The transformation of Quail Hollow Club’s “Green Mile” is almost complete.
The second and final phase of a massive course improvement project that has dramatically changed the par-4 16th hole and includes the transition to MiniVerde bermuda grass greens is scheduled to be finished in time for an Aug. 29 reopening for members.
The changes will have a significant impact on future Wells Fargo Championships and the 2017 PGA Championship.
Sources anticipate a five-year contract extension for the Wells Fargo Championship to be signed later this year. It would keep the PGA Tour event at Quail Hollow Club through 2019, with the event moving to Eagle Pointe in Wilmington in 2017 when the PGA Championship is played in Charlotte.
Originally, the Quail Hollow changes – which included another redesign of the short par-4 eighth hole – were to be implemented over several years, but they were completed over the past two summers, expediting the process which should eliminate the issue of poor putting surfaces that tarnished the Wells Fargo Championship last May.
“Our whole concept is to have a course that’s challenging for the best players in the world and one that would still be fun for the members. We think we’ve done that,” club president Johnny Harris said.
Course architect Tom Fazio has overseen the project, which includes softening the contours on several putting surfaces to accommodate the faster green speeds created by the new ultradwarf grass that has drawn rave reviews at East Lake Golf Club, site of the Tour Championship in Atlanta.
The most dramatic change is the creation of a new 16th hole, which begins the so-called “Green Mile” finish. From the tournament tees, the hole is now a 505-yard par-4 that plays to the left of where the original fairway was located. The tee shot will play slightly downhill with a large oak tree and a fairway bunker guarding the right side.
From the fairway, tour players will be left with approximately 175 yards into a green that is perched on the edge of the lake that also guards the 14th and 17th holes. The putting surface is canted gently from back to front to accept longer shots.
The new 16th green sits approximately 80 yards left of where the original 16th green was located and is approximately 25 feet lower.
Also, the tee for the par-3 17th hole was moved to the right of where it has been for the past two Wells Fargo Championships. The hole can play up to 217 yards.
The new layout will allow for more spectator access and a viewing area that will allow fans to watch action on four holes – Nos. 14-17 – from one spot.
The par-4 eighth hole has remained controversial despite various changes. The latest version makes it approximately 300 yards from the tournament tees and it will play basically straight with bunkers guarding the green. There is an open area in the front of the green to encourage players to try to drive the green, which has been softened significantly in the latest renovation.
The green on the par-3 13th hole was moved nearly 30 yards to the left to provide better air circulation.
Various other tweaks were made around the golf course, including taking out a large oak tree near the front right of the ninth green to allow for better growing conditions for the new heat-tolerant putting surfaces.
The new putting surfaces were planted approximately seven weeks ago and have grown in well despite cooler-than-normal temperatures. The fairways were also fully reconditioned, undergoing an aggressive program made possible by the course being closed for more than three months.
• Tobacco Road Golf Club in Sanford recently received an impressive honor when it was ranked No. 50 in the world for course design by Golf Course Architecture magazine. The poll was based on voting by more than 2,000 course designers around the world and is a testament to the imagination of designer Mike Strantz. It ranked above such famous designs as Harbour Town, Pasatiempo, Royal Lytham & St. Annes, Maidstone and Hoylake. The Old Course at St. Andrews ranked No. 1.
• The Wyndham Championship in Greensboro is two weeks away and stacking up another strong field led by defending champion Sergio Garcia, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Davis Love III, Martin Kaymer, Carl Pettersson, Zach Johnson and others.
• Hunter Mahan will have even more fans when he returns to the tour next week at the PGA Championship after withdrawing from the RBC Canadian Open – with the lead – to be home for the birth of his first child. Mahan didn’t hesitate to WD and he’s bypassing the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational this week to be home and to be a father.
Ron Green Jr. is senior writer for Global Golf Post (www.globalgolfpost.com) and a contributor to the Charlotte Observer.