As we roll forward towards another major championship, the tournament in the lead up to that event takes a big hit in field strength. This week, the TOUR heads back to South Carolina for the Palmetto Championship at Congaree in place of the RBC Canadian Open due to the COVID 19 pandemic. It will be the first time we have seen an event at Congaree Golf Club, so we will all be learning on the fly this week.
The U.S. Open scheduled to be hosted across the country next week has taken its toll on this week’s tournament as only two of the top-10 and five of the top-25 players in the world will tee it up. Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka headline the field as they look for a final prep before Torrey Pines next week. Tyrrell Hatton, Matt Fitzpatrick and Sungjae Im round out those top ranked players, making this a week that could go in a number of directions.
This week, I will dive right into the course in an effort to lay out everything I have found, and see if we can peg the key stats for the tournament.
Congaree Golf Club – Ridgeland, SC
7,655 Par 71
- Three par 5s (595/580/645)
- Four par 3s (170/195/205/230)
- Eleven par 4s (360/360/435/435/445/465/475/490/510/520/540)
- Bermudagrass throughout the course, including the greens which average 6,150 sq. ft. in size (average)
- Six water hazards in play on ten holes
The course itself is hidden away in Ridgeland, S.C., and has been said to be different than other courses in the area and different than most of what architect Tom Fazio has designed. My first look at the photos and layout of the course reminds me of Pinehurst No. 2 with its waste bunkers, no rough and runoff around the greens. It has also been compared to Royal Melbourne with a firm and fast layout of the sand belt courses in Australia.
Obviously, the first thing that sticks out in the layout is the length, especially with three par 4s over 500 yards and a par 5 listed at 645 yards. It’ll be interesting to see how the TOUR decides to set it up but if it plays firm and fast as intended, that will naturally shorten the course. I think we will hear a lot about the importance of distance this week and it’s always an advantage, but we don’t need to fall in love with that this week.
The added element off the tee is that these fairways are fairly wide, allowing for players to get away with some things. If they do spray it a little too much, though, it’ll be captured by a waste bunker or worse, a hazard. If they keep it on the map off the tee could be fairly benign, turning this into a second-shot course where approach play is once again the king. I’ll rely on that approach play and the ability to hit longer irons in my model to identify my favorite plays of the week.
Lastly on the general side of the course, looking at the greens they should be set to run fast and as noted are bermudagrass. They are larger than average on TOUR, and appear to be fairly undulating. If there is enough weather or other factors to have these greens be more receptive than expected, this tournament could turn into a putting contest. I’ll weigh in a bit more for the putting on these greens than I normally would, because the only thing we can rely on for sure this week is the importance of getting the ball in the hole.
There is a really good mix of holes this week at Congaree Golf Club. It’s shown mostly in the par 4s where you have a couple at just 360 yards, one on each nine, that could be set up as risk, reward drivable holes. Then you have the three par 4s that are listed at over 500 yards, and everything in between with holes doglegging in each direction and enough danger out there to scare some of the best players in the world and those in this field.
The par-4 8th stands out as the hole most likely to play as the hardest of the week. It is a par 5 on the normal card, but the TOUR has stretched it out to 540 yards and made it a par 4. It’s an “S” shaped hole that naturally winds in both directions, but for the pros this week they will be looking to place a solid tee shot to reach this green with a carry over the large waste bunkering protecting the front of the green.
It is almost always the par 5s where players on TOUR do a majority of their scoring, and I think we see that hold true at least for two of the three on the course this week. We may not see many reach the greens in two other than the second hole, as even though the 12th is the shortest of the bunch there is little run up room and a really difficult spot to hold the green from long distance. We should still see birdies, but I don’t expect to see many eagles this week.
On the par 3 side, we have another nice mix of holes with everything from 170-yard short irons to 230-yard borderline hybrids and fairway metals. The shortest of the bunch is at the fifth where its a full carry over water to a multi-tiered green which will require players to hit the correct level. The longest at 230 yards at the 14th has an interesting front fairway that allows for shorter hitters to go lower and run it up to the green. The fairway area that surrounds the green is further surrounded entirely by waste bunker creating some interesting long bunker shots if players over play their tee shots.
This is a course that is going to require every club in the bag, plenty of imagination and creativity, as well as some length. I think the track itself will stand out as the star of the week more than the less than stellar field, but sometimes these are the best weeks to find an edge in DFS.
Pictured: Brooks Koepka
Credit: Keyur Khamar/PGA TOUR via Getty Images