Valhalla Golf Club has been sold by the PGA of America to a group of Louisville investors who want to “continue to bring major championships” to Kentucky, according to new co-owner Jimmy Kirchdorfer.
“Valhalla, for a 36-year-old club, has an incredible history,” said Kirchdorfer, an executive at ISCO Industries. “It has already hosted a Ryder Cup and three major championships. We just felt it was important that it be locally owned. This way we can control. We know that people will operate in the best interests of the community.
Kirchdorfer is a Valhalla board member who joined the club in 2004 and has previously worked with the PGA on events that have taken place on the course. Three other well-known local executives joined him in the purchase: former Yum! David Novak, CEO of Brands, Chester Musselman, President of Musselman Hotels, and Junior Bridgeman, a former University of Louisville basketball player who built an entrepreneurial empire after 12 years in the NBA.
The PGA, which bought the course from founder Dwight Gahm in 2000, confirmed the sale in a press release on Wednesday, and Valhalla members were notified in an email from Keith Reese, the club’s general manager. The sale is effective immediately, according to Kirchdorfer, who did not disclose the cost of the course.
USA captain Paul Azinger is doused in champagne after beating the Europeans on day three of the 37th Ryder Cup at Valhalla Golf Club in 2008. (Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports)
“Valhalla Golf Club has proven to be a wonderful test of championship golf, as fair as it is challenging for the best golfers in the world,” PGA of America President Jim Richerson wrote in the statement. “We look forward to partnering with the new ownership group on a highly anticipated 2024 PGA Championship and working with the new owners to continue to have it as one of our championship venues.”
Valhalla, which spans nearly 500 acres in eastern Jefferson County, is “an icon in the community,” Kirchdorfer said. It was the only private club owned and operated by the PGA, and it was ranked by Golfweek’s Best as the #1 private course in the state. It’s tied for 74th in Golfweek’s 2022 Best Modern Courses in the U.S.
The course was designed by golfing legend Jack Nicklaus before it opened in 1986 and has hosted three PGA Championship tournaments, including a famous victory for Tiger Woods in 2000. It hosted the Ryder Cup in 2008, bringing together sports stars of the whole world. the world in Louisville, and is set to host the PGA Championship again in 2024.
The 2024 event, which tournament officials say could inject $100 million into the local economy, will not be affected by the sale.
Kirchdorfer, a longtime golf advocate, said he set to work to form a group to bid on Valhalla after members were told in November that the PGA had been approached by a potential buyer and would accept other offers. All four buyers are longtime members of the club.
Tiger Woods celebrates birdie putting on the 18th hole to force a 2000 PGA Championship playoff at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky. (Donald Miralle/Allsport)
Valhalla’s status brings value to the community, he said, which the ownership group took into consideration. And while some club members expressed concerns about a potential redevelopment when it hit the market last year, Kirchdorfer said the 18-hole course would lead nowhere.
Instead, the ownership group will work to showcase “Kentucky hospitality,” he said, and “build on the great tradition and culture that already exists.” So the concerned club members and other members of the Louisville golf community have understood this, which is good.
“Valhalla is the crown jewel of Kentucky golf, and we wanted it to be locally owned like it was with the Gahm family,” Kirchdorfer said. “The Gahm family had an incredible vision and took a big risk when they took on a farm and hired Jack Nicklaus to build a golf course in hopes of bringing major championship golf to this community – and they succeeded, which a lot of people don’t.
“We just wanted to make sure the next owners had the same mission to do what’s best for Valhalla and the community of Louisville.”
The new owners have a lot of work to do over the next two years before the 2024 PGA Championship, scheduled for May 16-19 that year. The group plans to invest in the property to ensure it’s a “reflective of our community,” Kirchdorfer said.
An impressive turnaround at this 2024 tournament can send a message to the PGA — which strives to promote the game with more than 28,000 members — that Louisville is a capable host for the sport’s greatest moments, according to Kirchdorfer, who was previously vice-president of a Louisville PGA Championship.
“When we show how this community will support the 24 Championship, we’re confident they’ll continue to bring more championships,” he said.