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PGA National Champion Course

Indoor Golf Course Preview: PGA National and the Bear Trap

At the PGA National Resort in Palm Beach Gardens, the Champion course is first among equals. The resort boasts five golf courses. The Champion is the most difficult of the 5 and is an annual stop on the PGA tour!

Champion Course history

The course was originally part of  Inverrary Country Club, and had been designed for tournament play by Tom Fazio and his brother George. In 1972, iconic Miami entertainer Jackie Gleason hosted the first Inverrary Classic, with Bob Hope as his partner in the inaugural Pro-Am. Gleason left the tournament when American Motors came on board as the title sponsor in 1981, but Honda bought the sponsorship rights the next year—and the Honda Classic at Champion has been a mainstay on the Tour since 2007.

The course took on an additional sheen when Tiger Woods made the Honda Classic at Champion his hometown tournament.

Big winners at Champion

The Honda Classic, slated this year for Feb 23-26, isn’t the only big-time tourney the Champion course has hosted. The 1983 Ryder Cup was held here, when the USA team, led by Fuzzy Zoeller, beat Severino Ballesteros and the Europeans in a nerve-wracking match play final. Larry Nelson won the 1987 PGA Championship on this aptly named course. 

Winners of the Honda Classic include Ernie Els, Rory Sabatini, Rory McIlroy, Padraig Harrington, and Rickie Fowler. Nicklaus did win on the course twice—1977 and 1978—the only back-to-back winner.

The Bear Trap

PGA National Champion Course

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Jack Nicklaus redesigned the course in 1990, creating the notorious “Bear Trap” stretch of the final three holes.  The Bear Trap—named for the Golden Bear himself—starts with a life-size statue of a bear. Upon entry, golfers w Nicklaus quote: “It should be won or lost right here”.  No pressure at all, right?

The PGA says that this is the toughest three-hole combo on the tour for a non-major tournament.  What sets it apart, aside from that Nicklaus touch, is water—water, water, everywhere. Fifteen and 17 are par-3s, but they’re monstrous—Golf Magazine estimated close to $6000 in balls had gone in the drink somewhere along the Trap. On the tee box at 15, there’s water on either side of a narrow ribbon of fairway—but on the upside, it’s only 179 yards. Sixteen might be worse—uphill over water and sand. Dead on precision will be required to avoid the hazards off the tee & on your approach. Furthermore, at 434 yards distance also adds to the 16th’s difficulty. Finally, as if the distance and hazards werent enough, hope for a still wind or else! Finally, there’s the par 3 17th—where the water’s only on the right side of the green—but lots of sand and trees on the other side if the wind picks up the ball and sends it left.

Course style

A links course is, by ancient golf definition,  along the coast with sandy soil and few trees.  Despite being near water and having sandy soil, it’s more of a hybrid links/stadium course. This golf course is built for tournament play, with super challenging holes (like the Bear Trap sequence).

The Champion course is a a lengthy 7.,045 yards from the back tees, and a respectable 5145 from the front reds. PGA National is a typical Florida coastal course in lots of ways—water, palm trees, and precise green. Golfers will face narrow fairways, numerous water hazards and bunkers (where there isn’t water). Just like other Florida golf courses grasses consist of  bermuda and perennial ryegrass on the tees, fairways, and rough. The lightning-fast greens are Tifeagle bermuda.

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Is this a public or private course?

PGA National is a “semi-private” golf course. The only way for the public to play the course is to stay at the PGA National Resort. The greens fee for The Champions course start around $400 for 18 holes. At X-Golf you can play 18 holes indoors at PGA National for as little as $45!  Sparkling water, a brilliant blue sky, and a bag full of balls—what more do you need for a great day on the course? How about a winter tune-up at X-Golf Denver? Book at tee time for one of our indoor simulators so you can get right back in the swing—you’ll have a blast with the simulators and take shots off your game.