PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — When a lake partly surrounds the 18th green on any course you expect to find plenty of golf balls, maybe a few clubs and perhaps even an entire bag at the bottom. After all, this is the most frustrating game on earth.
What you don’t expect to see a few feet from the fringe is a car floating on top of that water. At least not a Honda Pilot Trailsport.
That is unless you’ve attended the Honda Classic.
Then you know one of the most frequently asked questions at PGA National the week of the Honda isn’t “Is Tiger Woods playing?” (The answer has been “no” since 2018.)
Or, “Where can I buy beer?” (OK, that one, maybe).
Rather, “How did they get that car onto the lake?”
No, it’s not by attaching it to a helicopter and dropping it onto the platform, a theory many have posited to John Johnson, who has been in charge of the floating and anchoring of the vehicle for 30 years.
Or another of Johnson’s favorites: “Did they attach the car to a huge crane that set it on the platform?”
The SUV will be floated by the 18th green for the very last time in 2023. The process took two days but Honda Motors is ending its sponsorship of the tournament after this year’s event, which runs Thursday through Sunday.
“It’s a bit emotional for us this year,” Honda Executive Director Andrew George said.
After the platform was delivered to the shore by a flatbed, it was positioned at the edge of the water by a boom tractor. The Honda then was driven onto the stage using a bunch of plywood and two steel ramps.
The crew then had to fight the wind and avoid the fountains and underwater cables as the platform was pulled about 800 feet by a 12-foot boat.
“We get it out to our location and then we have to position it,” said site supervisor Gary Klobukowski. “We’ll have the spotter on shore and he knows from the past where we set this. He’ll signal to us, ‘you need to spin the front end around,’ how to angle the vehicle.”
While it is being pulled, Johnson is in the water hanging onto the platform while steering it. The biggest challenge then is gators.
“Usually they just pass around and take a look,” he said.
The platform is anchored by about 24 old tires filled with concrete that weigh more than 7,000 pounds. The depth of the water is 8 to 10 feet.
Those anchors were moved in place by a forklift as the platform sat by the shore.
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Once anchored, the vehicle is monitored each day, as is the weather. A bad storm, like the one that hit in 2015, could cause the lake to rise and flood the vehicle. Any threat of excessive rain and workers will adjust the height of the raft. One year, when Honda was played at Mirasol, a hailstorm dinged the car.
Pranksters taking out their boats at night and decorating the vehicle with beer cans and bottles. It has happened.
The occasional stray golf ball could cause damage. One year, an amateur in the pro-am hit a shot that cracked a window. Crews had to tow the boat back to shore to get the window replaced.
“This is a true kickoff to the Honda Classic,” George said, “the car going out to the water.”
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