Honda Classic: What Is ‘The Bear Trap’ at PGA National, and How Did It Get Its Menacing Name?
“You are now entering ‘The Bear Trap,’ it should be won or lost here.”
Quite an intimidating message to stumble upon on the tee box, huh?
This is the daunting quote displayed on a plaque in front of “The Bear Trap,” one of the most challenging three-hole stretches on the PGA Tour. It resides at PGA National Resort and Spa, the annual host of the Honda Classic. If you have any chance of winning the Honda Classic, you need to survive “The Bear Trap” four times, which is much easier said than done because of the danger surrounding all three holes.
So, what is “The Bear Trap,” and how did the three-hole stretch get its name?
Honda Classic: What is “The Bear Trap” at PGA National?
The Champions Course at PGA National is one of the toughest tests on the PGA Tour schedule every year. The Honda Classic played as the third-hardest event (1.09 strokes over par) in the 2020-21 season, and it’s easy to see why. Water is in play on all 18 holes at PGA National, especially the three-hole stretch known as “The Bear Trap.”
Since 2007, holes 15-17 at PGA National have ranked as the fourth-hardest three-hole stretch in golf (+0.63 average). Here’s what it looks like:
Hole No. 15 — par 3, 179 yards
The 15th hole at PGA National is the shortest on “The Bear Trap,” but don’t be fooled by its length. Players must be precise with their tee shot to a diagonal green with water guarding the front and right sides of the hole. The unpredictable winds make this tee shot that much harder, but don’t take it from me. Take it from Jack Nicklaus, himself.
“This is a par 3 that can make you swallow twice.”
Hole No. 16 — par 4, 434 yards
The 16th hole is a daunting par 4 measuring up to 450 yards. Players must avoid the water on both their tee shot and their approach, while three expertly placed bunkers wait patiently for a chance to ruin their day. The issue here is the large gap between the fairway in the green, which forces players to lay up off the tee with an iron. That sets up a long, nervy approach shot up the hill to a small landing area. Par is a great score at 16.
Hole No. 17 — par 3, 190 yards
The third and final hole on “The Bear Trap” is another par 3 that plays 190 yards. Water (sensing a theme here?) guards the green short and right, but there’s no use bailing out to the left because of the deep bunker beyond the green. If you don’t find the putting surface off the tee, good luck scrapping out a par.
How did “The Bear Trap” get its menacing name?
“The Bear Trap” is marked by a giant bear statue overlooking the iconic plaque in front of the 15th tee, but how did that menacing name come to be?
Well, it all traces back to the Golden Bear himself — Jack Nicklaus. The 18-time major winner designed the golf course at PGA National, and he must’ve stubbed his toe or spilled his coffee directly beforehand, because he created one of the most grueling tests in golf.