Year after year, few PGA Tour courses electrify with as much drama as the Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, N.C. Renowned for its pulse-pounding closing stretch of holes known as the “Green Mile,” Quail Hollow has witnessed countless crooked numbers on its final three holes during the annual Wells Fargo Championship, as well as during its memorable turn as the 2017 PGA Championship host.
As the venue for the 2022 Presidents Cup, Quail Hollow will again roll out this trio of scorecard wreckers, but not as players remember them. Competitors will encounter the Green Mile earlier in the round, likely at a more pivotal stage of a match. Overall, the course will look differently and play differently.
With the help of the club’s head professional Scott Davenport, here’s what to watch for at Quail Hollow for the 2022 Presidents Cup.
An Opening Hole Unlike Any Other
Tom Fazio’s reimagining of the first hole ahead of the 2017 PGA boosted the fear factor starting the round at Quail Hollow from a 3 to a 9.5 out of 10. For the 2022 Presidents Cup, that number is elevated to 11. Once a benign, straightaway “warm-up” hole, Fazio’s new starting hole combined the old first hole and the old par-three 2nd hole. The hole features an elevated landing area, as well as a routing that severely twists to the right—and it measures a bruising 524 yards, a rugged start for a par-four. However, the setup for the Presidents Cup will kick it up another notch—or three.
“For the very first time, the PGA Tour is doing ground-level hospitality suites, like Jerry Jones does with AT&T Stadium Field Level suites for Dallas Cowboys games,” Davenport says of the PGA Tour’s arena-like structure at the first tee. “We’re going to have those all around the first tee. On top of the ground level suites will be spectator seating. It will be 90 feet in the air and extend 40 yards down each side of the teeing area, down the fairway. The environment is going to be electric.”
Design and Routing Changes
Not much has changed architecturally since the PGA Tour pros last saw Quail Hollow for the 2021 Wells Fargo Championship. Tom Fazio and his team relocated the fairway bunker down the left side of the landing area at the 592-yard par-five 10th, placing it further down the fairway. “It went from being a 310-yard carry to a 335-yard carry,” says Davenport. At the 184-yard par-three 4th hole, Fazio lowered the front of the green to make the putting surface more visible.
Much more noticeable are where the holes players know so well will now appear during the round. The PGA Tour, much like the PGA of America, occasionally will re-configure the routing of the host course for team competitions. Sometimes, it’s related to gallery flow or player convenience. At Quail Hollow, it’s tied to pure drama. One of the most difficult, beautiful closing stretches of holes in professional golf—the “Green Mile” spanning holes 16 through 18—will play as holes 13 through 15 at the Presidents Cup. That way, they’ll almost certainly be utilized. In match play, there’s no guarantee that would happen if they remained as 16 through 18. For perspective, At the 2019 Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne in Australia, all 30 matches reached the 15th hole, but only 12 of those 30 reached the 18th.
“Those holes are such a supreme challenge, we’ve got to get them into the mix,” says Johnny Harris, the president of Quail Hollow Club.
Competitors at the Presidents Cup will play holes 1 through 8 in their normal order. Then the routing jumps to the regular 12th hole, followed by the regular 13th through the regular 18th. The final three holes of the reconfigured course will be the regular 10th, the regular 11th, and the regular 9th. Though it may confuse some, it won’t be awkward. “The 8th green and the 11th green are virtually adjacent,” says Davenport. “So, it’s not really much of a jump to go from 8 to 12.”
Conditions and Setup
Unlike the ryegrass that fill the fairways when the Wells Fargo is played at Quail Hollow in May, the Presidents Cup will see Bermudagrass fairways in late September. Look for some run in the fairways. “Of course, it depends completely on what kind of weather we get, but in a normal year, it should be very firm and fast,” says Davenport. “Hopefully, the summer showers will not still be around in September like they would be in August, when we had the PGA Championship in 2017. However, “Unlike the PGA Championship, the rough for the Presidents Cup will not be nearly as formidable. The American captain (Davis Love III) felt like it would be in the team’s best interest not to have heavy rough.”
Five Pivotal Holes to Watch (According to Quail Hollow Head Professional Scott Davenport)
7th hole—546 yards, par five
Number 7 is a challenging driving hole because there’s water down the right side, penalty area down the right side, and bunkers down the left side. It’s very reachable in two if the player is able to get the drive in play. If you miss the drive, and put the ball out of play, it’s going to be difficult to recover. The green has a good bit of movement to it, so merely hitting it in two doesn’t guarantee a birdie.
8th hole—346 yards, par four
As a drivable par four, most of the time they’ll go for the green in the better ball format, though not as frequently in the alternate shot. You don’t want to miss in the greenside bunker. If you get it in the first half of that bunker, it makes for a pretty difficult shot, because there are a number of different levels to the putting surface. If the pin is on the back level and you’re in that bunker, trying to carry it to that back level is very difficult. And over the green is not especially good either.
14th hole—223 yards, par three
Our regular 17th hole is a peninsula green—not quite an island green, but close. There’s built-in drama here. The right side is the bailout area of that green, which is runoff area. The tough thing about finding the runoff area is chipping, pitching, or putting onto that green, because the green runs away from you toward the water. So it’s not great missing to the right. It can play as long as 220 or so; usually it’s between 175 yards and 220, depending on where the hole is cut. The green isn’t terribly receptive. It’s got some slope to it and if the Bermuda grass is firm, it requires a very good shot.
15th hole—494 yards, par four
Our regular 18th has seen it all. David Toms won our first Wells Fargo Championship making a quadruple-bogey 8 on the 72nd hole. Rory McIlroy came to the last hole and drove it in the creek, and had to take a drop from the left penalty area. He managed to make a 5. Fortunately, he had a two-shot lead.
It’s a very challenging driving hole and the green slopes hard from right to left towards the water. So a ball turning right to left still has a chance of going into the water, even if it lands in the middle of the green. That’s the downside of bailing out to the right off the tee. Trying to work a ball into that green is very difficult with that penalty area to the left. You pick your poison if you decide to lay-up off the tee. With a fairway bunker on the right and two bunkers guarding the green on the right, you’re taking a chance if you hit it short or right off the tee or into the green. It’s just a very demanding hole.
17th hole—462 yards, par four
If a match gets to the 17th hole, our normal 11th hole, it will be fun to watch. Before the 2017 PGA, we changed it from one of our easiest holes to one of our toughest. There was a beautiful Oak tree at the left corner of the dogleg left, but its position was such that we couldn’t grow grass on the fairway because of its shade. I really felt that when we took the tree out, it would just kill the hole. But Tom Fazio put in a couple of bunkers at the left corner of the dogleg and we moved the tee back. We moved the green back a good bit, too, so it added 40 yards to the hole. It’s very difficult to get the tee shot in the fairway. The pros can’t carry the bunkers on the left so they have to fit in a tee shot to a tight target. Again, they could choose 3-wood, but shooting a long iron into that green is impossible.
This is another one of those greens where the high point is in the middle. So if the pin’s back and you try to play to the back pin location, you can’t stop the ball. These guys are great, but it’s an uphill shot. There are a couple of beautiful bunkers on the left side of the green. It’s going to be fun to watch if a match gets to that point, because it’s such a terrific, challenging hole now.