People from miles away heard Jack Nicklaus rubbing his hands together when he was approached to design Valhalla back in the 1980s. This 500-acre parcel of Kentucky land was an architect’s dream, with varied terrain, water and plenty of space. So much space that 40 possible course routings were considered before construction eventually began.
Valhalla finally opened for play in 1986 to a rapturous standing ovation but Valhalla is an old Viking word, which roughly translated means “Hall of the slain”, a mythical heaven for Norse warriors slain gloriously in battle. Hold on a minute, we know this is a tough course but surely it’s not that tough? Well, we do know that it took a Tiger to tame Valhalla in the 2000 PGA Championship, which was the second time the club had played host to the PGA (previously in 1996 won by Mark Brooks). The PGA Championship returned to Valhalla in 2014, which Rory McIlroy won in the evening twilight to secure his fourth Major title.
|The Ryder Cup|
|Valhalla Golf Club played host to the 2008 Ryder Cup matches between the USA and Europe. Team Captains were Paul Azinger (US) and Nick Faldo (Europe). Team USA ended their run of three successive defeats by recording in Kentucky their biggest Ryder Cup victory since 1981. Jim Furyk clinched the deciding point, defeating Miguel Angel Jiménez to take the US total to an unassailable 14 ½ points. In the singles, Kentuckians Kenny Perry and J B Holmes held off Henrik Stenson and Soren Hansen, while Boo Weekley comfortably dispatched Oliver Wilson. USA 16 ½ - Europe 11 ½. The Ryder Cup was played at The K Club in 2006 and at Celtic Manor in 2010.|
We’re great fans of the US reciprocal guest policy which is similar to the system that is prevalent in Europe. We’re delighted that Valhalla embraces this policy, allowing members of other golf clubs to play the course providing they are introduced beforehand.
The front nine at Valhalla is fashioned in a links-style with fairways that pitch and roll through a fairly flat, low-lying and open valley. Jack needed to do a bit of earth moving to create the outward half, not only to make a visually attractive sequence of holes, but also to protect the fairways from possible storm damage. The back nine, on the other hand, is a much more traditional tree-lined layout.
A number of minor tweaks were made by Nicklaus ahead of the two majors mentioned earlier and Big Jack was selected again to modify the course prior to the eagerly awaited 2008 Ryder Cup which put Valhalla Golf Club under the world’s spotlight once more. Team USA emphatically won the 37th Ryder Cup with an impressive 16½-11½ victory over Europe, heralding their first win since 1999 at The Country Club in Brookline.
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Jack Nicklaus will forever be associated with greatness on the golf course, but it’s his design work that should also be remembered in equal measure to his magnificent competitive achievements on the links.