Significant improvements implemented by Nicklaus Design, led by senior design associate Chris Cochran, include the removal of Palmetto palms on the right side of No. 1 and left side of No. 9 to offer more options for PGA TOUR players on their tee shots as well as approaches into both greens. The removal will also allow for better crowd flow during the Honda Classic as the annual event has become one of the most popular and well-attended on the PGA TOUR schedule.
Additionally, one-third of an acre (14,400 square feet) was recaptured on the putting surfaces, adding an average of 800 square feet per green. Most notably, the putting surfaces will return to the native design Jack Nicklaus and his team implemented 16 years ago.
The green complexes were re-built, shaped and grassed with TifEagle bermudagrass. This results in seamless transitions from green surrounds to putting surfaces and tighter relationships with respect to greenside bunkers. The changes allow for consistency in a variety of weather conditions and make one of the true “bucket list” courses in the game even more compelling.
Nicklaus and his team comprehensively redesigned The Champion in 2002 as well as a 2014 redesign of layout’s stout par-4 14th hole which leads to the famous “Bear Trap” – a series of three demanding holes (Nos. 15,16 and 17) which many considered the toughest stretch in the game.
“We are honored to have worked on a course with such a storied history with both Jack Nicklaus and his design company,” Cochran said. “We took the advice of the best players in the game and made one of the great layouts in the U.S. even stronger.”
Next to its daunting first hole, The Champion Course’s outstanding driving range was significantly upgraded last year and includes a secluded section for PGA TOUR pros to practice their short game as well as greenside and fairway bunker play. The new pristine area garnered rave reviews from the players in the 2018 Honda Classic.
“As the home of a PGA TOUR course as well as being an iconic golf resort and private membership club, we continue to invest significantly in our brand assets,” said Greg “Coach” Saunders, PGA National’s vice president and managing director. “The time was right to restore the greens and we are excited to announce the completion of this major project on our distinguished Champion Course.”
The renowned destination also features four other championship layouts: The Palmer, The Fazio, The Squire and The Estates. The transformed Palmer Course, originally designed by legendary Arnold Palmer, reopened last November after undergoing a comprehensive renovation to rave reviews.