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This Beautiful Golf Course in Palm Beach Is One of The Toughest Courses on the PGA Tour

a golf course with a pond and palm trees
An Inside Look at The PGA National Resort Courtesy of PGA National Resort

Beneath the Florida sun, nestled behind live oak trees dripping with Spanish moss, is a little piece of golfing paradise. The warm weather, blue skies, and more than 160 golf courses have turned The Palm Beaches into Florida’s Golf Capitol. And every year, Palm Beach is an anticipated stop on the PGA Tour.

The Cognizant Classic in Palm Beaches, previously known as the Honda Classic, has been taking place for nearly 20 years, becoming a favorite tournament on the months-long tour. It's held at PGA National Resort and Spa in Palm Beach Gardens. It doesn't turn into a golf resort for just one weekend out of the year though. It's home to six golf courses, all designed by well-known and respected golf architects like George and Tom Fazio, Karl Litten, and Andy Staples. One of those courses is the "The Champion", which is considered one of the toughest tests on the PGA Tour. What's this famed course and resort really like when you step out on the links? We're giving you an inside look.

The Champion

a golf course with palm trees
The Champion, known as one of the toughest tests on the PGA Tour, located at PGA National Resort in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.Courtesy of PGA National Resort

The Champion is a bucket list course for many golfers. Not many courses have a lineage as storied as "The Champ." Opening in 1981, it was originally designed by the esteemed George and Tom Fazio, known for their incredible architecture and designs in the golf world. Its impressive resume includes the 1983 Ryder Cup, 1987 PGA Championship, and two decades of the Senior PGA Championship, and is now the host venue of the PGA Tour’s Cognizant Classic. Over the years, Jack Nicklaus has helped with several renovations and new designs on the course. He even has a section of the course named in his honor, "The Bear Trap."

The Bear Trap

The course has gained a reputation as being one of the toughest stretches of golf on the PGA Tour. Officials at the resort explained to us why that is.

"The Champion Course is perhaps best known for its renowned 'Bear Trap' – a series of three demanding holes (Nos. 15 – 17) many consider one of the toughest and most thrilling stretches in the game. No. 15 is a par three of 179 yards over water to a green flanked on three sides by a lake. Sixteen is a par four of 434 yards with a long forced water carry and a gigantic fairway bunker lurking. Cavernous greenside bunkers add to the difficulty. Seventeen is a par three of 175 yards over even more water to a beyond tricky to hit green. Then, if that wasn’t all enough, there’s the stout South Florida wind creating more havoc on the tough trio – especially on Sunday afternoon when the Cognizant Classic title is on the line."

a statue of a bear by a pond on a golf course
The Entrance of The Bear Trap on "The Champion Course" at PGA National Resort & Spa. Courtesy of PGA National Resort

“The Bear Trap” is loved, hated, and deeply anticipated by golfers all around the country. A plaque and bear statue stand at the entrance of the stretch to welcome golfers to what has become one of the ultimate challenges they can face for three consecutive holes.

Strongs winds and water on the course only add to the challenge. Though golfers can take in the gorgeous views, it also calls for a pretty grueling game.

"It's not about length, it's about precision," Mr. Nicklaus said himself about the great trap.

Other Courses at PGA National

We can't let The Champion get all the attention. Because the fact of the matter is there are five other courses to play on at PGA National.

a golf course with palm trees and ponds on it
"The Palmer" Golf Course at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.Courtesy of PGA National Resort

The Palmer has plenty of opportunities for creative shot-making and some beautiful birdies. The course is all about taking risks and getting rewards. Players also find it really fun, just like its namesake, Arnold Palmer.

The Fazio is a good balance where single-digit golfers will be challenged, while those with higher handicaps are in for a great round of some entertaining golf. The Fazio is a reinvention of The Haig, PGA National Resort’s original 18-hole course that opened in 1980. The Haig was designed by George and Tom Fazio in tribute to five-time PGA champion Walter Hagen. Later, it's renovation was led by third-generation designer Tom Fazio II.

The Estate is actually five miles off the main resort and is considered a hidden gem among the other courses on the property. It's got both challenging and tame holes, generous fairways, and inviting greens, not to mention some pretty beautiful practice facilities, all designed by Karl Litten.

The Match and The Staple are two innovative courses designed by Andy Staples. Encouraging match versus stroke play, The Match was one of the most highly anticipated golf course opening in the last few years, perfect for those intrigued by good course design. Meanwhile, The Staple is nine holes of pure fun. Holes range from 60-130 yards and featuring some unique designs, funneling shots, and in some cases, difficult-to-reach shelves. Each hole is playable using only a putter which is super one-of-a-kind and a fun challenge. Each of the courses were originally designed as The Squire in 1983 by, you guessed it, Tom and George Fazio, and Andy Staples converted it into two new courses for the resort.

Resort & Spa

a pool in a courtyard
The pool area at PGA National Resort and Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, FloridaCourtesy of PGA National Resort

Though a popular resort, PGA National is a golf club where any fans of the sport can become a member. It's rooted deep in golf tradition and is considered to be "approachable luxury" for those looking to access world-class golf.

After the first round of the day, take a dip in the pool or lounge inside the gorgeous hotel decorated in classic Palm Beach style. The dining options alone at PGA National are worth the visit. Indulge in one the signature restaurants, Top Chef winner Jeremy Ford’s The Butcher’s Club, James Beard-nominated Lindsay Autry’s Honeybelle, and a unique Omakase concept from New York, Sushi by Boū.

And if you want to unwind at The Spa, it was recently redesigned by Venus Williams’s design firm, V Starr.

At PGA National, it seems like folks really do come for the golf, but stay for the lifestyle.

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