(Hole-by-Hole of the Champion Course at PGA National for the New Honda Classic)
The opening hole is a relatively short, 365-yard par 4. I anticipate that when it is playing downwind, a few players will try to drive the green. However, there is a lake on the left, a narrow opening, trees and a bunker on the right off the tee. So while there will be a lot of birdies here, there also will be a fair number of bogeys.
This par 4 has been made stronger with a new tee at 464 yards. It’s a slight dogleg to the left, with a green that runs diagonally from right to left. This is a good, solid hole here.
The third hole plays 538 yards into the prevailing wind. The bunker on the right was brought in to narrow the landing area off the tee on this par 5, and then there is a narrow opening into the green. I expect a fair number of birdies here.
The fourth hole plays only 376 yards, but the fairway ends at about 260 yards off the tee. A narrow, perched green makes for a difficult second shot.
The newly lengthened fifth hole plays 217 yards over water. The prevailing wind, which is left to right off of the water, probably will present a lot of problems for quite a few players, especially with the pin tucked close to the left side.
This hole used to be a par 5, but was changed for the Honda Classic. There is water on the left, bunkers on the right, and a three-level green. This will be a tough birdie hole.
The prevailing wind should be downwind here on this 226-yard par 3. You play into a long green, with a newly placed bunker in front of the green that will make it a forced carry. Players used to be able to bounce the ball in, but should not be able to do that now. There is a swale in the center of the green, so it is important to be on the right level.
This hole now plays 455 yards from a new tee and into the prevailing wind, with water crossing the hole at about 320 yards. Trees on the right and left frame the first 300 yards or so of the hole. The green is protected on the right front and on the left by bunkers. This is a good solid golf hole.
A new tee added for the Honda Classic has increased this hole to 421 yards. The hole doglegs left and a tree hammock in the bend of the hole on the left has been strengthened with additional trees. There also is a bunker on the right side of the fairway. This is a good, solid hole, but one that should still yield a fair number of birdies.
This par 5 has been changed to a par 4. It is now a very long 525 yards, but doesn’t seem to play that long. The prevailing wind is left to right and slightly behind you, with a generous fairway. Players will have to negotiate the pot bunker in front of the green with a middle to long iron.
This par 4 has been lengthened to 479 yards. Some will play driver with the new back tee; some will play 3-wood. Either way, it is important to get your tee shot in the fairway, because this hole offers plenty of trouble on the second shot as water runs from just beyond the landing area all the way up to the green. The green itself runs diagonally left to right with a bunker behind the green. This is probably one of the strongest holes on the golf course.
The 12th hole plays into the prevailing wind. This a good, solid dogleg right, with bunkers protecting the right and left side. The green is well bunkered on the right and the wind coming through the trees will play tricks with the ball here.
This hole is not long in length at 388 yards, but it is very narrow with bunkers left and trees right, so it requires an accurate tee shot. The approach shot is played into a slightly elevated green that is bunkered well on both sides.
Water on the right off the tee of this dogleg left par 4 can come into play if you let the tee shot get away from you. The hole is also bunkered strongly down the left side. The green is perched away from the bunkers. The green falls away on each side, but the bunkers are not against the green and it is a very difficult putting surface. This is a challenging par 4.
The start of The Bear Trap is not a long par 3, but the winds make it very tricky as you have to play a shot into a diagonal green running left to right. The slope of the front part of the green runs left, away from you, with a big bunker in the back, which is very difficult to get up and down from because it runs away from the bunker and towards the water. This is a par 3 that can make you swallow twice.
This hole presents a tee shot that most players will play with an iron just to get the ball out into the fairway. That leaves a full middle iron for a second shot that is played over water and into a green that’s slightly elevated. This has always been one of the strongest holes on the golf course.
The 17th is a par 3 that has been lengthened to 190 yards over the water and into a very small green that is bunkered left. This is a par 3 that will present a lot of problems; it always has in the past.
The closing hole on the Champion Course hole has been lengthened almost 50 yards to 604 yards, with a beautiful tee shot of the top of a hill. It’s a double dogleg par 5—first left and then right. There are bunkers off the tee to negotiate, then water on the second shot, and water on the third shot. The green is perched out, hanging over the lake on the right. I have always believed in strong finishing holes, and this is one of those that can create a lot of excitement.