By John Holmes
Series: Golf Buzz
The Honda Classic took a big step up in stature when it moved to PGA National a few years ago, primarily because of the quality of the Champions Course. And a big reason for the Champ’s reputation is “the Bear Trap”—the three-hole stretch encompassing Nos. 15–17.
The Bear Trap gets its name from its creator: Jack Nicklaus, who ratcheted up raised the course’s competitiveness during a makeover back in 1990, especially its closing stretch. And now the Golden Bear has turned up the difficulty factor yet again on the course that is statistically the toughest non-major layout on the PGA Tour.
This time, he focused on the 465-yard par-4 14th hole, which leads into the Bear Trap—and now might be scary enough to become the fourth member inducted into the vaunted collection of back-nine terrors.
Specifically, Nicklaus moved the green 17 yards to the right, which brings the greenside lake much more into play. Bunkers also were added in front of and behind the green, the tee was moved back 10 yards, and an additional 20,000 square feet of spectator mounding was added to improve the sightlines during the Honda Classic.
“It seemed a shame not to have the water nearer to the green,” said Nicklaus, who attended a “grand reopening” ceremony at the big bear statue between the 14th green and 15th tee on Friday. “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.”
In addition, Nicklaus expanded four greens—on Nos. 1, 9, 15 and 17—back to their original size, and the tees, fairways and areas surrounding the greens were converted to Celebration Bermuda grass. The regrassing means the course won’t have to be overseeded anymore, and should play firmer and faster.
Courtesy of PGA.com