Aside from winning more majors than any other golfer in history, Jack Nicklaus also looks set to have built more courses than any other designer by the time he is finished in the business. Already there are more than 400 Nicklaus courses in play across the planet, and that number keeps rising as at any one time there may be 40 or more under construction or in planning.
In many parts of the world Nicklaus is the first name developers utter when considering a new golf course project, but there are plenty of issues and factors to remember when considering the use of the game’s most popular ‘signature’ firm. Firstly, golfers and the media are increasingly aware of the fact that Jack Nicklaus himself will not be designing your golf course, and more importantly the capabilities of his design associates tends to vary greatly from competent to very good. If you want a Nicklaus course you need to ensure you get a good Nicklaus designer working for you.
More worrying, though, from a ‘golf as art’ perspective is the homogenization of design that tends to occur in really large firms like Nicklaus Design, with a strong willed and imposing company principal. Nicklaus designers tend to build courses that fit the company profile more than perhaps the actual terrain they occupy. What’s more, and this is the real disappointment with Nicklaus Design, there are degrees of so-called ‘Nicklaus designed golf courses’, meaning the credentials and ability of your assigned designer depends on what design fee you can pay. Whereas with an independent and enthusiastic architect the land dictates the design and the level of involvement and input, at Nicklaus Design you apparently only get the top designers working on your project (and their full attention) if you are able to pay the highest design fees.
If you have great golf land then any number of architects will pour their heart and soul into creating a great golf course, bigger companies care less about the land and more about growing revenue and imposing their style on the landscape. Nicklaus clients tend to revere the Golden Bear and often desire a direct personal relationship with Nicklaus himself. The reality is that with as many as 40 projects on the go at any one time you are far more likely to get personalized, passionate service via a smaller, dedicated architectural firm.
Despite these issues, Nicklaus Design has been responsible for nice courses in most regions of the world. For those interested in the marketing power of the Nicklaus brand, therefore, the company might be worth considering for your new golf course project.
For an independent appraisal of Nicklaus Design's work or for general design advice please contact the Global Golf Group.