PGA Championship: Inside the Course Changes

The RACV Royal Pines layout is best known to Australian audiences as the host of the Australian Ladies Masters, where it has been played since switching over from Palm Meadows in 1992.

The PGA Championship will adopt the ‘Ladies Masters’ layout this week and while most of the holes will be familiar to veteran watchers, some of the clubs being used will be different as the course has been stretched and the rough brought in considerably to help protect the resort layout from the world class skills of Masters champion Adam Scott, former FedEx Cup champion Brandt Snedeker, Rickie Fowler, Marc Leishman et al.

The Gold Coast weather has been magnificent for the past few months with very little rainfall; great for the locals and tourists, not so great for the course superintendent in his bid to grow corridors of effective and fairway -defining rough.

That’s not to say the golf course is completely unprotected as what rough there is can be brutal in places, especially around some of the greens.

With the course to undergo a gradual metamorphosis under Graham Marsh Design over the next few years – a re-designed nine holes will be in play for the 2014 championship and a full eighteen in 2015 and beyond – what tinkering has been done for this week’s event should be interesting.

The tee locations on holes 1, 4, 7, 9, 10, 13 and 16 were the most obvious changes noted during a quick walk through some of the holes the weekend before the championship.

Players will need to be ready from the opening tee shot as the tee has been moved right back next to the putting green to turn this comfortable opening hole for the Ladies Masters into a 430m challenge.

Holes 4, 7, 9 and 13 have been lengthened considerably and the par-three 14th and 16th will both play at 200m, where they’re normally mid to short irons for the women in the Masters.

However, the most striking change has occurred at the 10th. The straightaway par-four runs parallel to the 1st with a lake to the left that would only be in play for players of this calibre with the wildest of tee shots.

At 350m, it would be highly unlikely that anyone would find the water in the championship however organisers have created an exciting tee location to the left of the lake near the resort’s wedding chapel that completely changes the character of the hole and mindset of the player.

The tee location now requires a the tee shot to carry the lake and provides a ‘risk reward’ option should the player choose to bite off a longer water carry to open up a short pitch to the green. The existing fairway bunker and rough through the fairway will also be more of a consideration from the tee for those choosing to take a conservative route.

Depending on wind directions and the state of tournament, the 10th could be a pivotal hole and exciting viewing as the battle over the final nine holes for the Joe Kirkwood Cup begins on Sunday.