This is the first playing of the Palmetto Championship at Congaree Golf Club in Gillisonville, South Carolina.
The event was announced in April and will be a one-off event. The tournament is a replacement for the RBC Canadian Open which was cancelled this year due to challenges posed by the current Covid-19 pandemic.
Congaree Golf Club is an exclusively private club built on a former 18th century rice plantation. The club was founded by two of the richest people in the US, Dan Friedkin and Robert C “Bob” McNair.
Dan Friedkin is chairman of The Friedkin Group, a privately held consortium of businesses in the automotive, luxury hospitality, golf and entertainment industries. Bob McNair is owner of the NFL’s Houston Texans and chairman of The McNair Group. The two Texas businessmen also own other successful golf clubs.
Friedkin and McNair are the only two members of Congaree Golf Club. Everyone else is an “ambassador”. Instead of paying an entry fee, ambassadors are encouraged to donate to the Congaree Foundation. The ambassadors are also encouraged to be active in helping youths, whom could be local or abroad. The club’s main focus is on philanthropy using the passion for golf for the greater good.
Congaree Golf Club was designed by Tom Fazio in South Carolina’s Lowcountry. It opened for play in 2017 and will play as a 7,655 yard Par 71 for the Palmetto Championship. The course does not have rough. Instead, fairways feed into bunkers, water or native areas, waiting to catch errant drives or over aggressive tee shots.
Congaree has a natural look that plays firm and fast. The layout lends itself to the ground game with fast and challenging greens. Water and wetlands are in play on many holes with plenty forced carries.
Massive oak trees are also in play and can dictate lines and angles to the green. Many of the greens are narrow and set at an angle to the tees and fairways.
The course features a variety of challenges from short Par 4s to Par 4’s that can stretch to over 500 yards. The Par 5 4th looks daunting at a mouth watering 645 yards. The fairways twist and turn at odd distances and angles, so long hitters could risk driving through fairways on several holes.
Several holes are doglegged requiring an ability to shape the ball both ways. Accuracy off the tee is more important than distance, but neither of those two components are as important as hitting the greens in regulation and putting.
Placement, rather than distance, will be key.
What can we learn from the recent AT&T Byron Nelson?
Last month’s playing of the AT&T Byron Nelson saw a new course added to the PGA Tour rota. The tournament was played at TPC Craig Ranch. While different in look and feel to Congaree, it nonetheless can give insights into what works for Tour professionals when faced with new sightlines on a new course.
KH Lee won the tournament on a score of -25 (263), three strokes clear of Sam Burns in second. The South Korean golfer finished 2nd in Strokes Gained Tee-To-Green which equated to just over 70% of his overall strokes gained for the tournament. In particular his iron-play on approach was dialled-in which contributed the lions share of his overall gain.
Strokes Gained Category
|Strokes Gained||Finishing Position|
Key take-aways from TPC Craig Ranch
- 11 of the Top 12 players finished inside the Top 20 for SG:Tee-To-Green
- 5 of the Top 6 players finished 7th or better in SG:Approach-The-Green
- Only half of the Top 12 players finished inside the Top 20 for SG:Putting
It can be inferred with reasonable conviction that the ‘go-to‘ statistic for newbie courses is Strokes Gained Tee-To-Green. It continues to highlight the best golfing talent on Tour and its value is amplified when unfamiliar greens serve as targets.
Conclusion, unfamiliar settings reward ball striking & course management will rise in value
Palmetto Championship Tips
Harris English 28/1 (E/W) – easy to forget that he is already a winner this season, landing the Sentry Tournament of Champions at the beginning of the year. Best result in the recent past is a T13 at the AT&T Byron Nelson which was also played on a ‘newbie‘ course. A solid all-round game puts the Georgia native 11th in this week’s Stats Analysis. He is also 36th on Tour for Strokes Gained Putting and 10th for Birdie Average. With such a weakened field, he can make his experience count.
Lucas Glover 40/1 (E/W) – no surprise to see the Congaree Ambassador and ‘local-boy‘ teeing it up at the Palmetto Championship. A T37 in last week’s Memorial was preceded with a T8 at the Charles Schwab Challenge. Around Colonial he was 12th in SG: Approach-The-Green and 13th in SG: Putting. Features just outside the Top 10 in this week’s Stats Analysis. Unfamiliar settings and generous fairways will suit the South Carolina native. If he brings his Colonial form to Congaree then he will have as good a chance as any this week. Good each way value.
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