Jack Nicklaus-designed Golf Courses

By Jim Thomas
Jack Nicklaus presenting the Memorial Tournament trophy to Steve Stricker at Muirfield Village.
Jack Nicklaus presenting the Memorial Tournament trophy to Steve Stricker at Muirfield Village.

Although Jack Nicklaus will never achieve the recognition as a course designer he did as player -- he has won a record 18 major tournaments -- his design achievements are notable. The Nicklaus Design firm has built approximately 350 golf courses around the world, as of the publication date. There are Nicklaus courses in 34 countries and 39 states. Another 40 are under construction. His courses often are tied in with luxury housing and resort developments.

Design Philosophy

Nicklaus' interest in golf design began at an early age. When he sized up a hole as a youngster, he tried to determine the architect's intention in order to figure out the best way to attack it. "Any hole that didn't make sense to me I'd try to redesign [in my mind]. It was fun. It helped my game," Nicklaus was quoted as saying in a 1973 edition of Esquire magazine. Nicklaus' strength and length were his primary weapons in competition, but his design philosophy is more cerebral. His main goal is "to make a player use his mind instead of his muscles; to control his emotions sufficiently to really think through his options before drawing a club from the bag," he says in his book, "My Story."

Muirfield Village

Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio, is perhaps the most well-known course designed by Nicklaus. Muirfield Village and the development surrounding it are partly owned by Nicklaus, who plays host to the prestigious Memorial Tournament at his course every spring. Built in 1974, the course traditionally ranks among the 100 best courses in the United States as chosen by "Golf Digest" and "Golf Magazine."

Other Notable Courses

Nicklaus Design has built a number of other famous courses. Among them are the Hualalai Course at Four Seasons Resort in Hualalai, Hawaii; Turtle Point on Kiawah Island in South Carolina; the Greenbrier Course in White Sulpher Springs, West Virginia; and Palmilla in Cabo del Sol Ocean Course. Many other highly rated Nicklaus designs have played host to PGA Tour events, including Harbour Town Golf Links in South Carolina (a Pete Dye design with help from Nicklaus), Castle Pines Golf Club in Colorado and Shoal Creek in Alabama, the site of two PGA Championships.

Nicklaus Design Attributes

Nicklaus has built some beastly tracts. "Golfers have a tendency to be very masochistic," Nicklaus said in Maclean's Magazine. "They like to punish themselves for some reason. A lot of them like tough courses." Although Nicklaus moves plenty of dirt around when he builds courses -- to give a course "instant maturity" he elevates an area and fits a green into it -- he is sensitive to the environment as well. "It really hurts me to cut down a tree, and I avoid it whenever possible," he said in Pastimes magazine.

About the Author

Jim Thomas has been a freelance writer since 1978. He wrote a book about professional golfers and has written magazine articles about sports, politics, legal issues, travel and business for national and Northwest publications. He received a Juris Doctor from Duke Law School and a Bachelor of Science in political science from Whitman College.

Photo Credits

  • Scott Halleran/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
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