Over the last 30 years I have witnessed the various design changes made to Quail Hollow. The course was always a fine test but nothing really stood out architecturally. Changes were made -- courtesy of plenty of money -- and the club is enhanced by both its ideal location in Charlotte and from having a PGA TOUR event hosted each year via the Wells Fargo. No doubt having the PGA Championship last year was a big boost for status. The 2021 President's Cup will also be hosted at Quail Hollow.
The recent work by Tom Fazio was meant to iron out the shortcomings -- primarily on the outward nine. The opening hole -- previously a par-5 -- is a far stronger par-4 and mandates a quality tee shot right off the bat.
Fazio did extensive work to really add a bit more character to the course but while the course has been upgraded in being able to host the world's finest players the architectural elements are lacking in real nuance and subtlety.
The key aspect that makes Quail Hollow so demanding is the dense Bermuda rough that lines the fairways. If you can't hit a straight ball -- consistently and with appropriate length -- you'll be in for a very long, long day. The strong players who have played well there -- Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, young Tiger Woods -- all drove the ball superbly. If the tee shots are both long and straight -- then Quail Hollow is susceptible to low scores.
The green contours are good but nothing that stands apart to be in the same league with Pinehurst #2 or even neighboring Charlotte CC.
The famous "Green Mile" is often bandied about and the trio of holes is very good. The 16th plays better when into the wind because the corner fairway bunker on the right side can then not be driven over. The par-3 17th is a first rate hole and when the tee and pin positions are moved it adds to the versatility. The 18th hole is ballyhooed and quite rightly. The tee shot is threatened with water running up the left side. Bailing right is not an option. The green is defended by the same water off the tee and the green is sufficiently contoured but not uniquely so.
All in all, Quail Hollow is a strong test because of the demands placed off the tee. Keeping out of the pesky Bermuda rough is an absolute must. However, Quail Hollow just doesn't have the consistent hole quality that really sets it apart. The details matter in architecture. Quail Hollow fixates on a few dimensions but the sum total is more of a paint-by-the-numbers design with only snippets of high quality design included.
by M. James Ward
Date: May 13, 2018