Gary Player Design has designed and built more than a hundred golf courses around the world, including several prominent tournament venues in Player’s home country South Africa. Unfortunately, given his reputation and stature in golf, Player and his design team have, to this point, demonstrated only limited design and construction ability. His courses with big budgets are reasonably built, but those with moderate budgets or on poor golf land or difficult sites have had significant problems.
Like all major signature design firms, the quality of the work varies according to who actually designs the golf holes – and also which tier or service level the client selects. In general terms, however, the Gary Player Design company appears to lack creativity and a genuine understanding of the practical and strategic features that make golf such an appealing game. The other big downside to using a signature golf designer like Gary Player is the sheer size of his portfolio. Instead of being one of 130 odd clients, you are generally better served by seeking smaller, quality design firms that can dedicate the business principals and man hours required to create a truly special course.
Player’s best course is probably the Links at Fancourt, but in comparisons between this layout and other manufactured dune courses it falls a little short. The shaping at somewhere like Kingsbarns is much more believable and effective than the Links, where holes are almost always gently (and symmetrically) rolling yet surrounded by towering, rugged and irregular dune structures. One of the disappointments with golf in South Africa is the number of poor courses on good land, and one of the reasons for this seems to be the addiction that developers had for years to Gary Player Design.
Gary Player had an incredible tournament record as a player, but sadly the work produced by the design company bearing his name is unlikely to leave such a storied legacy. Further, the practice of offering only the premium 'signature design' service to those clients with the deepest pockets should be abhorred in every way.
In 2021, and apparently following a dispute with his son who managed the Gary Player Design business, Gary Player announced a 'strategic partnership' with Jack Nicklaus's Design company. Presumably, the Nicklaus team will now be taking care of the design leg work for new Player clients.
For further information about Gary Player Design or general design advice on your golf course project, please contact Global Golf Group.