Jack Nicklaus is now revered as much for his work off the course as he was on it. Nicklaus Design, the global design company he founded, is widely regarded as the world’s leading design firm. The company has designed 415 courses in 39 countries. Over 150 of them have provided the venue for more than 1,000 professional golf tournaments worldwide.
Nicklaus Design is a family business which has grown into a huge team of designers trained in landscape architecture, agronomy and state-of-the-art technology, working in eight offices in six countries. Some of the world’s greatest courses bear the mark of Jack’s philosophy and vision. Let’s take a look at some of his greatest design achievements.
The Gleneagles Resort – PGA Centenary
This naturally beautiful and challenging Nicklaus Design hosted the 2019 Solheim Cup. It’s hands down the most difficult eighteen holes at the three-course Gleneagles resort, which lies in beautiful heathland countryside north of Edinburgh in Scotland. As a sign of its quality, the Ryder Cup also came here in 2014. A par 72, the tees are graded at each hole in five stages, including a challenging 6,815 yards from the white markers down to 5,322 from the red.
There are spectacular views of the Perthshire countryside and the rugged Grampian mountains. Jack described the course as “the finest parcel of land in the world I have ever been given to work with”. The usual Nicklaus features are in place: huge tiered and undulating greens, deep bunkering and a number of risk and reward holes, reflecting Jack’s bold, yet cerebral style as a player.
The Champion course at PGA National Resort & Spa in Florida was redesigned by Jack Nicklaus in 2014 and hosts the Honda Classic each spring on the PGA Tour. The Par-71, 7,140-yard course has generous landing areas and spacious TifEagle greens and golfers are presented with course management challenges throughout the round, as you would expect from Jack, the master tactician. It also has five sets of tees to make the course more playable for golfers of all levels.
The Champion features the famous and notorious Bear Trap, which spans three demanding holes and is known as one of the toughest stretches in world golf. It starts at the 15th, a 176-yard par three with water hazards short, right and long. The 16th is a long par four with water all the way down the right, fairway bunkers left and right and a water carry for your approach into a two-tiered green. There’s no respite at the wicked par-3 17th with its huge water carry and a bunker off the back of the green.
This 7,396-yard, par-72 Nicklaus Design creation in the Dominican Republic has made the most of a stunning location by the sea, bringing the natural coastal topography of ocean, cliffs and lagoons into the design. Almost half the holes route along the dramatic shoreline and the ample space here lends a personal, private feel to your experience. It is often called the best course on the Caribbean island.
The par-5, 611-yard monster second hole is perhaps the toughest, played from one of the highest points on the property past a tidal lake and beach bunker. The signature hole is the 250-yard par-3 13th, where the beautiful setting balances the great risk of losing a ball to the ocean. It calls for a courageous all-carry tee shot over the sea to a green perched on the edge of the island.
The Monte Rei Golf Club is set in the picturesque foothills of the Eastern Algarve in Portugal, with sweeping views of the Serra do Caldeirao mountains to the north and the Atlantic Ocean to the south. The par-72 Championship course measuring 7,180 yards from the tournament tees is a truly challenging design with water coming into play on eleven of the eighteen holes.
The course features an enjoyable series of eight par-4s, five par-3s and five par-5s in a brave and distinctive layout. The course presentation is superb; each hole is an exciting prospect blending effortlessly into this natural countryside which features several lakes. It’s the only Nicklaus Design in Portugal and one of the best courses in the country. Beautiful on the eye but a real test of your golf game, with plenty of holes favouring the the famous ‘Nicklaus fade’.
Officially opened in 1988, Saint Mellion was the first European golf course to be designed by the Golden Bear. The classic Nicklaus traits of elevated tees, numerous water hazards, and the need for good golf course strategy are very evident throughout this 7,019-yard layout. Many of the manicured fairways are lined by banks and the beautifully conditioned greens have been constructed to a special American specification that produces excellent surfaces.
The par-72, 7,010-yard course is part of a fantastic resort set in 450 acres of stunning Cornish rolling countryside in south-east England. The course was deemed good enough to host the Benson & Hedges International Open on the European Tour between 1990-95. It’s many multi-tiered greens and strategically placed hazards make it a real challenge. “I knew it was going to be good, but not this good.” said Jack. “It’s everything I hoped for and more.”
Among Jack’s other great courses is Muirfield Village, named after Muirfield in Scotland where he won the first of his three Open titles in 1966. It hosts the Memorial Tournament on the PGA Tour each year. The Bears Club is another great course from Jack, a private luxury golf and real estate complex near his operations base in Palm Beach. Gut Lärchenhof, in Germany, is another tournament level course from Jack, having hosted the BMW International Open on the European Tour last year. Finally, Valhalla, designed by Jack in 1986, has hosted the PGA Championship four times and the Ryder Cup in 2008.