PALM BEACH GARDENS, FL – PGA National Resort & Spa's Champion Course has been acclaimed as one of the top tests on the PGA TOUR from the time The Honda Classic moved to the layout in 2007. Now a complete re-grassing of the fairways, tees and green surrounds with cutting edge Celebration Bermuda grass and a redesign of the 14th hole leading into The Bear Trap is expected to take the course to an even higher stature.
"The grass is so dense that you won't get a bad lie," said Lukus Harvey, PGA National's Director of Agronomy. "It will be firmer and faster because we don't have to overseed (with rye grass) anymore to get the course ready. We will have greater consistency for the entire week. The Celebration turf is much more aggressively growing and the ball sits up like it is on a tee.
"Every year we have a Honda Classic field that matches a major event. Now we have the turf to provide the same conditions."
The Champion, which is played as a par-70 at 7,140 yards for The Honda Classic, has ranked as the most-difficult course on the PGA Tour (for non-majors) three of the past five years. It ranked second overall in 2010 and 2011. The course will play host to the final stage of the Web.com Tour's Q-School in December and has also been home to the 1983 Ryder Cup, the 1987 PGA Championship, 18 Senior PGA Championships as well as seven Honda Classic tournaments.
The new and trendy Celebration turf, which was widely acclaimed by players at this year's Player's Championship at the TPC at Sawgrass, replaces the original Tiff Sport. As part of the renovation, the greens at Nos. 1, 9, 15 and 17 were also expanded to match their original size and offer extra pin locations. More than 5,000 linear feet of fairway drainage was also added to the course to improve wet conditions. The greens remain TifEagle, one of the world’s truest putting surfaces. A renovation project last year revitalized 62 bunkers.
"It's all about continuing to move the needle forward and make The Honda Classic better and better," said Honda Classic Executive Director Kenneth R. Kennerly. "The best players in the world have supported our tournament and helped grow it into an elite event. Now they will be able to play in conditions as good as any they see in major championships and throughout the world.
"We couldn't be more grateful to PGA National for taking on this project and working with Jack Nicklaus every year to keep the course current and make it better."
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, was riding the Champion course to inspect conditions in advance of last year's Honda Classic when he made an abrupt stop in the middle of the 14th fairway.
That was when he re-imagined the hole.
The green was moved 17 yards to the right toward the water to bring the hazard into play. Bunkers were added directly in front and behind the greens and a new bailout area was created on the back left side where the old green used to be. The tee box was also moved back 10 yards to make the hole play at 465 yards.
“It seemed a shame not to have the water nearer to the green,” Nicklaus said. "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, but I don’t think it will be any more difficult.”
More than 20,000 square feet of spectator mounding was also added, which will open up new hospitality options at the hole for The Honda Classic. The Honda is creating The Cabanas @ 14, individual 400 square foot private hospitality areas where sponsors can entertain their clients.
From that perch, a spectator will be able to watch the action at the 14th and 15th holes. The 15th hole is the start of the famed "Bear Trap," a three-hole challenge of water holes recognized as one of the toughest stretches in the game.
The 2015 Honda Classic will be played February 23-March 1, 2015 with Russell Henley defending his title.
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