Few courses can host a PGA Tour event on short notice, as The Concession Golf Club has done in preparation for this week’s WGC-Workday Championship. But Concession’s 7,474-yard routing — which replaced Club de Golf Chapultepec, in Mexico City, as the WGC venue — is a stern, tournament-ready test from Nicklaus Design that requires precise shotmaking and rewards complete games. (Nicklaus Design is an affiliate of GOLF.com’s parent company 8AM Golf.)
Founded in 2006 in Bradenton, Fla., just south of Tampa, Concession pairs the best attributes of Florida golf with some decidedly un-Floridian touches, most evident in the course’s rustic, natural presentation. A handful of the holes are ½-pars that will force the players to make decisions, and every hole has difficult, sloping greens that will test the field’s wedge games and putters.
Here are 5 design elements at Concession worth keeping an eye on this week:
1. A superb set of par 5s
Yes, there are four of them and typically that promotes low scoring over four rounds. Not so fast here, though! The 7th and 16th average nearly 600 yards. The 13th (below) is the shortest at 545 yards but its angled, elevated green is maddening to hit, even for these guys approaching with mid-irons. No one better appreciates what a reachable par-5 can mean than Jack Nicklaus, and his portfolio is replete with excellent examples of this type of hole. Here, the elusive knob green will provide plenty of theatrics and could produce the pivotal moment on Sunday.
2. Rugged bunkering
Nicklaus Design adopted a rough-hewn weathered look to the bunkers at Concession and this style imbues the course with a more natural appearance than many of its Florida brethren. Plenty of Tour stops feature bunkers with clean, crisp edges and pearly white sand; this isn’t that, and give the Tour credit for showcasing a different aesthetic.
3. Risk-reward galore
When Nicklaus worked with Pete Dye in the late 1960s at Harbour Town, one of his takeaways was how finesse holes can be employed to examine who is thinking the most clearly. Like at Harbour Town, Concession has two such holes, one on each side. The 8th, which measures 374 yards from the back (322 yards from the blue tees), features a stream that hugs the front and right side of a smallish green. At 349 yards, the 12th features as much sand per yard as any hole on the course. Will the Tour have fun and utilize a forward tee on one or both of those holes? Fireworks would surely follow. Having two reachable, perilous holes in such a short stretch is likely to shake-up the leaderboard.
4. Sweet 16
Another hole built for heroics is the 16th which buttonhooks around a lake. Matching the club with the line on the tee ball will be critical on this position hole and the difference in direction off the tee from being aggressive or conservative is as much as 50 yards. Penalties for the too greedy and less precise are omnipresent. A disaster here off the tee may not leave the player enough time to recover on Sunday.
5. Vexing greens
As always, the greens ultimately determine the difficulty for the professionals. Concession’s putting greens feature significant contour whether it be tilt, heave or swale. As a set, the green complexes are quite diverse, ranging from deep surfaces like the 45-yard long 2nd to compact ones like the 8th. Some are elevated while others welcome running ground shots. Many are angled to the fairway so positioning your tee ball is important. Indeed, several greens have actually been softened since the course opened though the pros are unlikely to feel like that is the case!