Nicklaus Bear Trap tests heart guts


PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Don’t worry, Jack Nicklaus assures, someday soon the leaders will falter coming through the Bear Trap in a Sunday bid to win the Honda Classic.

As tough as the trio of holes Nicklaus built on PGA National’s Champion course are, we’ve yet to see a leader at Honda fall apart trying to protect his final-round lead through all the trouble at the 15th, 16th and 17th holes.

“It hasn’t been a tremendous problem at this tournament, but it will be one of these days,” Nicklaus said this week. 

Fifty-nine balls found the water through the Bear Trap in the Honda Classic's first round. With easterly winds blowing the same Friday as they did Thursday (gusting to 32 mph), the second round should provide more watery graves.

“It’s about guts,” Nicklaus said, tapping his mid-section. “It’s about what you’ve got here, in your chest.”

Raymond Floyd’s calamity at the Bear Trap in the1994 Senior PGA Championship looms as what’s possible for the frontrunners coming down the stretch on a Sunday.

Floyd took a one-shot lead on Lee Trevino to the 15th tee in the final round. One of the surest front-runners in tour history, Floyd walked away from the 15th green a wreck. He dunked two shots in the water and made quadruple-bogey 7. He dunked another ball in the water at the 17th and finished three behind Trevino.

Nicklaus built the Bear Trap as part of a redesign of the Champion Course in 1990. Before the Honda Classic moved here in 2007, he tweaked the design again. But here's all you need to know about how much Nicklaus believes in his original design of the Bear Trap: Despite his well-documented frustration over the distance boom brought on by ball and club technology, Nicklaus hardly touched his treacherous trio of holes while readying the course for the PGA Tour’s big hitters.

“It will stand the test,” Nicklaus said back in 2007. “I don't care if they make golf balls go a thousand yards, the Bear Trap will stand the test no matter what the equipment is.”

Water, wind and bunkers guard the trio of holes.