Evolving for a big a tournament

Evolving for a big a tournament

Architect Tom Marzolf discusses the work it took to get Quail Hollow ready for the 99th PGA Championship.

August 10, 2017
Guy Cipriano
Construction Course News Show & Event Coverage
Tom Marzolf is hustling in Charlotte this week, splitting his time between a major tournament and the Golf Course Builders Association of America summer meeting. Marzolf, senior design associate, Fazio Design, spoke with GCI during the GCBAA meeting about the evolution of Quail Hollow, the site of the 99th PGA Championship.

Fazio Design has guided the master planning at Quail Hollow for the past two decades. The course underwent a major 89-day renovation last summer to prepare for the PGA Championship. 

What does this championship mean to your team?
“It’s a thrill. It’s amazing for the city of Charlotte. It’s amazing to see the evolution of Quail Hollow and the hard work the membership has done to keep making improvements to their golf course over a long period of time. The club has a great history of tournament golf, having played the Kemper Open there from ’69 to ’79. Our role in this was to help them as they evolved to their next championships. Showcasing the golf course led to improvements and further improvements. It was just putting together the master plan that was done on the ground. It’s amazing to see the evolution of over 20 years of work to get to this point.”

How were you able to get everything done last year in 89 days?
“It was just a really good plan to execute. While it was closed making the conversion from MiniVerde to Champion Bermudagrass, it gave time to do other things. Tom Fazio always felt the fifth hole could be improved upon, so we took a par-5 golf hole that could have been a better golf hole and adjusted it into the fourth hole par 3 and dogleg right par-4 fifth. You took No. 1 golf hole and No. 2 golf hole out of it, and that led to the first hole and the second hole being adjusted. The second hole was a par 3 and the first hole was a good starting hole, but it was kind of short and one of the easier holes on the golf course. In trying to make a championship golf course, the first hole was lengthened and played to the old two green site. Now you have a 525-yard opening par 4. It made sense to do all the work with putting the right team together to make it happen. It’s a testament to golf course builders and what they can do and material suppliers. Players get a brand new golf course on the front nine. It’s different.”

How important were the talents of superintendent Keith Wood and his team to pulling the project off?

“They did an amazing job wall-to-wall. The playing areas inside the ropes are tremendous, but also what I see when I’m out there is outside the ropes and under the trees. We have shaded areas under trees where we have a full stand of turf. It allows the gallery to walk through the forested areas on the sides of holes and be on grass. The golf holes themselves are excellent, but the environment for the spectators and guests walking through on clean turf on sides of holes. It’s amazing what they have been able to do wall-to-wall to present not only a great playing experience inside the ropes for the players but a nice environment for the spectators and galleries to enjoy the day.”

What’s different about the design and character of Quail Hollow compared to other places where Fazio Design has worked?
“It’s the land itself. It’s a beautiful piece of land with rolling terrain, a 14-acre lake on the back nine. The setting of a mature piece of land with large trees. George Cobb did the original golf course and it was well-routed. There’s been a lot of maturity in vegetation since the golf course opened in the early ‘60s. It’s this park-style golf course, well-maintained, healthy, large trees, a great setting on the sides of the holes. It frames up the work that has been done. The style of the golf course ... It’s a very, very strategic and well-bunkered off the tee. You stand on the tee and visually as a player you can read the golf hole and see the shots that you have to hit. It sets up well visually from tee to green. With the conditions this week and a little bit of rain at the beginning of the week, it’s drying out and we are getting some great weather. We’re excited for the weekend. It’s going to dry out quickly with Sub-Air Systems under the greens. The greens are rock hard and firm. They are very fast and very firm with the Champion Bermudagrass. I think we’re in for a great championship.”

Guy Cipriano is GCI’s associate editor.