At the tail end of a five-day trip through China and Korea, Jack Nicklaus stopped in Songdo, South Korea—just outside Seoul—to visit the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea, site of this week’s Songdo IBD Championship on the Champions Tour. During his stop, Jack met with the Golf Channel and reporter David Marr (above), and participated in a press conference with the international media. Below is the transcript from a portion of that press conference.
Sep. 16, 2011
The Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea debuted this time last year. Now that you have made several visits here since, what is the impression of the course and how will it play for the Champions Tour?
JN: I find the golf course is generous of the tee. Greens are very well bunkered. There is a lot of movement in the greens which I think it is probably the difficulty in the golf course and the length is not an issue. We try to keep the course a reasonable length, not extreme length. Even a shorter hitter and longer hitter all play a fairly equal golf course.
Jack, I know Korea is one of the countries you’ve been involved in and we have all seen the emergence of Korean players on the LPGA and PGA TOUR. You are designing courses in several other countries. Where do you see the where the game going now?
JN: From a golf course designer’s standpoint, It’s very quiet except for this part of the world. There is a little bit happening in Korea, a lot in China, and down through Southern Asia, is quite a bit of work. There’s also a little bit of work in Russia. The United States is very quiet. And South America is a little bit of work. The game is growing more in Asia than it is anywhere else. However, because of usually cyclical situations, I think the United States will come back as will the other parts of the world. But I see the growth of the game over here is a tremendous asset for the sport. With golf becoming an Olympic sport, I think you will see many countries who would not ever got into golf will get into golf very heavily because of the Olympics.
Players have mentioned that the golf course is pretty tough and challenging. What strategy would you recommend?
JN: As I said earlier, the golf course is very generous off the tee. It’s important to hit each shot properly; it’s important to put the ball in the right place to be able to get the right angle to the green. And where the pins are located is how difficult the shots will be. If you are on this kind of golf course, if you are extremely sharp with your irons, you will have a lot of birdie opportunities. If you are not very sharp with your irons, you will have a lot of bogey opportunities.
Jack, this is not only a Nicklaus Signature Golf Course, but the entire facility carries the Jack Nicklaus brand. Is this a focus of your business in Asia and elsewhere.
JN: Yes. Right now we have three Jack Nicklaus Golf Clubs. With these clubs, there are founding members—in this case 35 members—and they’ll have the rights to go to any of the other Nicklaus Golf Clubs, as they travel around the world. So, it’s a perk for somebody who joins the club here in Songdo, and is one of the founders. As he or she travels, they have the opportunity to play in these other places. Hopefully, as time goes on, the maximum number of 25 Jack Nicklaus Golf Clubs will be obtained as the economy changes. I think we’ll see that change clearly.
About branding, one is the golf club. But secondly, we just announced a couple of days ago in Beijing, a golf course that we are not only designing, but we’re branding the real estate, managing the club, the facility—we’re doing everything, just as we do for a club such as The Bear’s Club, my home course in Florida.
Jack, two questions: One, what would you have been able to accomplish with today’s equipment. And two, what do you think Tiger Woods needs to do to return to form?
JN: Nobody knows what I would have done with today’s equipment. That would be just a guess. When I go back and look at the champions of yesterday….Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen, Ben Hogan, Sam Snead…they would have been champions in any era, as I would have been or Tiger would have been. How has equipment affecting the game? The game is totally different today with the equipment being used. I think I would have done well with the equipment today. Well, I think so, but who knows? Regarding Tiger, that’s also a who knows? He’s struggling with his health, and his ability to recover, and to get his game back in shape. He is very talented and a very hardworking athlete. Do I think he will recover? Yes. When? I don’t know.
What does it mean to you at this point of life, to have members of your family, especially your son, involved in your in business?
JN: To have your family involved in my business, and being able to build the business for them, have a legacy coming behind you that your family can follow, is a very important thing to me. And it’s fun. To have my son (Jack II) with me on this trip, having Gary at home, working on things there, and all of the kids doing something of their own, it’s great that they want to be part of what I do. That keeps me going, knowing that they want to be a part of me, and what I’m still building for the family.
Is there a player out there who can challenge your records?
JN: Well I think you’ve got a lot of them. If you asked me that question five years ago, the only one I knew was Tiger Woods. But today, I would say there are players like Rory McIlroy, Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson, Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, and a number of players who are very talented, who have great potential, and can be great players. We go through cycles, years or cycles of having a lot of really talented players, and we have come through cycles of not having as many good players. Tiger pretty much had it to himself for a while. Then Phil Mickelson was obviously his biggest challenge, and he is obviously a very good player. Today, I think the young players are very aggressive, and will make good things happen for themselves.