Few golf experiences are as memorable as playing the superb PGA National Resort Champion Course two weeks before the PGA Tours Honda Classic. We can hear the crowd roar in the surrounding stands. A Nicklaus layout, it’s well known for three holes on the back nine that Jack named The Bear Trap – Holes 15,16 and 17 – perhaps the most diabolical three consecutive holes in golf.
The Palm Beach resort is home to four golf courses at the primary Avenue of the Champions address – The Champion (Home of the PGA Tour Honda Classic), The Palmer, The Fazio, and The Squire. A fifth course, The Estates, is 10 miles west. They allow members and guests of the resort access. Courses are rotated daily between members and resort, guests.. The resort is large, luxurious and legendary.
Golf Magazine’s 2016-17 public course rankings have the Champion Course ranked #9 in Florida.
Champions Course is not long, playing 7047 yards from the tips, and 6367 yards from the Blues where we played. Fairways are generous. The opening hole unveils an uncomplicated course. Fairway bunkers are not a big worry. It’s not tricky; everything is in front of you. Stay out of the rough. It is short but thick and uniform. Unlike many courses, it is can be a problematic penalizing shot to recover.
The Bear Trap is famous for its diabolic temptation to fire at the pin. Once you’ve played here, you’ll appreciate watching the Honda Classic even more. Bunkers are large with fluffy white sand. Expect no false fronts on greens but several false backs that collect shots that don’t find the correct landing areas. Greens are open in front inviting approach shots along the ground. Greens are large with only mild contours. Greens are very grainy that, without a doubt, affects your putts. If you’re not used to this, you won’t make many putts.
As with many Florida course, water hazards are abundant. Eight holes require the approach shot to cross a water hazard. They include forecaddies with the fee. They are invaluable in providing the targets for tee shots and approach shots and even more so to tackle the subtle breaks on the grainy greens. Be sure to give a cash tip after the round.
It’s a special feeling to play the Champion Course. Conditions are outstanding; the holes are straightforward. Greens are tricky. Figuring out the subtleties in breaks and speeds with the grain becomes an intoxicating challenge.