RIDGELAND, S.C. — One of the best golf courses in the country rarely has been played by the best golfers in the world.
That will change in June when Congaree Golf Club will serve as a one-time host of a PGA Tour event moved from Canada because of logistical complications related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the announcement came only recently on March 30, Congaree has been preparing and waiting since its 2017 opening to host a prestigious event while collecting prestigious accolades.
The newly named Palmetto Championship at Congaree will bring a field of 156 golfers — including world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, the South Carolina native confirmed Tuesday — to the private club north of Ridgeland near Gillisonville in Jasper County.
‘This is going to be huge’: Palmetto Championship at Congaree set for June
“There’s a mystique to this that’s created some curiosity among the players,” Ty Votaw, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for the PGA Tour, said Monday during a media day for the June 10-13 tournament replacing the RBC Canadian Open.
There’s a dichotomy for the tour players, who strive to be comfortable in all aspects on golf courses so they can play their best. Given a choice, they tend to play familiar courses where they have a track record of success or at least suit their game.
Then again, they are competitors, and the opportunity to play somewhere new and different will be a challenge accepted by many.
“I have heard nothing but great reviews about the golf course at Congaree and have no doubt it will provide a stiff challenge for all of us on the PGA Tour,” Johnson said in a news release Tuesday.
Prepare to hear that word “challenge” a lot because Congaree is regarded as tough but fair by those that have played it — or in the case of John McNeely, manage it.
He said it’s a “very native, natural course” incorporating sand, huge live oak trees and wetlands. Famed golf architect Tom Fazio and his team designed the course.
“They were terrific to work with,” said McNeely, also crediting God for the natural beauty of the location. “Dan Friedkin (Congaree co-founder with the late Bob McNair) had a lot to say on the golf course and things we were working through, meandering through all the trees and the wetlands that were on site. It wasn’t just a blank slate to use because of all of the sensitivity to those areas.”
Lucas Glover doesn’t need to be convinced. The PGA Tour player, a native of Greenville, is a Professional Ambassador for Congaree and found the course exceeds expectations.
“You hear so many things about places and most of them don’t deliver,” said Glover, the 2009 U.S. Open champion. “This one delivered.”
He was credited during the media day for delivering fellow South Carolina native Johnson to the event, but Glover shrugged it off.
“I just made sure he knew that the people here wanted him here. I think he already knew that,” said Glover, who lives not far from Johnson in the Jupiter, Florida, area. “Our kids go to the same school, so I feel like I have his ear, if it’s only for a few seconds.”
Still, he said a commitment from a player of Johnson’s stature is important because other top players will consider following suit.
“Hopefully, that will domino effect and we’ll get an awesome field for this event,” Glover said.
He expects to field questions from his peers, who will want to know comparisons to other courses.
“It’s probably difficult to do because it is that different,” said Glover, who estimates maybe two dozen tour players have seen the course. “As far as the firmness of the fairways, it’s a links-y style, like if it was firm and fast over in the U.K. But around the greens, you’ve got like Winged Foot-height bunkers and Seminole-speed Bermuda fast greens that roll off everywhere. We’ve got a solid mix of every awesome course that I can think of. But there’s nothing like this place.”
Do your coursework
He’s intrigued by the amount of preparation the golfers will do once they get on the course in the days leading up to the tournament rounds. He said previous practice rounds may not be as important depending on how the course is set up for a tournament.
“There are so many ways to play this place,” Glover said. “You could have a guy who’s short and straight, can chase it down the fairways and play smart golf. Then you could have a guy that can hit it over a bunch of the trouble and play it that way.”
No matter the strategy, golfers will have to use their imaginations, he said. They will have to shape shots to reach desired locations on the fairways and greens.
“… the golf course demands that,” Glover said. “It’s not just if you can. You have to do it some to get to places you need to get to, to make birdies or even sometimes pars. I like the fact that you’ve got to use your imagination and curve the ball. I would look for guys like if Bubba (Watson) plays or somebody like Bubba that can really shape it, use his imagination and feel and touch, I think would do very well here.”
Nathan Dominitz is the Sports Content Editor of the Savannah Morning News and savannahnow.com. Email him at email@example.com. Twitter: @NathanDominitz
original article link https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2021/05/05/pga-tour-congaree-mystique-palmetto-challenge/