By Bob Buttitta
Courtesy of the Ventura County Star
May 3, 2006- With as much as Jack Nicklaus has achieved in golf you would think it would be impossible for him to accomplish any type of first.
But that’s what happened on Sunday when Nicklaus’ newest golf course, Sherwood Lake Club at Sherwood Country Club, opened for play.
Located at the far end of the Sherwood Country Club, the new course is an 18-hole, par-3 course.
In addition to his incredible records as a player, Nicklaus is also an accomplished golf architect. He has 245 courses open for play but Sherwood Lake is the first 18-hole, par-3 course Nicklaus has designed.
“I have never done an 18-hole, par-3 course,” Nicklaus said Sunday at Sherwood.
“I have done some par-3 courses, but they were all nine holes.
“There is not another par-3 facility, I know for sure, in the United States and probably the world that would come close to what has been done here.”
Sherwood’s owner and developer, David Murdock, was pleased to hear his newest facility was something unique.
“We don’t like to be second,” Murdock joked after Nicklaus told him it was his first 18-hole, par-3 course.
Sherwood Lake Club plays to maximum length of 1,965 yards, with the longest hole the 173-yard fourth hole. It took about two years to build.
In addition to the course, Murdock decided to build a mini-version of the Sherwood golf clubhouse. The 14,000-square-foot clubhouse features a boardroom, fully equipped fitness center, complete locker rooms and an Olympic-sized pool.
Nicklaus designed the championship course at Sherwood 17 years ago.
After the work at the championship course was completed, Nicklaus said Murdock approached him about checking out another piece of property.
Murdock’s original idea was to build nine more championship holes, but Nicklaus came up with an alternative plan.
“I came over and looked at the property and I went back to David and said I don’t think that (nine holes of championship golf) is what you want to do over there,” Nicklaus said. “I told him the piece of property was just too beautiful to tear up in order to get a golf course in here.
“I told him I thought we could do a par-3 course that would really add to the grounds. I knew we could wind it around the property and it would take up very little space. I told him it could be a totally separate facility for the membership.”
Nicklaus believed such a facility would be a perfect complement to the championship course at Sherwood.
“I felt like it would be perfect for kids, and women to learn the game of golf and even for men who don’t play, but would like to learn,” Nicklaus said. “Little did I know that David was going to do this (build a mini-version of the main Sherwood Clubhouse). It’s the most unbelievable clubhouse I have ever seen for a facility like this.
“What David has tried to do here is really beyond my wildest dreams. It is as good as any facility in the United States.”
Sherwood Lake Club’s 18 holes are inspired by other par-3 holes Nicklaus has designed or enjoyed at other golf courses.
They are not duplicates of the holes ó they are inspired by those holes.
“For instance, No. 2 here is a mini-version of the fourth hole at my course at Muirfield Village,” Nicklaus said. “The real one is about 209 yards, this one is 109, but the hole fits in the hill the same way.
“The eighth hole here is inspired by the new fifth hole I did at Pebble Beach. The green and approach are similar, as are the way you would play it.”
Nicklaus said No. 4 at Sherwood Lake Club is similar to one he created at a course in Pinehurst Farms, Wis. One of the holes is similar to the 12th hole at The Players Club in Michigan.
The 10th hole is inspired by the third hole at the Sunrise Course at Las Campanas in New Mexico, Nicklaus said.
The 13th hole is actually patterned after part of the par-4, fifth hole at the Great Waters Golf Course at the Reynolds Plantation.
“It’s actually inspired by the second shot you hit on that hole,” Nicklaus said.
After speaking with the media on Sunday, Nicklaus officially opened Sherwood Lake Club by hitting the first tee shot at the 10th hole.
As he took a few warmup swings, Nicklaus informed the crowd of about 500 that he has played only six rounds of golf since last summer’s British Open and he has not practiced at all.
Nicklaus still managed to knock his tee shot 15 feet from the pin.
After Nicklaus hit, six junior players from Sherwood also had chance to hit tee shots.
One of those was Brandon Jacobs, 8.
When his first tee shot came up short in the ravine in front of the green, Nicklaus gave the boy a mulligan. His next shot landed inside of Nicklaus’ tee shot.
“I was a little nervous hitting it with him (Nicklaus) watching,” Brandon said. “My two favorite players are Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.”
As he surveyed the completed project, Murdock smiled.
“The reality exceeds the expectation when I see what we have done, putting this here among nature,” Murdock said. “It makes me proud.”