This week the PGA TOUR visits Palm Beach Gardens and the Champion Golf Course at PGA National.
The Florida Swing
It is the fourth of four event in the Florida Swing – four events that are contested on spectacular golf courses: The Concession, Bay Hill and the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass being the first three.
Not only are all of the golf courses memorable and loaded with iconic golf holes, they are also downright difficult and challenging both physically and mentally.
I would contend that the par 70 Stadium Course at PGA National is possibly the hardest of the four venues. Water abounds everywhere; holes travel in different directions, and the ever-present coastal Florida winds blow across a number of holes.
PGA National welcomes you with a sedate start but she steadily ramps up the pressure and the challenges as you venture deeper into the round.
As you turn onto the long par four 6th hole things begin to redline for the first time. The 7th keep up the pressure and then things lighten for a couple of holes.
Not for long though as the back nine comes at you with a vengeance.
The Bear Trap
The 10th, the 11th, the 12th and the 14th are all pretty mean par fours but they merely set the table for holes 15 through 17 – a fearsome trifecta of holes, perennially one of the hardest stretches of golf on the PGA TOUR, known as The Bear Trap.
Course designer, Jack Nicklaus made the following comments about his Bear Trap:
“I don’t care if they make golf balls that go for a thousand yards. The Bear Trap will stand the test no matter what the equipment is,
“It’s not about length, it’s about precision. It’s about guts. It’s all about what do you have in your chest that you can finish those holes.”
The par three (15th), par four (16th) and par three 17th) are riddled with danger and as a result big numbers if you miss. Every PGA TOUR professional, to a man, comments on what a mental challenge they are, and Jack Nicklaus quipped that the tournament is likely to be won or lost on that stretch of holes.
Suffice it to say, with water everywhere, cross-winds howling and a lot on the line, I even get nervous when I arrive on the 15th tee… and I am holding a microphone, not a golf club.
It should be an entertaining week.