Get ready golf fans, its that time of year again; the Honda Classic will return to PGA National Resort & Spa February 22-28, bringing with it 140 of the world’s top golfers to battle the indomitable Champion Course and the dreaded Bear Trap. The PGA Tours’ only Palm Beach County stop, the Honda Classic is the first stop on the “Florida Swing,” a whirlwind of golf tournaments leading up to the year’s first major, The Masters, in April. And while the Honda Classic offers a great warm-up for the meat of the PGA Tour schedule, the spoils of victory aren’t too shabby either: the winner takes home $1.09 million of the $6.1 million purse, and 500 FedExCup points.
With PBC acting as home base for a number of golfers, it’s no shock that the field (as of press; 2/11/2016) is brimming with local talent. World No. 2, and Palm Beach Gardens resident Rory McIlroy has committed to play, as did fellow Palm Beach Gardens resident and world No. 4 Rickie Fowler. Rounding out the field’s world top 25 commits are the following: Patrick Reed (No. 9), Branden Grace (No. 11), Hideki Matsuyama (No. 12), Zach Johnson (No. 15), Sergio Garcia (No. 16), Kevin Kisner (no. 17), Adam Scott (No. 18), and Brooks Koepka (No. 19).
As for players to watch, Fowler should top your list. Since last year’s Honda Classic, Fowler has jumped from world No. 12 to 4, winning the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, part of the European Tour, in January, and falling short in a playoff at the Phoenix Open on Super Bowl Sunday. For those following Fowler, they have been waiting for him to take that next step in his career and take home a major. The Honda Classic should be a good barometer for Fowler heading into The Masters, meaning Palm Beach Gardens should be in for a show come the close of February.
All of this makes for one of the biggest gathering in Palm Beach Gardens’ all year. To make the most of it, we have cobbled together a little advice on how to do the Honda Classic.
If you don’t have a press-parking pass, you’ll likely have to park off campus. I suggest Uber. If this is not an option, and you do drive, general parking is located at Dyer Park (7301 Haverhill Road, West Palm Beach, FL 33412) and costs $10 per day (Honda and Acura vehicles park free). Shuttles take spectators to and from the tournament. Expect a 45-minute delay.
BallenIsles parking is also available for $20 per day just off PGA Boulevard. This option is limited, so get there early.
Pairings to Watch
Without Tiger prowling the fairways, whom should fan attention gravitate toward?
[Pairings will be announced on Wednesday, February 24. We will update you with the best pairings to watch come announcement.]
On the Inside
Aside from the stellar golf this tournament is shaping up to deliver, the 2016 Honda Classic fan experience is set to blow all previous years out of the water (kind of like the floating cars out on the ponds).
From post-play concerts to multiple hospitality tents amplified by prime spectating sections, there is plenty to do and see while hopping from hole to hole. Here’s a quick rundown of what to expect with the Fan Experience:
The Michelob Ultra Terrace is a great spot to catch both the tee on first and the greens on ninth while grabbing a cold one—hence the name—and a bite of grub. When the last putt drops (around 6 p.m.), the Terrace will double as the stage for the After Play Concert Series till 9 p.m. This year’s lineup starts with the king of the soprano saxophone, Kenny G, playing on Thursday, February 25. On Friday, February 26, The Tailgaters, a Nashville-based country five piece led by Joe Bachman. The concert series comes to a close on Saturday, February 27 with DJ Supreme1, whose mash-up of rock, 80s, hip-hop, and house brings some serious vibes. As a bonus, Friday and Saturday night will boast fireworks displays following the concerts, so sit tight and enjoy the evening. On Sunday following the last putt, the winner will be handed the Honda Classic trophy and a check for $1.08 million.
For the roaming golf fan, the hospitality options are plentiful throughout the course. Returning this year, and my personal favorite spot to catch the action, is Gosling’s Dark ‘n’ Stormy Bear Trap tent. Located in the heart of the Bear Trap, just off the 16th green and the 17th tee, the party platform has expanded, meeting its neighbor, the Cobra Puma Golf Village, for an awesome homestretch fan experience. With the live televised tournament coverage piped into the tent’s televisions, Gosling’s is essentially a sports bar in the center of a golf tournament—its sightlines of the Bear Trap are only topped by its dining and spirits offerings. As the name suggests, Goslings Rum will flow freely—dark and stormy’s anyone?—and upgraded food selections will be available.
- Tickets for the Gosling’s Dark ‘N Stormy Bear Trap and Puma Golf Village cost $125 per day. For tickets, click here.
With the Honda Classic’s expansive fan experience, its hard to imagine there being room to expand, but expand they did for 2016. New this year are two new zones for fans to catch all the action in VIP fashion. The Moët & Chandon Champagne Lounge, located behind the 10th tee will feature bubbly from the title sponsors and bites from Brio Tuscan Grill. Open to al ticket holders, an outdoor observation deck offers premium views of the players’ tee shots. Also new in 2016 is ULTRA Deck at 16. Located between the 12th and 16th holes, this casual oases will serve craft beer, offer food truck fare, and give fans some of the best views of golfers’ second shots with an observation deck looking straight down 16.
Bring the Kids
The Honda Classic is not just a place for moms and pops, but a great kid-friendly event as well. On Saturday, from 12-8 p.m., the Kids Club at the Honda Pavilion will keep the kiddies busy and plenty entertained with a plethora of interactive games and contests, all centered around golf of course.
Attend on Thursday
If you are crowd averse but still want to catch the action firsthand, head to the tournament on Thursday. While spectators are still expected to be in record numbers for the early rounds, it is not nearly as crowded as the weekend, especially Sunday.
Need a break from walking the course? Last year, torrential rain made finding shelter a necessity, with many finding their way to PGA National’s posh lobby watering hole, iBAR—an air-conditioned reprieve. For those looking to maintain views while enjoying an indoor break, Bar 91 is essentially a sports bar gone luxe, with stellar bites and full bar to quench that thirst.