New Route for Fans, Better Bunkers for Players
The Ryder Cup matches will be coming to Hazeltine National Golf Club in 2016 and preparations for golf’s premiere international team competition have long been underway. The world’s top golfers will play a very different version of the storied course when they come to Chaska in September of 2016 thanks to a re-route of the holes, designed to maximize the impact for spectators and an overhaul of the bunkers, designed to improve drainage and play for years to come. Here’s an overview of the changes to Hazeltine for the 2016 Ryder Cup, and a hint that there may be more to come.
The course has been undergoing a subtle facelift since the 2009 PGA Championship, and the most recent change is an overhaul of 107 bunkers throughout the course. “We felt we got the greens in good shape after 2010. We got the fairways in good shape after 2010. Both of those are in really good shape,” said Chandler Withington, head golf professional at Hazeltine National. “Our bunkers were the last piece of the puzzle, and those are done now. So we are really optimistic about the shape the course is going to be in for the tournament in 2016.”
According to Withington, the bunkers were long overdue for a new drainage system, and the renovation project was completed just before the snow began to fall in mid-November. “That was a big project. Our bunkers needed a huge hug,” he said. “They had major drainage issues, consistency issues, a lot of things going on. Our bunkers hadn’t been touched in over 15 years.”
Dunnick Construction, the golf course restoration company, came in with a backhoe and pulled all the sand out of the bunkers. They added a lining system of peat rock gravel with a sealant to the bunkers, where none previously existed.
“It was just dirt and sand before, so every time it rained, the bunkers would just fill up like cereal bowls,” Withington said. “It didn't take much rain at all and there would be standing water in our bunkers and we would have to pump all the water out. If we got rain during one of the rounds of the Ryder Cup, we wouldn’t have the time to pump out and restore all 107 bunkers.”
The improved bunkers will drain better and the new sand will be consistent and increase long-term playability. In the past, dirt mixed in with the sand when the bunkers drained poorly, making them more difficult to play.
The Ryder Cup will use holes 1-4 and 14-18 for the front nine at Hazeltine, and then 10 through 13 and five through nine for the back. The par 5 seventh and par 3 eighth over water will have plenty of drama and room for spectators—which is just what the PGA of America was looking for.
The club proposed the new route to give more spectators a chance to see the climax of the event. Match play tournaments don’t often end on the final hole, and at Hazeltine, holes 16 and 17 have restricted viewing areas.
“The 16th hole, for example, has water going all the way on the right side of the fairway, and if the Ryder Cup matches were to end there, maybe 5,000 people would be able to see it,” Withington said. “That's not a very high percentage of 40,000 people. We want as many people as possible to be able to see the play--especially on the pivotal holes.”
Withington said the American Ryder Cup team captain will be chosen by February, and he may have some changes in course set up in store to help create a “home field advantage,” but those changes remain to be seen.
We saw in 2012 where captain Davis Love mowed the rough at Medina,” Withington said. “And Paul Azinger in 2008 was very intentional in some of the things he did at Valhalla. There was one hole where he cut down a tree because J.B. Holmes was long enough to cut the corner. Strategically they have to get an idea for who’s on their team. So we will see; a lot of that is to be determined, but the course is set and waiting for the 2016 matches and the anticipation is only going to grow.
“The way the Ryder Cup ended in Gleneagles with the U.S. losing again and players speaking up about what needed to be done and there being a task force being involved,” Withington said, “it all builds toward us. Hopefully we can get the U.S. team to win here and put us back on the map.”
Hazeltine National Golf Club is a private golf club located in Chaska, Minn., about 30 minutes southwest of downtown Minneapolis. The club opened in 1962 with a mission to build and maintain a golf course suitable for the conduct of national championships. Hazeltine is one of only two courses in the United States to have hosted the U.S. Open, PGA Championship, U.S. Senior Open, U.S. Women’s Open, U.S. Amateur, and Ryder Cup. Hazeltine’s meeting and event space, golf shop and specified services in the learning center are open to the public. More information about becoming a member at Hazeltine is available at www.hazeltinenational.com.