Bring your Game! The Champion is Back!
Fresh off of a Jack Nicklaus-designed complete renovation, PGA National Resort & Spa’s Champion Course – host venue of the PGA TOUR Honda Classic and home of the famed Bear Trap – is re-opened and ready for play!
Already the toughest layout on the 2013 PGA TOUR schedule (non-major venues) boasting an average per round score of 1.318 over par, the improved Champion now features Celebration Bermuda grass on the fairways, tees and green surrounds.
“Celebration Bermuda will provide us with ‘major-like conditions’ for the world-class field we have each year for the Honda Classic,” says Lukus Harvey, Director of Agronomy. “Our resort guests and members will also love it because it provides a better year-around product and grass so dense you won’t get a bad lie.” With the new turf, The Champion Course will no longer need to be over-seeded in the winter, allowing for faster, firmer conditions. Harvey says, “We can all use an extra 20 yards of roll.”
The renovation also features a redesign of the par-4 14th hole which leads to the celebrated Bear Trap (Nos. 15 – 17). Nicklaus relocated the green 17 yards to the right, bringing water more into play on the approach shot. Bunkers were added in front and behind the green to further strengthen the stout 465-yard hole.
“It seemed a shame not to have the water nearer to the green,” says Nicklaus, who redesigned the original George and Tom Fazio layout in 1990. “It produces a little more freedom and it produces a very strong par-4 going into the Bear Trap. I honestly believe it will be more exciting, but I don’t think it will be any more difficult.”
Additionally, 20,000 square feet of spectator mounding has been added to No. 14 allowing for better spectator vantage points during the Honda Classic, which last year set an attendance record of more than 190,000. Four of The Champion’s greens – No. 1, No. 9, No. 15 and No. 17 – have also been expanded to their original size, creating more exciting pin locations. The Champion is well known as home to the daunting Bear Trap (holes 15, 16 and 17). USA Today called The Bear Trap “one of the toughest stretches in golf.”
“Probably some of the toughest three holes in world golf, really,” says 2010 U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell. “You kind of just have to man up and hit the shot. You start bailing out, and you're in trouble.” Sergio Garcia says, “They’re very challenging holes, all of them. Without hitting terrible shots, you can make a double, a par and a bogey, and you leave those holes shooting 3 over and you don't feel like you hit bad shots.”
“Our revered Champion Course is a major component when it comes to creating a championship experience and making us a world-class golf resort and lifestyle community,” says Joel Paige, Vice President and Managing Director.