Thursday, Aug. 10. The event benefits the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra. Find out more at fwbpro.com.
And to mingle with fellow golf lovers in a mecca of great restaurants, including Georges Brasserie, Brio Tuscan Grille and Del Frisco’s Double Eagles Steakhouse, where you’re likely to eye a pro golfer or two, come to Piedmont Town Center. Music and a cash bar will run from 6 to 10 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 11, with free entry to the public.
A few tournament-tested strategies will help you make the most of your day on the course.
Practice rounds (Monday through Wednesday of Championship Week) offer the easiest course navigation and closest proximity to the players. For the main event, arrive early in the day; the course is most crowded after noon. To find out if $30 practice round tickets are still available, visit pgachampionship.com.
Thursday and Friday offer full-field viewing before the competition is cut from 156 to the 70 lowest-scoring players (plus ties). The vast practice area offers great views of the pros before and after their rounds.
Be sure to wear a hat for shade, have sunscreen and bug spray handy, and stay hydrated. Comfort stations are located throughout the course. Snagging behind-the-green viewing spots at the finishing holes means staking out seats at the 16th, 17th and 18th holes very early each day. Follow your favorite players in the morning and then grab a shady spot in the afternoon, letting them come to you. Finally, enjoy the scene. History is being made in Charlotte, and you’re part of it.
If you’d like to get in on the action but don’t have a ticket, check out the available on-site volunteer opportunities. You’ll work a four-hour shift at Quail Hollow Club, helping out in areas like the Championship Shop or at individual holes, and pay a volunteer/uniform fee of $193. In exchange, you’ll be granted a volunteer uniform designed by Ralph Lauren, complimentary parking, meal and water vouchers, the Official 99th PGA Championship Program and a chance to see history unfold in person. Visit pgachampionship.com.
No tickets for the PGA Championship? No problem. Dozens of sports bars and area golf clubs will be tuning in for patrons.
Though you’ll be able to find local lairs offering libations and broadcasts of the tournament all over town, we’ve got a few top picks based on the beer and bar bites factors. Sprawling All American Pub fills up nightly with fans eager to catch college basketball and NFL football, but plenty of TVs, plus pulled pork nachos and cold pours make it an ideal place to post up for the PGA. With locations from Ballantyne to Midtown and Belmont, your neighborhood Hickory Tavern is an ideal go-to for tee time on the big screen. Beers from local breweries are available on tap, and killer chicken wings smothered in flavorful sauces fill the menu. In the mood for something a bit more subdued and near the action? Order the steamed Prince Edward Island mussels and a glass of prosecco at WP Kitchen + Bar in Phillips Place, which is about a five-minute drive from Quail Hollow.
Looking to catch a bit of PGA coverage and perfect your swing before or after? Schedule a round at one of Charlotte’s gorgeous courses. Highland Creek Golf Club, Rocky River Golf Club, Springfield Golf Club, Olde Sycamore Golf Plantation, Birkdale Golf Club, The Golf Club at Ballantyne, Renaissance Park Golf Course, Charles T. Myers Golf Course and Skybrook Golf Club all plan to broadcast the tournament.
What to Know Before You Go
PGA Championship Tickets and Practice Rounds: Tickets for Championship rounds (Thursday-Sunday) of the 2017 PGA Championship are sold out. To find out if $30 practice round tickets (Monday-Wednesday) are still available, visit pgachampionship.com.
PGA of America Free-ticket Programs: Throughout Championship Week, each ticketed adult can bring up to four juniors age 17 and under onto the grounds for free. Same-day junior tickets can be picked up at the Admission Sales and Will Call Office at the main entrance and will be available each day regardless of sellout.All U.S. active duty, military retirees, active reserve, National Guard and accompanying spouse/partner are eligible to receive complimentary daily grounds tickets any day of Championship Week by presenting a Military ID at the Admission Sales and Will Call Office.
PGA Championship Attendance, Parking and Transportation: Gate opening times, transportation and parking information for the 2017 PGA Championship will be released later this spring and listed at pgachampionship.com. Tee times are posted one day in advance of play.
Where to Catch Live Coverage
TV coverage for the PGA Championship is scheduled as follows (All times EST):
Thursday, Aug. 10: TNT 1-7 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 11: TNT 1-7 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 12: TNT 11 a.m.-2 p.m., CBS 2-7 p.m.
Sunday, Aug. 13: TNT 11 a.m.-2 p.m., CBS 2-7 p.m.