If you’ve been named after a novel written by horror master Stephen King, there must be a host of creepy and chilling characteristics associated with your existence.
Even if the terror in question resides among the gentle, rolling hills of a tranquil golf course in Queen City.
Seriously, can evil and golf really co-exist?
At Quail Hollow Club they certainly do.
During a ride of more than 1,200 yards covering three holes, that would be the 16the17the and 18the – danger, horror and heartbreak refuse to disguise themselves at the annual venue of the PGA Tour’s Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte, North Carolina.
While certainly not as fatal as portrayed in the 1999 film adaptation of the same name starring Tom Hanks, where death row inmates take their final steps toward the execution chamber on a floor painted dull green, the dreaded expanse of Emerald Land in Quail Hollow leaves players gasping for breath when all is said and done.
In short, the trip is likely to be a good ride gone bad.
That will surely be the case in 14the edition of the Presidents Cup, where the USA will try to continue its dominance of the Internationals. And the organizers of the biennial clash have launched a major trick on the trifecta of terror. More on that later.
“It has to be one of the toughest stretches in golf,” said American Brandt Snedeker. “There is no way to lose them. Actually, there is no rescue in any of the holes.
“You just have to suck it up and get over it.”
Or as Webb Simpson, a member of Quail Hollow and 2012 US Open champion, put it: “I’ve thought about this many times. I can’t think of a three-hole stretch, including major championships, that is more difficult than the Green Mile.”
How difficult is it? Let’s add another movie reference and invoke Clubber Lang’s prediction in Rocky II: Pain. Consider: Each hole of the white-knuckle stretch features dangerous water hazards, potentially unnerving elevation changes, strategically placed bunkers, and Bermuda greens you shouldn’t mess with.
This was the result of a major renovation completed prior to the 2016 Wells Fargo Championship, which included rebuilding all 18 greens, changing the greens and tees, removing over 100 trees, and adding length to the layout.
In five editions of the Wells Fargo Championship since the makeover, the 494-yard par 4 18the has ranked as the tournament’s toughest hole three times and the second once, while the 217-yard par 3 17the it was the most difficult hole of 2019 and was never worse than sixth on the list of threatening holes. The 506-yard par 4 16the? It was the third most difficult hole in three of those contests.
And yes, the course average for each hole was above par at every tournament, including in 2021 when all 18the he played at an average of 4.456, making it the second-toughest par 4 on the PGA Tour that year.
“Those are three really brutal final holes,” said Australian Adam Scott. “If you can survive those holes and win, you have certainly proved it to yourself because they are very demanding. There is no respite.”
With that, here’s a quick snapshot of each hole.
No. 16 at Quail Hollow Club, who will play No. 13 in the Presidents Cup (Photo: Ben Jared/PGA Tour)
the 16the it is a par 4 that plays at 506 yards. The hole could slope to around 530 yards. The green moved 80 yards to the left, right up against a large lake. A sizable and deep fairway bunker to the right on the downhill tee shot should be avoided. It is better to avoid the bunkers in front of the green.
“The tee shot isn’t too hard, but then you get to the second shot and you see a lot of water. Under the right conditions, you can attack. But it’s rarely the right conditions,” said Justin Thomas, who won the 2017 PGA Championship at Quail Hollow Club.
The 17the it is a par 3 that plays at 223 yards. The hole could stretch to 235 yards. The tee shot is over water, with only dirt on the right side of the green offering safety from H2O. The green is usually firm, okay, sometimes it’s almost concrete, which means that even shots well hit to the back pins can bounce off and then roll into the water.
No. 17 at Quail Hollow Club, who will play No. 14 in the Presidents Cup. (Photo: Ben Jared/PGA Tour)
“Even making a pretty good shot on the 17, you can still do it in the water. All you’re trying to do when you play a lot is get to the green. And if the wind blows, you have to make sure you touch land,” said Spaniard Sergio Garcia. (Side note: Thomas’s better-than-good 7-iron in the final round of the PGA Championship basically sealed victory for him.)
the 18the it is a par 4 that plays at 494 yards. A creek and strong rough run down the entire left side of the hole, while a dense collection of problem trees and bunkers protect the right side of the fairway. The tee shot is downhill and the green is slightly elevated.
“There is no rescue in the hole and you just have to do your best. You can’t relax after a big trip. It’s just a tough hole,” said Australian Jason Day, the 2018 Wells Fargo Championship winner.
In short, we offer the opinion of American Rickie Fowler (he won his first PGA Tour title at the 2012 Wells Fargo Championship): “You just have to buckle up and survive.”
No. 18 at Quail Hollow Club, who will play as No. 15 in the 2022 Presidents Cup. (Photo: Ben Jared/PGA Tour)
That’s what Rory McIlroy did in 2021, the last time the club hosted the Wells Fargo Championship. In the final round, McIlroy birdied the 14ththe and 15the holes to take a two-time lead at the start of the Green Mile.
He made a big mistake when he started thinking about how wonderful it would be to see his wife, Erica, and their 8-month-old daughter, Poppy, behind at 18.the green and celebrate with them their first Mother’s Day.
Survived at 16the and 17the with textbook pairs to maintain a two stroke lead. But then he set off alarm bells when he hit his tee shot on the 18the just to the left of the creek and up a nasty rough hillside.
He was going to try to cut the ball to safety with a lob wedge, but his caddy, Harry Diamond, convinced him to take a penalty. McIlroy did, and from 200 yards out he found the green with an 8-iron and two putts to win with one stroke.
It was his first win in 553 days. And McIlroy, who won his first PGA Tour title at Quail Hollow in 2010, became the event’s only three-time winner.
“Three hole closures are pretty tough, especially in crosswinds,” McIlroy said. “I made it hard for myself, but I hit a great third shot on the 18th and was able to make two putts and get the job done.
“It’s a tough stage, one of the toughest stages we’ve played all year. I think that the 17th is the most difficult of the final stretch. Especially on that back tee, you’re up and you’ve got that very thin green. On the 16th, you have to be aggressive off the tee. You have to take that bunker on the right and try to lower it as far as you can. It’s a long enough hole. And the same on 18. I think the aggressiveness off the tee; you can reward yourself with a slightly shorter iron shot and be able to take on something a bit longer on the green.
“I’ve had my fair share of good runs on that stretch and bad runs.”
Now back to the kicker. Because the Green Mile is the star of the golf course, Presidents Cup managers redirected the design to help ensure that players in the match-play format make it to all three holes.
Thus, the Green Mile will be played like holes 13-14-15, with the par 5 10thethe pair 4 11the and the ninth par 4 emerging as the closing three holes.
The Green Mile will follow two risk-reward holes: the manageable par 4 11the (annually on 14the) and the uphill and achievable par 5 12the (annually on 15the). That stretch of five holes, with each hole protected by water, is sure to please.
But it will be the Green Mile that will shine the brightest, for better or worse.
“A lot happens on those three holes,” American Jordan Spieth said. “That’s where you go to see some triumph and disaster.”
Presidents Cup Results: Year-by-year history of the biennial fight between Americans and internationals
The story originally appeared on GolfWeek