An Interview With: JACK NICKLAUS
JACK NICKLAUS: The bunker look, you walk up and that will be basically
what the bunker look looks like, a finished bunker. Greens have got a
little bit of movement in them. We’ve created probably nine, ten pin
positions on every green, so the TOUR has a variety of things and the members
have enough pin positions that they can do what they need to do.
is plus or minus 7,800 from the tips, basically 3,000 feet or 2,500, so 5 percent
of that is 380 yards or something, so 400 yards essentially. So it comes
down to about a 7,400-yard golf course at sea level. That’s about what
the guys played today. It’ll fit what they play.
has got nice movement to it. It’s got great vegetation, got a few washes
that run through the property. We’ve got two nice areas. This area
here, we’re not sure if this becomes the front nine or the back nine, depends
what the TOUR and David agreed to. I like this as the back nine.
we’ve got a big area in between these two holes. That’s the 14th hole
going up there and this is the 17th hole coming down here, and that’s a big
concession area and people area and so forth. So they’ve got the ability
to see 14, obviously 16 coming back. They’ll see back down 15, too, and
then of course they’ve got 17.
got an area on the front nine where the second green comes into it. 3rd
hole is a par-3 with water on it. 4th hole is a short par-4 that comes
back to the same gallery area. The 5th hole plays as a par-4 that goes
down away from that. 6th hole is a par-3 which you won’t see from that
area, but then the 7th hole is a par-4 that comes back into that same gallery
area. And then the 8th hole plays off of it again.
got two distinct areas on the golf course where you’ll be able to concentrate
people and they’ll get to see a lot of golf. We sort of figured that —
this one was our original one because we felt like most of your matches are
going to finish somewhere between 14 and 17. If they go to 18, that’s
fine, they’ll go to 18.
know what else to tell you except that I think it’s going to turn out to be
one heck of a golf course. I’m very pleased with it.
it live up to your expectations? When you come out and you look at a
piece of desert and there’s not a golf course there, now that it’s taking for-
JACK NICKLAUS: That’s
what I just said. I think it’s a pretty good golf course. That’s
what I was asked to do is a golf course that would house a Match Play tournament,
which means it would probably have a few more heroics at times on the golf
course than you might see on some other golf courses. But I think in
match play that’s what you do. It’s a pretty solid golf course.
does it feel being back in Tucson designing another course?
JACK NICKLAUS: Since
we did La Paloma. La Paloma is a nice golf course, but that was a long
time ago, and things have changed. The game of golf has changed dramatically. That
was a hotel and basically a total resort, and this is a combination of tournament,
resort and residential.
was this relationship the right fit?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well,
I think you have to ask David that. He’s the one that got the property. Of
course he’s the one that picked the property, not me. He picked us after
the property. I think that the property here has got — what’s it
got, 3,000 acres? No, 6,000 acres, so we probably ought to be able to
find a golf course in there somewhere (laughter). I think you’ve got
the airport that’s close and a growing area and not too far outside the metropolitan
area to attract people and the ability to bring — have the space to do
the things you need to do to have a tournament to have that ability, whereas
you couldn’t do that in town, picking another facility. You have to create
a facility, particularly with what’s happening on the TOUR today with the popularity
of golf and the number of people that come out. It’s a different ballgame
than what I played.
all the effort put into this, has there been talk of you keeping this here
JACK NICKLAUS: That’s
David’s call, not my call. That’s David and the TOUR, I have nothing
to do with that.
you be disappointed if it only lasted here two years?
JACK NICKLAUS: Yes
(laughter). That answers your question right there.
do you derive the most pleasure from in designing golf courses?
JACK NICKLAUS: I
love the game of golf. I don’t play very well anymore. I don’t
play very much. But I have to figure out how to change it from my game
to the modern game and what the guys do today, to be able to create a golf
course that’s a challenge for the TOUR coming in here, a challenge for them
to play their events on, but also one that is going to be able to satisfy David
and his people to be able to develop and have somebody come in — gee,
TOUR plays here? I don’t want to play here. You don’t want that. You
want to be sure you’ve done a golf course that they can play on and there’s
a hotel coming up here and people are going to be able to come here and have
a nice golf course, an enjoyable golf course to play.
that there’s a balance between spice and boredom, and you’ve got to have enough
spice in the golf course that you keep your interest. You certainly don’t
want to have some guy that says, “Gee, I played that, that was a nice
golf course, now where are we going to go tomorrow?.” You want them
to say, “Gee, that’s a nice golf course. What time can I get on
27 holes that we’ve done here so far, and I assume we’re going to probably
do the other nine holes in the future, and that’s probably the not too distant
future, so we’ll have a 36-hole complex here. You’ve got the other golf
course — 36 holes, so there’s a lot of golf here. What a beautiful
area. Do these foothills have a name? Tortolitas, so it’s basically
high desert saguaro forest is what it is, and then of course with a high saguaro
forest you have your Palos Verdes, your ocotillos, whatever is here, all the
other stuff that you can get bit by, all the varieties of stuff that grow here
grow in abundance. So it’s an ideal spot. You’ve got great views. Have
a look behind you at what you’ve got. You’ve got great views here of
the property. We’ve got this major wash that runs through the property
which we’ve controlled, and it’s up to the authorities to get rid of the water
when it does come down through here, so that’s going to be controlled properly. Not
too much else we need. It’s pretty good.
you like desert designs? You design so many different courses.
JACK NICKLAUS: I
like all designs because I think it’s kind of fun — I like to play tennis. I
play a lot of tennis, but it’s pretty hard to tell — I tell my wife,
Barbara, I’m going to play tennis. Tennis courts are alike. They
may be a different surface but they’re all alike.
But if I’m
going to go outside and play golf, you say, hey, I’m going to go to the desert
and play golf, I’m going to go to the ocean and play golf, I’m going to go
to the mountains and play golf. It’s a different game every place you
go and every piece of property is different. So to be able to have the
opportunity to take a piece of property, form that piece of property into something
that — I got a really nice compliment from Mark Russell this morning. He
came out and said, “Boy, did you guys have a nice piece of property to
work with.” We had absolutely nothing out here. It was absolutely
flat. What we’ve done is we’ve massaged what the natural things were
and the property turns out to look like a nice, natural piece of property we
were lucky to find, which we were lucky to find. I didn’t mean that it
was a bad piece of property.
But I mean
it allows us to create some things within the property that really ultimately
enhances it and makes it so that it’s really pretty and really fun to play
and great views for your homes and people want to come out here and just play
It’s a legacy
from my standpoint. It’s a legacy that I can leave the game of golf long
beyond my golf game and my lifetime, certainly beyond my golf game already. I’m
going to keep the rest of it a little longer (laughter). It’s kind of
fun. Whenever I have the opportunity to work in the desert or whether
I’m working on the ocean or whether I’m working in emerging markets or a lot
of the work we’re doing around the world now is in emerging markets, so we’re
working on like 56 or 57 countries right now. That’s a lot of countries
to be working on around the world.
you have that opportunity, in particular, a lot of those are countries that
don’t have any golf at all. We have a lot of golf in the United States,
but there’s always room for a big golf course on a good piece of property,
and I hope that’s what we’ve done here.
many majors do you think Tiger wins by the time he retires, any ideas?
he going to play past this week (laughter)? I don’t know, I have no idea
what he’s going to do. I have no idea. He’s a very talented young
man and he plays very well. We’ll see.
you’re at home on the weekend will you watch a tournament?
JACK NICKLAUS: I
don’t watch golf. The thing might be on. I walked in the house
Sunday and Barbara had — was it LA last week? She had it on, so
I walked by and said, who’s winning? She said, “Phil’s winning.” I
watched him two-putt out on the last hole, and that was about it.
in the game obviously, but I’m not going to sit down in front of the television
set and watch it. I always enjoyed playing the game more than watching
the process like to relocate some of these great saguaros?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well,
I think you have to ask the guys that move them. I think they’re pretty
heavy items. They are movable.
DAVID MEHL: Any
that are healthy we’re pretty much able to keep them intact. They have
big, deep root balls, so it’s a matter of being careful with the root ball
and moving them. The bigger they are the shorter you want to move them.
JACK NICKLAUS: But
I’m glad that’s not my area. All I know is we’ve got about ten here,
whatever you want to do with them. We’re moving them, we’re not going
to kill any of them, so I said okay.
talked about your legacy. Obviously this course is going to bear your
name, and it is your signature, what you’re leaving behind in addition to all
the records and whatnot. Can you touch a little bit upon I guess the
importance of that, if there is a strong level of —
JACK NICKLAUS: I
mean, the importance of that is not necessarily, to me — I think the
importance is why would somebody hire Jack Nicklaus to do their golf course. You
need to ask David that, first of all, but I think David and I had a past experience
with La Paloma, and it feels like we had a good experience with our organization. We
have pretty good products all over the world. We feel like — to
me it’s fun. I’m beyond my ego as far as trying to create a golf course
that guys can’t play. I’m working harder to try to make golf courses
people can play.
I get obviously a big personal satisfaction out of being able to be involved
in a tournament such as this, be able to do the golf course for it; that’s
fun for me. But I think the value that we create by creating a good golf
course, plus people saying, gee, I’ve played several Nicklaus golf courses
and I like them, that attracts people here to the real estate, to the hotel,
come and watch the tournament. Those are all things that are a part of
As far as
me, it’s — I don’t know, I just enjoy doing it. I enjoy being part
of it. I get a big kick out of somebody still wanting this old man to
come out and look at a piece of property to do a golf course.
you run into any critters out here?
DAVID MEHL: Not
JACK NICKLAUS: We’ve
had run-ins with a lot of critters on a lot of golf courses but nothing here. I
haven’t seen any critters at all out here. We’ve had a few instances
in several places where we’ve been in the desert and had some snake issues. One
guy was right in front of me and got bit, and I hopped right over the top of
the snake after he got bit. But that wasn’t here.
many of the courses you’ve designed built with spectators in mind? Is
it a low percentage?
JACK NICKLAUS: A
low percentage anymore. I think that we do our golf courses primarily
for whatever the owner is intending the usage. It’s kind of fun, we’ve
had — I don’t know what our number is now, 400, 500, 600 tournaments
played on our golf courses, significant events, and my first golf courses were
mostly those kind of golf courses, Muirfield Village, Glen Abbey, Shoal Creek,
Castle Pines, Australian Golf Club, places where they were playing a lot of
events. And since then we’ve done obviously a lot more.
golf courses we do today are far more for the people who are going to play
them 51 weeks a year, and then we just accommodate to an event. If somebody
wants to have an event, Valhalla, for instance — Valhalla was a golf
course that the Gahms built in Louisville, and Louisville didn’t have any housing. They
were interested in a pure golf club. They said to me, Jack, if we ever
get the PGA Championship here is what my ultimate goal is. I don’t know
how old Dwight is now, but in 1986 Dwight was probably about my age then. Now
he’s probably late 80s. He’s seen the PGA come there a couple times,
he’s seen the Senior PGA, the Ryder Cup matches being played there this year,
I guess. So I get a big kick out of that, where I can help them achieve
what their goal is.
goal here is to be able to — I promise you it’s not this golf tournament. This
golf tournament is a vehicle, and the golf tournament — he wants to put
on the best golf tournament he can, he wants to create the best name for this
property that he can, he wants to be able to attract and draw people here for
the hotel and to sell his real estate. I mean, that’s what it’s for. If
you do that by doing a really good job with the golf course and a really good
job with the tournament, it just enhances the whole mystique of that mountain,
and that’s really what you’re trying to do. That’s fun to be part of
know you say you don’t watch golf on television anymore, but Accenture Match
Play will be coming here next year. When a tournament is being played
at a course you developed, do you ever get the urge to go see —
JACK NICKLAUS: I’ll
probably turn on the television here.
mean actually go to the site, watch some of the events and just see for yourself?
have no idea. I mean, I may come back next year. Depends what David
wants or anybody wants me to be involved in some way. I’ve been involved
in early years of a lot of the tournaments in places we’ve gone to, and obviously
on this plane we go obviously to Shoal Creek or Castle Pines or Hilton Head. Those
are things that I did. I tried to obviously play those events, anything
that I think I could play.
that’s okay. I’m hurt, but that’s okay (laughter).
you talking about Shoal Creek in Birmingham?
JACK NICKLAUS: Yeah.
you play that course much or ever?
JACK NICKLAUS: No,
I haven’t played it for years. I haven’t played it since we played the
PGA there. It’s a nice golf course.
when he did it, he had no desire whatsoever to have a tournament. About
two years later, he says, “Jack, do you think we might be able to have
a PGA Championship here?” I said, “Yeah, you could have the
PGA Championship. You’d have to make a few adjustments, of course.”
Vickers, on the other hand, he wanted to have a tournament from day one. I
think you just work with what they want.
has got a different reason why they do something. I think Tucson —
take Tucson, Tucson was probably getting lost on the TOUR to some extent until
the Match Play came here. Now the Match Play — all of a sudden
Tucson has become a central focus of the TOUR.
they playing last time before this?
Diego, or Tucson downtown, Star Pass sometimes, and some other places.
where did they play it — was that National? So to come back and see
Tucson pop up in the game is great because that’s something you don’t —
it’s a great golf center. Why would you want to lose this area? The
Match Play has revived what’s happened in this town from a golf standpoint, and