At The Honda Classic, you can’t go 5 minutes without hearing the phrase “Bear Trap.” It’s the defining stretch at PGA National’s Champion Course, the host course for the Palm Beach-area portion of the PGA Tour’s Florida Swing.
However, you may just kind of accept that the Bear Trap is there and not really know what it is, so let’s explain it.
What is the Bear Trap?>
The Bear Trap is the three-hole stretch on the Champion Course comprising holes 15, 16 and 17. There’s a statue of a bear leading into the stretch with a plaque next to it giving an overview of the holes and a quote from course designer Jack Nicklaus — the Golden Bear, hence Bear Trap, probably should’ve been Bear’s Trap — that says “It should be won or lost right here.”
The Bear Trap at PGA National’s Champion Course
The Bear Trap has two par 3s, kicking off on the 15th. It’s a 179-yard hole that requires a slight draw from the tee over the water up the right side to the green. There are two bunkers beyond the green. The smart play is to aim for the bottom tier on the left and hope for a two putt to a back pin. If the hole location is on that portion of the green, more birdies can be had.
The 16th hole is a dogleg-right par 4 which measures 434 yards off the tee. There’s water up along the right-hand side, with fairway bunkers to protect an overly aggressive or overly cautious drive. The green shape runs diagonally to the right of the approach shot from the fairway. Again, bunkering beyond the green is a piece of visual intimidation. A bad approach shot, especially after an aggressive drive, could get wet.
The final hole on the Bear Trap is another par 3, the 17th. This is easily the scariest of the three holes. It’s a tee shot pretty much all over water to a thin-ish green that runs long. Miss on the right? Splash. Bail out left? You’ll be fortunate to find a bunker or you might go further left into grass. Either way, a poor second shot could send your ball to a watery grave.
The holes prove especially trying in windy conditions.
The 17th hole was the 84th most difficult hole on the PGA Tour, while the 16th was 117th and the 15th was 206th toughest. However, the Bear Trap holes aren’t the most difficult on the Champion Course. Four holes at the Champion Course actually ranked tougher last year than any Bear Trap hole, including the 10th, 11th, 14th and, toughest of all, the sixth, which was 10th-toughest on Tour.