See what golf's 2018 major championship venues have to offer

Onlookers view the green on No. 16 during the second round of the 2017 Masters at Augusta National Golf Club. Gerry Melendez for ESPN

Golf's professional season is seemingly never-ending, but the wait between the final putt of the last major championship in August to the first tee shot of the next in mid-April can be excruciating.

Justin Thomas hoisted the Wanamaker Trophy to celebrate his PGA Championship victory at Quail Hollow in August. Sergio Garcia's champions dinner as the defending Masters winner will be in April -- more than seven months later.

Jordan Spieth's Open victory at Royal Birkdale and Brooks Koepka's U.S. Open win at Erin Hills were also part of the 2017 major story line.

While we still have several months of waiting for Augusta, it's not too soon to dream about 2018's major golf lineup.

In that spirit, here is a look ahead to the major venues and what they could produce.

The Masters, Augusta (Ga.) National Golf Club, April 5-8

The Masters is the only major played at the same venue each year, and Augusta National will be the site for the 82nd time. Although the par-72 layout has changed considerably dating to the tournament's inception in 1934, it has stayed basically the same during the tenure of chairman Billy Payne, who retired earlier this year.

The course has measured 7,435 yards since 2010, and new chairman Fred Ridley is not expected to have made any significant alterations before the coming Masters.

In recent years, there has been plenty of back-nine excitement, but what typically dictates play is the weather. A dry, firm Augusta National is always preferred, as fast conditions bring into play so many variables.

Starting in 2010, double digits under par has won four of the eight Masters, with Jordan Spieth matching Tiger Woods' 1997 record of 270, 18 under par in 2015. But each of the past two years, the scoring has come more reluctantly, owing to Augusta National's ability to dictate conditions via green speed and pin placements. All of that will be part of the intrigue as the 2018 Masters approaches.

U.S. Open, Shinnecock Hills, Southampton, N.Y., June 14-17

Shinnecock holds a big place in U.S. golf history, as it was one of the first five founding clubs of the United States Golf Association in 1895. The club played host to the second U.S. Open, in 1896, on a course that measured shorter than 5,000 yards -- then didn't hold another one until 1986.

Since then, Shinnecock has forged a place on the unwritten U.S. Open rotation and would be a lock for inclusion if the USGA ever went the route of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club (R&A) and limited the venues. Raymond Floyd won in 1986, followed by Corey Pavin in 1995 and Retief Goosen in 2004.

The latter U.S. Open saw just two players -- Goosen and Phil Mickelson -- break par over 72 holes, although there was controversy regarding a severe setup and lightning-fast greens. A links-style layout on Long Island, the course barely measures 7,000 yards at par-70. And yet, Goosen's 4-under total was the lowest of the past three U.S. Opens played there.

Fairways have been narrowed in advance of the coming U.S. Open, and the idea of scoring being super-low seems far-fetched. Whether it takes some doctoring to keep the course in line will be among the fascinating story lines heading to Shinnecock, which has already been awarded the 2026 U.S. Open. Will the USGA react to the low-scoring in 2017 at Erin Hills and do everything it can to offer a stern test? Will it be more a battle of attrition?

The Open, Carnoustie (Scotland) Golf Links, July 19-22

Long regarded as one of the world's most difficult courses, Carnoustie will host The Open for the eighth time dating to Tommy Armour's victory in 1931. Six years later, it was Henry Cotton who hoisted the Claret Jug.

Ben Hogan's 1953 victory was historic on a couple of levels. He became the first person to win three of the modern major championships in the same year and also captured three in a row. It was also his first and only visit to the tournament (he never even visited St. Andrews, which is less than an hour away).

Gary Player won an Open at Carnoustie in 1968, followed by Tom Watson playing in his first Open in 1975. Due to logistical issues -- Carnoustie is a town of fewer than 12,000 residents -- the Open did not return for 24 years. And that was a classic, as Jean Van de Velde infamously blew the tournament with a 72nd-hole meltdown, resulting in Paul Lawrie's playoff victory.

Padraig Harrington captured the first of his three majors the last time The Open was at Carnoustie in 2007, winning in a playoff over Sergio Garcia -- who shot 89 and 83 in the 1999 Open as a 19-year-old. That year, the course conditions were brutal, leading to a 6-over total making a playoff. Things were considerably more benign in 2007, when 7 under played off.

As with all of the Open venues, the weather typically dictates difficulty, and while no water is visible from the course, winds off the North Sea coast often determine how much trouble the players will face.

PGA Championship, Bellerive, St. Louis, Aug. 12-15

This will be the last PGA Championship played in August, and the PGA of America picked another steamy climate to conduct its championship. That will likely change when the event moves to May starting in 2019, but it might preclude the tournament returning to a place like Bellerive, which is still evolving in the spring.

Although well-known in golf circles, Bellerive has been the site of just two major championships. The first was the 1965 U.S. Open, in which Gary Player became just the third player (following Gene Sarazen and Ben Hogan, preceding Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods) to claim the career Grand Slam.

The second was the 1992 PGA Championship, won by Nick Price for the first of his three major titles.

The club was supposed to host the 2001 WGC American Express Championship that was canceled after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. In 2008, it hosted the BMW Championship, a FedEx Cup playoff event won by Camilo Villegas. It has also been the site of two senior majors.

A long course at 7,547 yards, it was built around a large creek that comes into play on nine holes, with water coming into play on 11 of the 18 holes. Throw in thick rough, narrow fairways and high temperatures and humidity, and the last major of the year could quite possibly be a draining experience.

When Price won in 1992, he finished at 278, 6 under par on the par-71 layout, and defeated Nick Faldo, John Cook, Jim Gallagher Jr. and Gene Sauers by three shots. Only eight players finished under par.

Much will depend on the setup. After some tedious days at the 2017 PGA at Quail Hollow, the tournament livened up on Sunday with numerous players in contention and Justin Thomas prevailing. Expect the same kind of Sunday shootout this time.