By RANDALL MELL
All four courses in the Florida Swing offer dramatic tests that make this month-long run up to the Masters good theater. It’s fitting they each have colorful nicknames adding to the fun.
The TPC at Doral’s Blue Monster isn’t a monster anymore. More birdies are made on that course than any other on the Florida swing, but that doesn’t hinder the drama there. The famed 18th is still a beast when the prevailing winds are blowing into the players.
The Bear Trap, PGA National’s 15th, 16th and 17th holes at the Honda Classic, has built a scary reputation in its short four years as home to a PGA Tour event. So has the Snake Pit, the trio of finishing holes at Innisbrook at the Transitions Championship. The problem is they’re still so new to the Florida Swing they haven’t built up the history of the thrills and spills quite yet.
The Florida Swing’s best named test is the Devil’s Bathtub at this week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill. The 18th hole with the demon pond still turns the souls of Tour players cold. It has the history the Bear Trap and Snake Pit do not and doesn’t need the wind to be beastly like the Blue Monster’s finishing hole.
By REX HOGGARD
The fine work of marketing types all across the Sunshine State aside, nicknames and signature holes are modern creations that may bolster tee sheets but do little to improve shot values or the design quality of a golf course.
Augusta National’s magical turn of Nos. 11-13 was special long before Herbert Warren Wind ever dubbed that miracle mile “Amen Corner.” Point is substance makes the nickname, not the other way around.
Consider the newly christened “Snake Pit” at Innisbrook’s Copperhead course, site of last week’s Transitions Championship. Although the event has historically been something of a non-starter on the Florida Swing field-wise, the layout is considered by many players the best of the Sunshine State crop regardless of marketing hype.
Similarly, PGA National’s “Bear Trap” is a demanding stretch nestled amid an otherwise solid collection of holes, particularly when compared to the Honda Classic’s former homes.
While the pond that rings Bay Hill’s 18th green, dubbed the “Devil’s Bathtub,” has taken its pound of flesh from championship hopefuls, poll Tour types and the truth is Arnie’s place is the third- or fourth-best of the Florida rota.
But TPC Blue Monster is the perfect combination of style, substance and history. A historic nickname just adds to the aura.