A Tom Fazio design that was touched up by Jack Nicklaus (ANOTHER Jack course?  Really?  It’d be one thing if, you know, they were good courses…) and is one of the more demanding tests golfers will face outside of the majors this season.  While the conditioning is meticulous and the scenery beautiful, it’s still a Jack Nicklaus design (or redesign in this case) which means that it’s going to play ridiculously hard, and if you can’t hit a shot a trillion miles in the air and have it land softly, you don’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell here.

PGA National is all about the three holes stretch from 15 to 17 called, not ironically at all, the “Bear Trap.”  How hard is this stretch?  At least year’s Honda, the field netted a +356 on these three holes.  Yea…sounds fun!

15 is pretty easy.  I mean, it’s just a 180ish yard par 3 that has a lake on three sides of a green that’s about half as deep as normal with bunkers surrounding it on all sides with land.  So obviously, you’re taking more club, but if you miss, it’s not really easy to get it up and down because the greens are so severe and the bunkers are deep as hell.  It’s pretty much impossible to knock it super close, and if the wind is blowing, par feels like an accomplishment.

16 is a par 4 that doglegs sharply right.  You have to carry 240 yards just to reach land all while avoiding water to the right and a massive fairway bunker.  If you manage to hit a good drive, all you have left is a 6 or 7 iron to a green that’s surrounded by more super deep bunkers, waste areas, brush and, oh yea, more water.  If your shot doesn’t have enough backspin, it’s going to end up in one of these hazards, but truth be told, if you can focus and not think about the bad stuff, this is probably the easiest hole of the three.

17 is another par 3, this time only measuring 170ish or so.  This hole, frankly, sucks.  The green is as tiny as can be and it’s completely exposed to the elements.  If you don’t have backspin on your shot, it’s not holding the green, period.  Yet another massive, deep bunker sits behind the green if you go long, and if you’re short, you’re wet.  Back to the bunker for a second…since the bunker is the obvious miss, you’d think it’d be the preffered landing spot for the pros.  You’d be wrong.  This green slopes HEAVILY from back to front, and a bunker shot that doesn’t have a lot of backspin on it is going into the water.  Anything buried is simply dead, and I don’t care who you are.

PGA National is a torture track.  There’s nothing remarkable about it, no great scenery or imaginative hole design, just one of the more purely brutal tests in the game.  This course is the epitome of a grinder’s course.  You’re not going to see birdies everywhere and sloppy bomb n’ gouge golf, but what you will see is the pros at their tactical best, picking their way around, going for fairways and the middle of greens and settling for par rather than giving up strokes.

Shot integrity is rewarded, so look for a solid ballstriker who isn’t overly streaky to do well here.  Take a look at some of the past champions…Ernie, Vijay, Paddy, Luke Donald and Calc…all of them don’t give strokes away and always stick around near the tops of leaderboards.  Expect this year’s winner to follow suit, and the sooner we can get away from this swamp, the better.