It's challenging to not focus solely on stats when discussing Jack Nicklaus’s prolific career. The Golden Bear amassed 18 career majors and 73 PGA Tour victories as a professional, and now Nicklaus Design, his creative course design firm, has nearly 380 courses in play in 36 countries and 39 states. But the aforementioned doesn’t define his life’s work. Rather, he counts his lasting legacy as “my children, and now 22 grandchildren. The tournament wins, major titles, that’s golf. Golf ’s a game. I’m very proud of my record and what I’ve accomplished. But what’s important to me are my children, not my trophies. My life and role as a husband and father far eclipses anything I could have accomplished as a golfer."
These days, Nicklaus spends most of his time on the road, thanks to the exploding popularity of golf overseas. He currently has projects underway in Asia, Europe, and Russia. Despite work-related travel, he still escapes with family, all of whom prefer a different Exclusive Resorts destination. “Depending on who you asked in my family, you’d probably get a different answer every time. One might tell you the Trump in New York. Another, destinations in the islands or skiing in the mountains. And one loved the cruising experience on The World. Of course, I’d have to recommend one tied to one of my courses like Reno and Kiawah.”
Nicklaus Design courses are often media-hyped, playing host to 750 professional and amateur championships. “I’m very proud when I see one of my courses host a pro tournament like the Memorial Tournament or Honda Classic each year, or other events like the last 12 months where the Ryder Cup, President’s Cup, and PGA Championship were all held at courses I designed,” he says. “I like to see how the courses play in tournament conditions.” As much as he enjoys watching the pros play, however, he’s more focused on the public, adding, “To be honest, it’s probably more important to see how the course plays the other 51 weeks of the year, when the average person or member plays in normal conditions with no TV cameras or spectators.”
Whether designing for touring professionals or high-handicap amateurs, his approach is simple. “I try to design the best course I can, one that’s interesting, challenging, and beautiful, that fits with the land I’m given and the needs of the person who asked me to design it. My job is to turn their vision into a golf course. If the owner’s happy, then we’ve been successful.”
As far as toasting success, there’s no signature Golden Bear cocktail. Rather, Nicklaus keeps it simple. “This might seem boring, but I’m a huge believer in hydration. So you’ll likely see me with a bottle of AquaHydrate water. I don’t like carbonated drinks or caffeine. If I have a glass of wine at dinner, [it’s] one of the Nicklaus Wines by Terlato. We make a great wine.” Cheers!