The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship has been contested at courses that have hosted men’s majors – Hazeltine National, Kemper Lakes, Olympia Fields, and Sahalee – and another, Westchester, that was the longtime site of an annual PGA Tour event.
Aronimink Golf Club in Newtown Square joins that illustrious list this week for the $4.3 million tournament, and Kerry Haigh, chief championship officer for the PGA of America, says it stacks up with any of the previous hosts.
“Without a doubt,” Haigh said Tuesday. “It’s a gem. The greens complexes, the shot choices. … The fairways are very generous so they give you the opportunity to hit them. But from there on in, you’ve got to hit great golf shots and think your way in and around the holes. It’s a great test.”
Aronimink is involved with the PGA of America for the third time, having hosted the 1962 PGA Championship and the 2003 Senior PGA Championship. The PGA Championship is scheduled to return to the club in 2026. Aronimink also has staged three PGA Tour events – the 2010 and 2011 AT&T National, and the 2018 BMW Championship.
With the championship being contested in the fall instead of the late June dates that were wiped out by the pandemic, the course will play longer. Haigh is working from a standard yardage of 6,570, where holes would be lengthened or shortened based on weather and wind conditions.
Danielle Kang, the LPGA Tour’s leading money winner and the 2017 Women’s PGA champion, said she might add a wood or a hybrid club to her bag to cope with the length that she has seen in the practice rounds.
“The golf course is monstrous, actually,” she said Wednesday. "But we never know. I don’t know how it’s going to play [Thursday]. That’s the beauty of a major. Every day is different depending on weather conditions and the course setup.
“I think it’s going to be fun if they play it the way we’re practicing it. I might not be able to reach a par-4 if I mis-hit a tee shot or mis-hit my second shot even with a wood. But I think that’s the fun of it. Whatever comes our way, we’re going to have to go with it.”
LPGA Hall of Fame member Inbee Park, who won the 2015 Women’s PGA, the first after KPMG took over as title sponsor, called Aronimink "definitely one of the best golf courses that I’ve played.
“I’ve heard a lot about this golf course, so I was really excited to come here and play,” she said. “The golf course is in really pristine condition, so it is definitely the best course to have a major championship.”
Directed by noted Malvern architect Gil Hanse, the course underwent a restoration for two six-month stretches from October to April in 2016-17 and 2017-18. Hanse brought back the original dimensions of the greens built by the legendary Donald Ross in 1928 and reinstituted Ross' bunker clusters, most of which over time had been combined into one large bunker instead of several small ones.
The course now has 170 bunkers as compared to the 75 before the restoration.
Aronimink reopened in May after being shut down for six weeks due to the pandemic. Club president Bob Willcox said the number of rounds played after the closure “still outdid any year of the last 10 years.”
John Gosselin, Aronimink’s golf course superintendent, said the layout “really came together in the last three or four weeks” and is in excellent shape. One of his biggest challenges is doing most of his maintenance work in the dark with the amount of daylight now less than 12 hours.
“We start at 3:30 a.m. and we basically have to be off the course by 7:15-7:30, so our whole prep running around the course is in the dark,” he said. “We didn’t get any daylight to actually really see what we cranked out until the very end. That’s the biggest difference between now and the third week of June, which are the longest days of the year.”
Now Gosselin, his staff, and volunteers from other greens staffs have the course ready for however Haigh wants to set it up.
“We crank out a great golf course and then he can do whatever he likes with setup and create any kind of golf course he wants, where he wants the challenge to be,” Gosselin said. “They’re the experts on that. Our role is to give him all the options.”