The Honda Classic venue has been re-grassed with Celebration Bermuda to ensure “major-like conditions.”
The Champion Course at PGA National Resort and Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., has re-opened following a three-month renovation project that saw Celebration Bermuda replace the existing turf on the fairways, green surrounds, and tees. The tough par 4 14th hole was also lengthened and had its green pushed nearer the front water hazard, making it surely the toughest two-shot hole at the Honda Classic, which will be held on the Champion Course for the eighth straight year in 2015, and perhaps now one of the toughest on the entire PGA Tour schedule, too.
“The Honda Classic field is perennially on par with golf’s four majors,” said Lukus Harvey, PGA National Resort & Spa’s Director of Agronomy. “And now we have the turf to provide similar conditions. Our resort guests and club members will love it, too, because it provides a better year-round product, including upgraded irrigation. The grass is so dense, you won’t get a bad lie.”
The Champion Course, which hosted the 1983 Ryder Cup, 1987 PGA Championship, and 18 Senior PGA Championships as well as the seven Honda Classics, will no longer require over-seeding during the off-season now, allowing for faster, firmer surfaces.
Four greens—No. 1, No. 9, No. 15 and No. 17—have been expanded to their original size, creating more exciting pin locations for the event that kicks off the Tour’s Florida swing. The greens remain TifEagle.
The Champion Course is the home of the notorious “Bear Trap” – the 15th, 16th and 17th holes that form one of the toughest stretches in the game. However, the 14th may now have to be added to turn the challenging trio into a quartet, after Nicklaus moved the green 17 yards to the right, bringing the water much more into play. Ten yards were also added to the hole to extend it to 465 yards, and bunkers were built in front of and behind the green.
“It seemed a shame not to have the water nearer the green,” says Nicklaus, who re-designed the original George and Tom Fazio design in 1990 and makes tweaks to the course every year in consultation with Harvey’s staff. “It produces a little more freedom, and it produces a very strong par 4 going into the Bear Trap.”
To accommodate the large crowds that aid in raising millions for the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation every year (more than 190,000 fans attended this year’s tournament), 20,000 square feet of spectator mounding has been added to the 14th, giving fans a great view of the green, and also of the short 15th hole.
“The revered Champion Course is a major component of our puzzle when it comes to creating championship experiences, and makes us a world-class golf resort and lifestyle community,” stated Joel Paige, Vice President and Managing Director of PGA National Resort & Spa.