Major championship golf being staged in North Carolina is not a new phenomenon, with Pinehurst a revered host of the US Open. But that fabled multi-course resort – known as ‘The cradle of the game’ in America – differs markedly from the club that will stage the PGA Championship.
Unlike the modus operandi of Pinehurst – with its commercial, play-and-stay vibe – Quail Hollow is one of the most exclusive and prestigious golf clubs in America.
It’s doesn’t quite have the mystique of Augusta National, but you get the idea.
Indeed, while it is a private, member-owned club, it is one dominated by the passion and drive of chairman Johnny Harris, who himself is a member at Augusta.
Harris is joined by 600 members at Quail Hollow, but only 300 are local. The rest deem it good enough to fly in to Charlotte from all over the country to play here (and also head out to Pinehurst and Kiawah and so on for a golf break).
Make no mistake, to be a member here – complete with its ‘Gleneagles Road’ address – has some kudos. The houses sprinkled around the course give an indication of the costs involved in gaining entrance to the rarefied air of Quail Hollow; we are talking upwards of $6m to snare one of the properties overlooking the holes. Arnold Palmer even owned one.
What do you get for your considerable outlay?
One of America’s revered championship courses.
No tee times to be frustrated by.
The chance to include as many players as you want in your group.
The chance to drive your buggy anywhere you want, a la POTUS.
Driving through Charlotte en route to Quail Hollow is not dissimilar to the journey to Augusta National. There is no inclination that you are about to arrive at one of the most illustrious pieces of land in America.
Just as Augusta National stands apart from the rest of the city it is located in, so Quail Hollow stands apart from Charlotte.
It is literally and metaphorically fenced off from the city, with the local influencers and the super-wealthy among its exclusive membership.
Harris’ family has dominated the club since its inception. It was at his home in 1959 that his father James convened a meeting of 21 local business leaders to found the club.
The family were driving forces behind its development. They made their money in Lincoln Harris, a real estate business (locals will tell you the family has owned most of the Charlotte area at one point or another).
The course was originally designed by George Cobb in 1961 but has been reworked by Palmer – a close friend of Harris Snr and Jnr – in 1986, and Tom Fazio in 1997. Alterations followed in 2012 and 2013 before the huge renovation last year.
It has the feel of a robust championship course, with tall pines, intimidating water hazards, undulating fairways that disappear into the ether and sparkling white sand bunkers that scream Augusta. They scream Augusta for a reason; the sand in the bunkers at Augusta is from Quail Hollow’s state, North Carolina. Sprawling over a 257-acre site, everything about it points to a muscular championship test.
The clubhouse is suitably opulent, a handsome, imposing exterior propped up by classic Carolina (Greek-style) columns and a distinguished interior that smells of oak panels, leather armchairs, Jack Daniels and Cuban cigars.
The club even has a major champion of recent vintage; 2012 US Open champion Webb Simpson was born in Raleigh, North Carolina, and went to the state’s Wake Forest university. He lives in a mansion behind the 7th tee.
As well as hosting the year’s final major, Quail Hollow will also be the stage for the 2021 Presidents Cup. It has previously hosted the Kemper Open from 1969-79 and the Wells Fargo Championship since 2003.
Past winners include: Tom Weiskopf (1971, 1973, 1977); Doug Sanders (1972); Raymond Floyd (1975); David Toms (2003); Vijay Singh (2005); Jim Furyk (2006); Tiger Woods (2007); Anthony Kim (2008); Rory McIlory (2010, 2015); Rickie Fowler (2012) and JB Holmes (2014).
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