While the biggest (and most unfortunate) storyline coming from this year's PGA Championship will be Bunkergate, starring Dustin Johnson, another small tidbit that deserves mention focuses on the recent history of the event itself. More specifically, the focus should be on the courses being played as of late.
According to an article in the New York Times, the PGA Championship has earned itself a reputation as being a "snob" in terms of venue choice over the past two decades. In other words, while the US Open and British Open have routinely offered Majors at public-play courses, the PGA Championship has not been played on a daily-fee course for over 20 years (Kemper Lakes in Chicagoland was the last in 1989).
Just to be fair...Whistling Straits, the site of this year's tournament, can be played by anyone. However, the round will cost you a steep $340 for greens fees and another $100 for a caddy. Hardly the type of round that the Average Joe can fit into his budget. On the contrary, Bethpage Black, the site of last year's US Open, is much more affordable $100 during peak weekday hours. While still a cause for special budgeting, you at least won't have to worry about any sneaky bunkers for your money.
Perhaps the biggest issue that PGA tournament planners have regarding course choices involves the fact that there are now more 9-hole tracks than 18-hole, according to PGA of American President Jim Remy. When asked about the current status of reasonably-priced courses in America fit to host a tournament, Remy responded:
''There are availability of reasonably priced golf courses, and I think that we need to get the message out that there is a real value to a family to be involved in a sport."
That is all good and fine, Jim, however not many families can afford to play a round of golf at $300 a pop. The ironic point to Remy's response can also lie in the fact that children were allowed free admittance to the PGA Championship this year.
Currently, the PGA Championship venue is booked until 2016, all of which will occur on a traditional course that you and I cannot realistically afford. This season, television viewership was at an all-time low due to a boost in internet ratings. Perhaps adding a daily-fee course to the rotation can increase both numbers in the next few years?