Back in the 1960s, an Ohio kid checked in on the construction of what would become the highest-ranked course in the state. The design was The Golf Club, and the kid was Jack Nicklaus—a curious observer to the work being done by Pete Dye. Nicklaus, who by 1966 was a career Grand Slam winner, would sign up with Dye as his player consultant, starting a partnership that included Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head Island, site of an annual tour stop since 1969. The host venue to the PGA Tour's Memorial Tournament for more than 35 years, Jack's Muirfield Village Golf Club actually sits on land that Nicklaus and Dye prospected back in the late 1960s, although that project didn't come to fruition. By the time Muirfield Village came to be in 1974, Nicklaus and Dye had split. Fast-forward almost four decades, and Nicklaus' design company has eight offices in six countries, with Jack designing more than 300 courses and growing his business into one of the most successful design firms of his generation.
Here's a look at Jack's best courses—ranked in the order our Golf Digest course-ranking panelists scored them based on our most recent America's 100 Greatest Golf Courses ranking and Golf Digest's World 100 Greatest Courses ranking.
Courtesy of Quivira Golf Club
Ranked seventh on our Best in Mexico ranking from 2020, this Cabo course isn't short on views. As our Ron Kaspriske put it, "The quirky, fun design is like playing golf inside a Salvador Dali painting."
This 2007 Jack Nicklaus design built on the base of a volcanic base on New Zealand’s North Island, three hours from Auckland, debuted on our latest World’s 100 Greatest list at No. 94.
Photo by Stephen Szurlej
For years the marquee course in Los Cabos was Cabo Del Sol's Ocean course. Nicklaus called 16, 17 and 18 here "the finest finishing stretch in golf" when the Ocean course opened in 1994, with its greens perched on top of rock right on the water. The course, No. 91 on our most recent World 100 rankings, also features back-to-back par 3s (six and seven).
Courtesy of Mayacama GC
Dramatic, elevated tees within the Sonoma foothills make for some incredible vistas at Mayacama, currently 114th on our latest Second 100 Greatest. Mayacama has been ranked inside the 100 Greatest since 2005 (highest ranking was No. 66) for all but two years (it was ranked 100th on our 2019-2020 list).
The PGA of America purchased the course in 2000, and it has hosted many of its championships at this former floodplain site that opened in 1986. Valhalla is slated to host the 2024 PGA Championship, which would be its fourth major, having held the 1996, 2000 and 2014 PGAs, as well as the 2008 Ryder Cup.
Host of the 2015 Presidents Cup, Nicklaus transformed this once-flat layout into rolling terrain that has views of Songdo International Business District.
Sitting in the 46-square-mile Cap Cana community that is a short drive from the airport—the largest privately held airport in the world—Punta Espada opened in 2006 and has incredible views with eight of its greens perched right on the Caribbean shore.
Castle Pines is currently ranked 48th on our latest 100 Greatest, with its highest rank being 28th in 2009. Our panelists give Castle Pines particular credit for being one of Jack's most playable, top-ranked courses. The course hosted the PGA Tour's event, The International, for 21 years, up until 2006, when it was removed from the schedule after not being able to secure a sponsor.
This neighborhood of Long Island already had two of the world's best courses, National Golf Links of America and Shinnecock Hills, but the addition of Sebonack, sitting on 300 acres on the Peconic Bay, with clear views of National and Shinnecock, clinched this stretch of golf as one of the best in the world. Jack Nicklaus and Tom Doak collaborated on their 2006 design, as Ron Whitten put it, they were "on the same team, but not necessarily on the same page." Nonetheless, the end result is a great addition to the eastern edge of Long Island, forever a golf mecca.
Always being worked on and tweaked by Jack Nicklaus and his team (including a complete restoration ahead of the 2021 Memorial Tournament), Muirfield Village is a dream realized for Jack, who wanted to bring a great club to his hometown of Columbus. The club has been a worthy venue to the Memorial since 1976 and also hosted the 1987 Ryder Cup and 2013 Presidents Cup. Muirfield Village ranks 15th on our latest 100 Greatest, and it has ranked as high as eighth in 1985.
Other notable Jack Nicklaus golf courses:
Shoal Creek, Shoal Creek, Ala.
Ranked as high as 14th on Golf Digest's 1983 100 Greatest ranking, Shoal Creek slipped into our Second 100 Greatest in our past three rankings (currently No. 119). But the club underwent a significant renovation over the past couple years, earning runner-up for the Best Renovation award in 2017. Shoal Creek was designed with hosting major championships in mind, the club holding the 1984 and 1990 PGA Championships, the 2018 U.S. Women's Open, as well as the 1986 U.S. Amateur.
Ranked 141st on our Second 100 Greatest rankings, this Nicklaus and Tony Jacklin collaboration is an ode to the famous Ryder Cup gesture in 1969 at Birkdale, where both sides agreed to tie the matches. This is one of the rare Jack Nicklaus designs that isn't surrounded by homesites. Concession hosted a WGC event in 2021, won by Collin Morikawa.
Harbour Town Golf Links, Hilton Head Island
Courtesy of Rob Tipton
Long considered one of the best designs in the country, ranking inside the top 50 from its debut on our 100 Greatest in 1971 through 1991, Harbour Town continues to fall on our rankings. Its spot at No. 142 on our latest Second 100 Greatest is the course's lowest-ever spot. But the history at this Pete Dye and Jack Nicklaus design is undeniable. Site of a PGA Tour event since 1969, Harbour Town remains a great test for its use of angles and emphasis on rewarding quality ball-striking. Also the home to the first waste bunker in the U.S.
Sycamore Hills Golf Club, Fort Wayne, Ind.
Courtesy of Jim Mandeville
This Nicklaus design debuted as high as 40th on our 1993 100 Greatest. The Fort Wayne, Ind., design is currently ranked 143rd on our Second 100 Greatest.
Spring Creek Ranch Golf Club, Collierville, Tenn.
About 40 minutes from downtown Memphis, this Nicklaus design sits at No. 168 on our Second 100 Greatest.
Sherwood Country Club, Thousand Oaks, Calif.
Courtesy of the club
The club's name was derived from the 1939 Academy Award winning film: The Adventures of Robin Hood starring Errol Flynn, where some of the scenes were shot on and near the present day course. Ranked as high as 79th on our 1993 100 Greatest, Sherwood just underwent an extensive renovation. It was last ranked 180th on our Second 100 Greatest.
Pronghorn Club (Nicklaus), Bend, Ore.
Courtesy of Evan Schiller
Ranked 36th on Golf Digest's America's 100 Greatest Public ranking, and 190th on our Second 100 Greatest, the Nicklaus course at Pronghorn is a nice high desert course with beautiful scenery.
Punta Mita Resort (Pacifico), Riviera Nayarit, Mexico.
Perhaps one of the more interesting greensites in the world is the optional green at Pacifico's par-3 third hole—with a green built out of an island outcropping 180 yards from the Pacific shore.
May River Golf Club at Palmetto Bluff, Bluffton, S.C.: Within walking distance from a Golf Digest Editors' Choice resort winner, The Inn at Palmetto Bluff. Currently ranked 40th on our 100 Greatest Public and 10th best in South Carolina.
Desert Highlands, Scottsdale: Once as high as 25th on our 100 Greatest (in 1987, after the course's debut), Desert Highlands has fallen out of our Second 100 Greatest but ranks eighth in Arizona.
Desert Mountain Club (Renegade), Scottsdale: Our Ron Whitten has called the Renegade course at Desert Mountain Club the most versatile design in the country with its handful of two flag locations on every green—allowing golfers to play the same course multiple ways. After a massive renovation project, Renegade moved up 10 spots in our most recent Best in State rankings—and has reclaimed the top spot among courses at Desert Mountain.
The G.C. at Southshore, Henderson
Designed on dramatic terrain with elevation changes on Lake Las Vegas, SouthShore Country Club is ranked fifth in our Best in Nevada rankings.
Montreux G. & C.C., Reno: The club hosted a PGA Tour event in Reno for 21 years before the event moved in 2020. Montreux is ranked sixth in our current Best in State.
Colleton River Plantation G.C. (Nicklaus), Bluffton, S.C.: Winner of Golf Digest's Best New Private Course in 1993. Ranked 160th on our 2013 Second 100 Greatest and currently 16th on our Best in State.
The Club at Las Campanas (Sunset), Santa Fe, N.M.
Located in the high desert of Santa Fe, the Sunset course at Las Campanas offers breathtaking views of the surrounding Sangre de Cristo Mountain range. along with other mountain ranges in the distance. The course is second on our most recent Best in New Mexico rankings.
--Great Waters, Reynolds Plantation, Ga.: Sits 94th on our most recent 100 Greatest Public ranking, Great Waters has been a member of that ranking for 12 years. It was second among Golf Digest's Best New Resort Course of 1993.
Country Club of the Rockies, Edwards, Colo.
Sitting about 7,500 feet above elevation with the flowing Eagle River through it, the Country Club of the Rockies has been ranked as one of Golf Digest's best courses in Colorado since its first listing in 1987. It's currently 12th.
Trump National Jupiter (Fla.)
First opened as a Ritz Carlton property, Trump Golf acquired the 7,500-plus course in the early 2010s. It moved up five spots in our most recent Best in Florida rankings to No. 24.
Toscana Country Club, Palm Desert, Calif.: Two Nicklaus courses are each ranked inside our Best in State in California (The North is 38th and the South is 40th).
Courtesy of Nicklaus Design
--Nicklaus North G.C., Whistler, B.C.: Set in a valley surrounded by tall mountains, the internal aesthetics are strong with good use of native trees and water. And perhaps appropriately, there are frequently black-bear sightings on this scenic track.