Quail Hollow Club will show off Fazio’s demand for ‘big’ golf as it hosts Presidents Cup

The 14th rendition of the Presidents Cup, the biannual series of matches between teams from the United States and International players from outside Europe, will be contested at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina from Sept. 22-25.

The team event and who is playing for the U.S. and the Internationals – and who isn’t – has hogged most of the spotlight in the run-up to the event but that’s likely to change once play begins. Expect Quail Hollow’s peerless and challenging Tom Fazio-designed golf course at the club to be talked about as much as the competition itself, as the course and its tests will play a huge factor in the competition.

The course

Quail Hollow Club is set on over 257 acres just south of downtown Charlotte, southeast of Charlotte Douglas International Airport and inside of I-485, the loop around the city. It was founded in 1959 and golf has been played at the club since 1961, originally on a course designed by George Cobb. Arnold Palmer got the first commission to redesign some of the course and changed a handful of holes in 1986.

Fazio led a redesign in 1997 and has made modifications to the course four other times – in 2003, in 2013-14 when all the putting surfaces were rebuilt, in 2016 when he revamped the bunkers in advance of the 2017 PGA Championship and last year when he moved some bunkers to add the need for length off the tee to an already long (7,521 yards) course.

The renovations have, in essence, modernized the course, almost hole by hole, over the years.

Quail Hollow, the home of the Wells Fargo Championship on the PGA Tour in years it’s not hosting a major championship, is a lovely, yet dangerous, parkland-style course that highlights the rolling terrain of the Piedmont region of North Carolina. It’s routed through stands of fairway-narrowing trees, with plenty of water and sand to enhance the challenge.

If you’ve played a Fazio-designed course, and you likely have if you are reading this feature, then you know the architect likes to go “big.” He’s not afraid to move a lot of dirt to get the course he sees in his head, and Quail Hollow is no different in that respect.

Fazio gives golfers wide landing areas to reward bold play and long hitters; his greens are huge – sometimes the player feels that there is enough room on the putting surfaces for two greens – but they are segmented, and hole locations are demanding to accentuate the need for dead-on approach shots.

Quail Hollow is famous for its closing stretch, Nos. 16-18, that is collectively known as “The Green Mile.” Consisting of a 506-yard par-4, followed by the 190-yard par-3 surrounded by water and the 494-yard closing hole, the daunting trio usually has a lot to say about who wins the Wells Fargo Championship.

The PGA has tweaked Quail Hollow’s normal routing for the Presidents Cup, placing “The Green Mile” as the 13th, 14th and 15th holes in the round to make sure the stretch has some effect on the matches. As a point of reference, at the 2019 Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne in Australia all 30 matches reached the 15th but only 12 of those reached the finishing hole.

Quail Hollow’s back-nine is much tougher than the front, as a 14-acre lake comes into play on many of the holes. Expect the putting surfaces, turfed with Champion Bermudagrass, to be firm and fast. The course as a whole is very strategic and well-bunkered off the tee and sets up for players to visually read each hole and see the shots that have to be hit.

Fazio made sure that Quail Hollow’s routing is very playable for the membership that tees it up on the course the other 11 months of the year.

“When we were in the planning process we were always thinking about the best players in the world,” Fazio said in advance of the PGA Championship in 2017. “That can be a tendency to think hard, but that’s not the case. We’re not into just hard because we have a membership that plays this golf course.”

You have to be invited to become a member at Quail Hollow Club so just playing the course here is a rare treat for even the top players in the world. It will be interesting to watch the battle for the Presidents Cup and how Fazio’s course brings out the best in the best.

Quail Hollow

Other options for golf in North Carolina

While you’ll have a tough time wrangling a round at Quail Hollow, there are plenty of great public access courses in North Carolina. Here are four options:

Pinehurst Resort, Pinehurst

About a hundred mile east of Charlotte is the finer-than-fine Pinehurst Resort, with nine splendid courses designed by the likes of Donald Ross (course Nos. 1, 2 and 3), Gil Hanse (No. 4), Ellis Maples (No. 5), George and Tom Fazio (No. 6), Rees Jones (No. 7), Tom Fazio (No. 8) and Jack Nicklaus (No. 9). There’s also Thistle Dhu, an 18-hole putting only course, and Hanse’s Cradle short course, a nine-hole layout ranging from 56-113 yards.

Pinehurst is, by name, the Cradle of American Golf. No. 2, restored to its glory by the Coore-Crenshaw design team, has served as the site of more single golf championships than any course in America and hosted back-to-back U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open Championships for the first time in 2014.

You will never travel to anyplace more golf-centric than this village and a trip here is an absolute must for your bucket list.

Linville Golf Club, Linville

Ross’s fingerprints are all over Linville Golf Club, located about two hours northwest of Charlotte and one of the oldest courses in North Carolina. He designed the course here in 1924, but by then folks had been playing golf on the site for more than 30 years. The tagline for the course here is “the challenge is in its simplicity,” as Ross’s course rambles through tree-lined fairways to smallish greens. The par-4 third hole at Linville, on which a creek crosses the line of play three times, has been called one of the top 100 holes in the world by Golf Magazine. Complete the trip to the edge of the High Country with a stay at the Eseeola Lodge.

Rumbling Bald, Lake Lure

Set on the edge of Lake Lure about two hours west of Charlotte, Rumbling Bald is an idyllic 36-hole retreat featuring contrasting layouts by Dan Maples and W.B. Lewis. Rumbling Bald’s marquee course, the Maples-designed Apple Valley, stretches to almost 6,800 yards and features expansive views of Bald Mountain as mountain lakes adorn 12 holes. The Lewis-fashioned Bald Mountain course plays at 6,300 yards and is renowned for its unique configuration with five par-5s and five par-3s. Movie buffs appreciate the 16th green, the backdrop of a scene from the movie “Dirty Dancing.”

Grandover Resort Golf and Spa, Greensboro

This resort is set about two hours northeast of Charlotte and has two courses, the East and the West, designed by former U.S Open and PGA Championship winner David Graham and Gary Panks. The courses move up and down rolling fairways and through stands of oaks, pines and dogwoods among the property’s 1,500 acres. Fairness abounds, a hallmark of the underrated design team’s courses.

Thistle Dhu at Pinehurst