Playing The Champion Course at PGA National is a dream come true…
Originally designed by Tom and George Fazio in 1981 for major tournament play, The Champion Course at PGA National has to be one of the most beautiful and certainly one of the toughest golf courses in South Florida. Just imagine, a track that stretches over 7048 yards with a slope of 148 and course rating of 75.2 from the tips. Thankfully, PGA National Resort & Spa has done a remarkable job throughout the years including the addition of 5 sets of tees to make it more playable for the rest of us, a couple of remodels (1990 and 2002) under the careful eye of none other than Jack Nicklaus and the Nicklaus Design Team and recently (fall 2012) the addition of new turf, bunkers and the reshape of green contours and expanded green complexes.
The Champion Course – Hole #3
The Champion Course at PGA National is also rich in tradition having hosted some of golf’s most prestigious tournaments, including the 1983 Ryder Cup, 1987 PGA Championship, from 1982-2000 Senior PGA Championship and from 2007 to present The Honda Classic.
The Champion Course – Hole #12
It’s late January and just weeks away from another Honda Classic and our team finds this golf course in pristine shape. The Champion Course boast generous fairways and spacious landing areas in most if not all holes, very fast and receptive TifEagle greens and lots distractions and challenging holes including The Bear Trap, a stretch of 3 holes (15th – 17th) where Jack Nicklaus has re-worked the earth to have more water in play and less real estate to land than any other golf course I’ve ever played. The Bear Trap is today considered one of Florida’s most notable golf challenges, on what is unquestionably one of the best golf courses in Florida.
The Champion Course – Hole #15
Playing The Champion Course at PGA National on your next visit to PGA National just makes all sense. Golf course architects have added alternate sets of tee boxes to play an array of distances and slopes all the way down to 5145 yards with a slope of 136 for ladies playing from the red tees. Follow the advice of the knowledgeable staff and play the correct set of tees based on your ability. The starter recommended our team the Gold tees at 6,727 yards, we felt comfortable with that distance and yet challenged in several key holes:
Why is it that a short par-5 measuring only 488 yards (from the tips) the #1 handicap hole in the entire golf course? I guess you have to see it to believe it! The #6 hole at The Champion Course starts with a narrow fairway, (water tee to green) left and was designed in a west to east direction, always against the perennial easterly winds. If you are not careful these factors will ruin your round of golf. I started with my 3-wood carefully placing it to the right side of the fairway, my second shot was with my hybrid to the 100-yard mark, my third shot landed in the middle of the slopping green and rolled left all the way to the edge of the water… I walked out with a 7 and I’m still scratching my head… I repeat! not paying attention to this hole can ruin your round.
Hole #10 Par-5 (545 yards) – One of the easiest
Easy holes are far and few in between The Champion Course. On paper this is the 5th most difficult hole but the wind will help you score well. This par-5 plays downwind and the ginormous fairway will let you squeeze the extra yards of your driver. My second shot from 190 yards landed 15 feet left of the pin. Two putts later and I was feeling glorious forgetting that front nine 41 score. Take advantage of this hole and aim to the center of the fairway. With the added win and some extra roll you will be in place for a great score.
Hole #15 Par-3 (179 yards) – Enter the Bear trap
The famous Bear Trap starts with a short and very deceiving par-3. To your right a plaque with information about the next 3 holes, and the statue of a grizzly bear. Intimidation and distraction will make you forget about the wind you are about to face. I took 2 extra clubs and still came up short but dry. My compadre did not fair the same way. Key club selection and aim plays a big factor. The hole faces east and its tucked in a way that you may not be able to feel the impact. Keep your head down and take an extra club… believe me you’ll need it!
The Champion Course at PGA National is a true gem in golf course design. One of the added features about playing this course is the fact that your favorite golfers on the PGA Tour walk the same fairways and putt in these very same greens… The beautiful layout is fresh and appealing to the eye; I feel is a great combination of beautiful scenery, natural wild life and a mixture of immaculate golf course aesthetics, always manicured to perfection… just a gorgeous track! For more information please visit http://www.pgaresort.com/