Veteran Rod Pampling has compared the tee shot at Royal Queensland Golf Club’s party hole to that of the iconic 17th at TPC Sawgrass… with one significant exception.
Up to 3,000 golf fans a day will be able to experience the electric atmosphere of the Southern Comfort Party Hole at this week’s Fortinet Australian PGA Championship, capacity expanded by 50 per cent compared to last year.
Hospitality suites are close to sold out for both Friday and Saturday while the new grandstand holding 638 reserved seats and space for 1,328 fans in the general admission areas both have limited availability.
It is expected that more than 50,000 drinks will be served, more than 31 hours of music played and over 442 golf shots taken over the course of the four days, raising the energy to levels previously unseen.
At just 125 metres (137 yards), Royal Queensland’s 17th measures the exact same distance of its counterpart at THE PLAYERS Championship on the PGA TOUR, but sits in an island of sand rather than one of water.
“Very similar distance-wise,” said Pampling, who had a best finish of tied for 27th in 11 starts at THE PLAYERS Championship.
“Obviously the wind is a factor, the big difference there is that you can’t miss that green. There’s water.
“It’s the walk of shame to the drop area, which is the difficult part. Being able to distract yourself from the water and just focus on your shot.
“Both very difficult shots but that’s part of it. We want to make things difficult and whoever can pull off the good shot then they’re going to get rewarded for it.
“It’s a great little hole. When you have a wedge in your hand you have high expectations from yourself. It’s more putting pressure on yourself to hit a good shot.”
West Australian Haydn Barron was on debut as a professional when he played Royal Queensland’s 17th for the first time in the 2021 Australian PGA played in January 2022.
Barron, who obtained a DP World Tour card at Q School last week in Spain, was tied for 12th on debut at RQ, thanks in part to a more aggressive approach on 17 on the final day.
“I remember saying to my caddie all week that I was just going for the middle of the green,” Barron recalled.
“On the final day, to the back-right pin, he told me to have a crack and I hit it close and made two to finish off the event.
“That was a wild feeling. There’s estimated to be about 3,000 people a day here in the Southern Comfort Party Hole so really looking forward to getting here and trying to hit one close.”
Pampling had a taste of what to expect when the tournament begins on Thursday by participating in an invitational event at Royal Queensland last Friday.
A winner for the second time on the PGA TOUR Champions this year and a three-time PGA TOUR winner, the 54-year-old is back in Queensland with the belief that he can still match it with stars such as defending champion Cameron Smith and Adam Scott.
“That’s the great thing with the Champions Tour and the great thing with golf, at 54 you can still play competitively against everyone,” said Pampling, who missed last year’s tournament with a knee injury.
“You’re meeting different athletes across the world and they wish they could be competing at that age still.
“It’s not like we’re old men playing the game for the sake of it. We’re out there working hard, working on the game which then, when you come back home, I feel like I can compete out here.
“I know the golf course, which is a huge advantage, so looking forward to a good week.”