The Golden Bear was recently in Johannesburg to officially open his Signature Golf Course at Houghton Golf Club (www.houghton.co.za). A club steeped in tradition, with an original design completed in 1926, Jack redesigned the course and it opened for play in the last year. Jack celebrated the grand opening by playing nine holes with son Gary and hosting a press conference and reception for members and guests, where he explained his design philosophy.
“For most people golf courses are difficult because they are too long,” Jack said. “It’s very difficult to challenge good golfers with length these days. You have to challenge them on the greens. The greens are supposed to be part of the challenge of a course.”
Another design feature that Nicklaus considers when designing or altering a course layout is elevation, a feature that is very much prevalent when guests followed father and son on the back nine in the late afternoon sun.
“My philosophy in creating a course is that golf is more fun when played downhill. What I like doing is taking the elevation between green and tee into account. I like to make a course as such that to play containment golf rather than reactive golf.”
After sinking his final putt with the sun fading behind the trees, an enquiry as to what score the golf legend had managed to shoot elicited a response quite fitting of a golfer who has achieved so much in a lifetime spent playing the game and is considered by many to be the greatest golfer ever.
“Since I quit playing in 2005 I don’t keep score,” he explained with a smile and a wink. “If I hit my first shot badly I play it again and if I putt and I don’t like it then I putt again. You will be amazed at how it speeds up the game.”