Q&A with Jack Nicklaus

Continued (page 2 of 4)

Let's see . . . Oddly enough, North Palm Beach Country Club. It's maybe 130 acres in North Palm Beach. It has 30 feet of elevation change and it's on the same sand dune that Seminole is on. We redid that about two years ago. It's a beautiful little golf course. That kind of property is a great little location and I think it's turned out nice.

One property we haven't done and it doesn't look like we're going to do it is in Iceland, on the ocean. It looks like valleys down through the lava field. It's all covered with fescue. It's unbelievable. I don't if that course will ever happen but it's a great piece of property. I'll never forget that one. Did you know there's probably more golf played in Iceland than most places in the world? They play 24 hours a day in the summertime and the northern part is warmer than the southern part. It's a beautiful place to play. We're also working on 36 holes on the southern tip of Baja that we'll probably get started on later this year.

If you were going to make one change to Augusta, what would it be?
The ball. [Laughs.] I liked Augusta the way it used to be, but the game has changed so much that Augusta the way it used to be wouldn't challenge the golfers today. What's been done to Augusta is against my philosophy and probably against Bobby Jones' philosophy. But what they did is correct for the philosophy of the game today. And I think they did a great job. I think Augusta is equally as good a golf course, if not better, than when I was winning, but it's a different golf course with a different philosophy with the same set of greens. It's a wonderful place. I love Augusta.

Can you summarize for me what it means when I see Nicklaus Signature Course? When I see that, I always feel like I'm definitely playing a course where you got involved and that you were on property a few times. Is that accurate?
Yes. Some of my early golf courses I wasn't as involved. I was playing and maybe it was hard to get to. Maybe you might find one in China or someplace like that. Like Mission Hills in China, I was only there for one visit. That was the first golf courses they ever did. It looks like we might go redo it now and I'd probably make a lot more visits. What we determine as a Nicklaus Signature Course is one that I do. What's on that ground has my expression of what should be on that ground.

A Nicklaus Design golf course is done by the guys in my company that I work with, that have been trained in my vision, and they do what they think I might do. They might come in the office and ask me questions and I'd certainly answer their questions, but I'm not involved in the site visits or anything else.

Is there's a huge price difference between a Nicklaus Design course and a Nicklaus Signature course?
I've always felt you really shouldn't dictate a budget to a client. It's the client who tells you, "We have so much money to spend and this is the clientele we're going after and this is what we need to do." If you came into my office and said, "Jack I'd like to have a golf course and I have $2 million dollars. What can I do?" Well, you'll get Nicklaus Design and you'll get the best you can get for $2 million dollars.

Another guy comes in and says he wants all the bells and whistles and everything else, my goal is try to do it for as inexpensively as I can because I don't believe in just spending money to spend money, or moving dirt just to move dirt. But I do believe you want to try and create something there that's very unique and very special for him because that's what he's asking for and that's probably what's going to fit his market. North Palm Beach was a $3 million redo but it was a 100 percent redo. Dismal River, I don't think we spent $2 million of the golf course, if we spent that.

And then you might get a golf course where you have a very high union and heavy populated area where you might spend $30 million on the golf course because the conditions dictate that. I've had places where we moved 10 million yards of dirt because we had to create a site. English Turn is where we took a swamp nine feet below sea level, but because of the location it was worth it. We spent $7 million dollars to bring that swamp up with a drainage system and a pump system that would pump it back into the Mississippi River. But we only spent $4 million doing the golf course. But because of the location it was worth that. If you had to go out of town to build it, you would've spent far more doing that out of town and ended up with something that was an hour away for people rather than 20 minutes. There's a whole bunch of different ways you do things.

Let me shift to another one of your passions: fly-fishing. If you could only take one more trip to fly fish, where would you go and why?
That's a pretty good question. I could give you a pretty confusing answer on that. I love to fly fish so it depends on whether I'm going to do salt water or fresh water. So I'll break it up. If I'm doing salt water, convenient for me is to go to the Bahamas. And whether I go over into Berry Island or Andros Island, that area over there is spectacular for bonefish. I like that a lot. If I wanted to go fresh water I'd probably go to New Zealand, to the South Island for the trout down there. I've probably done that seven or eight times. And that's spectacular. Helicopter fishing back into all of those places.

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