Bear Trap 101
Here's everything you need to know about the 15th, 16th and 17th holes at Jack Nicklaus' famed PGA National
February 25, 2014
The PGA TOUR begins its Florida Swing this week at The Honda Classic. The host course is PGA National's Champion course, which was redesigned in 1990 by Jack Nicklaus. The course now offers one of the most iconic three-hole stretches on TOUR, the 15th, 16th and 17th holes known as the Bear Trap.
Since 2007 when the course hosted its first Honda Classic, the Bear Trap has ranked as the fourth toughest three-hole stretch on TOUR. Only Quail Hollow's three finishing holes and two combinations involving parts of Augusta National's Amen Corner have proven tougher on an annual basis.
"Probably some of the toughest three holes in world golf really -- especially when the wind is up," Graeme McDowell said about the Bear Trap.
Golfers who play the Champion course won't have trouble recognizing when they reach the Bear Trap -- there's a statue of a bear waiting for them on the 15th tee.
Getting safely through the Bear Trap this week could go a long way in determing The Honda Classic's champion.
"You have to be pretty precise," said 2012 Honda champ Rory McIlroy. "You get through that stretch in even par for the week, you've done very well."
On the welcoming plaque next to that bear statue, there is a quote from Nicklaus that simply says, "It should be won or lost right here."
The start of the Bear Trap is not a long par 3, but the winds make it very tricky as you have to play a shot into a diagonal green running left to right. The slope of the front part of the green runs left, away from you, with a big bunker in the back, which is very difficult to get up and down from because it runs away from the bunker and towards the water. This is a par 3 that can make you swallow twice.
Jack Nicklaus discusses the 15th: "15 was a little benign par 3 before we did it. There was not much there. The water was in play. It was sort of a nothing little hole, and when we brought the water in play, all of a sudden it became a monster and it's only a monster because of the awkward wind there that sort of comes into you, right-to-left, and you have to sort of cut into it or if you get it hooking it sweeps across the green. I was either lucky or stupid enough to do it the way I did it, whichever way it was. But it turned out to be a really interesting little golf hole."
WHAT THE PLAYERS SAY
"The par 3s, 15 and 17, are the challenge. There's really no bail out. You have to hit a good shot." - Tiger Woods
No player has aced the 15th in TOUR competition. Mark Wilson came the closest in the first round in 2012, hitting his tee shot to 4 inches.
SCORING LEADERS ON 15TH HOLE, 2007-2013 (minimum 8 rounds)
|Player||Rounds||Relative to par|
|Padraig Harrington||12||4 under|
|Chad Campbell||14||3 under|
|Arron Oberholser||8||2 under|
|Kenny Perry||14||2 under|
|Kyle Stanley||10||2 under|
|Peter Lonard||10||2 under|
16TH HOLE, PAR 4, 434 YARDS
This hole presents a tee shot that most players will play with an iron just to get the ball out into the fairway. The second shot is played over water and into a green that's slightly elevated. It's always been one of the strongest holes on the golf course.
Jack Nicklaus discusses the 16th: "16 isn't anything all that unusual. It's not much of a tee shot. And the water really is not in play on that hole very much. I could have put the water in play there if I wanted to, but I felt like with 15 and 17, I didn't think that they needed it that much in play on the second shot, felt like it needed to come out. It's always a good, strong hole. But the wind conditions always make it so because if you miss the fairway the second shot becomes very awkward."
WHAT THE PLAYERS SAY
"16, if you get your drive away, is OK. But obviously missing it right isn't very good." - Rory McIlroy
"I like 16; 16 doesn't bother me as much as the par 3s. I usually hit a 2‑iron or a 3‑wood off the tee, and that one doesn't bother me because of my length. The other two are the hardest two of the Bear Trap for me." - Davis Love III
Five players have four-putted the 16th green since 2007. That's more than any other hole at PGA National.
SCORING LEADERS ON 16TH HOLE, 2007-2013 (minimum 8 rounds)
|Player||Rounds||Relative to par|
|Ernie Els||24||5 under|
|Vaughn Taylor||22||4 under|
|Bill Haas||10||3 under|
|Steve Marino||19||3 under|
|Frank Lickliter II||8||2 under|
|Alex Cejka||18||2 under|
|Jerry Kelly||20||2 under|
17TH HOLE, PAR 3, 190 YARDS
The 17th is a par 3 that has been lengthened to 190 yards over the water and into a very small green that is bunkered left. This is a par 3 that will present a lot of problems; it always has in the past.
Jack Nicklaus discusses the 17th: "17 is just a little flip, nothing. All of the sudden, putting it on the water -- it might have been on the water before, but putting it on the water and again with the conditions, and that wind coming in your face an awful lot, and if you miss it left, of course, I did that on purpose obviously. I did that one on purpose. I felt like you could play from that bunker but you had to be a little careful. And the whole segment there is not length. It's not about length. It's about precision. It's about guts. It's about can you get down -- what do you have between here, in your chest, that you can finish those holes."
WHAT THE PLAYERS SAY
"I think 17 is probably the toughest shot, just from a personal standpoint. Usually the wind is a little bit in off the left. It pushing the ball towards the water. It's a little longer than the 15th hole, too." - Luke Donald
In 2011, 65 balls found the water at the 17th, the most of any par-3 hole on TOUR that year. But in the next two years, just 30 balls cumulative have found the water.
SCORING LEADERS ON THE 17TH HOLE, 2007-2013 (minimum 8 rounds)
|Player||Rounds||Relative to par
|Padraig Harrington||12||2 under|
|Rich Barcelo||8||2 under|
|Bart Bryant||8||2 under|
|Derek Lamely||8||2 under|
Previewing the 15th, 16th and 17th holes
FUN FACTS ABOUT THE BEAR TRAP
From 2007-12, just 20 players managed to play bogey-free golf on holes 15-17 in the same week. Last year, however, nine players achieved that feat. Graeme McDowell (2011, 2013) and Keegan Bradley (2012, 2013) are the only players who have been bogey-free in two years.
The scoring leaders on the Bear Trap since 2007: Henrik Bjornstad, Daniel Chopra and Russell Henley. Each is 4 under. They are just three of 30 players currently under par on the Bear Trap during that span. Just 7 percent of all players since 2007 are under par.
The Bear Trap accounts for 18 percent of all bogeys, 33 percent of all doubles and 41 percent of all triples or worse at PGA National.
2,069 balls have been hit in the water at PGA National since 2007. The Bear Trap has accounted for 38 percent (779 balls).
Briny Baird has the highest career scoring average on the Bear Trap. He's 26 over in 18 rounds. Chris DiMarco is next at 24 over in 13 rounds, with David Duval at 23 over through 14 rounds.
23 percent of all players have career scores of 10 over par on worse on the Bear Trap.
Since 2007, there have been 126 three-putts or worse on the 16th hole, the most of any hole at PGA National.
Just 11 of 222 players since 2007 have played the 17th hole at least six times and have yet to record a bogey or worse. Keegan Bradley has played the hole 10 times and has 10 pars.