Golf history is filled with iconic names. Some of the greatest players are taking their talents from inside the ropes to the design table. Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Ben Crenshaw, Tiger Woods, and others have received praise for their course designs. It begs the question though; are former players great course designers? An overview of these players and their designs answers this question.
Great Course Designers
Over the past 4 decades, Nicklaus Design has constructed more than 410 courses in 41 countries and 39 states. Among that staggering number are 298 courses, primarily designed by Jack himself. Perhaps the most noted is Murfield Village Golf Club. The course hosts his tournament, The Memorial, every year on the PGA Tour. Another perennial PGA Tour stop, Harbor Town Golf Links in South Carolina, was designed by Jack and the renowned Pete Dye. Nicklaus courses are generally known for their undulating greens and strategically placed bunkers. The Golden Bear’s courses make the game a mental challenge for all levels of player.
Gary Player Design was started in the early 1980s and is known as a global leader in golf course design. The Black Knight’s portfolio includes nearly 400 courses worldwide. With a heavy presence in South Africa, his courses flow with the natural lay of the land, presenting a beautiful finished product. The famous Gary Player Country Club in Sun City, South Africa is one of the world’s longest courses, at almost 8,000 yards. Ranked the 3rd best course in South Africa, it’s known for well-protected greens and its difficulty. Mr. Player’s design philosophy is best described using his own words:
“I get a great kick out of knowing that hundreds of years after people have long forgotten me, the courses with which we have been involved will continue to give people tremendous pleasure!” – Gary Player
Ben Crenshaw paired up with Bill Coore to create Coore and Crenshaw design. Starting in 1986, the duo aims to bring back the “Golden Age of Architecture” with their designs. They’ve designed almost 30 courses in the US. Notably, the duo renovated Pinehurst #2 leading up to the 2014 US Opens help there. Many of their courses feature natural areas, some not even watered. Their designs place the focus on being strategic and hitting the fairway. They also aim to limit the amount of water needed to maintain the courses. This natural approach is becoming more and more prevalent in modern design.
Though relatively new to course design, Tiger Woods’ TGR design has already designed some great courses. BlueJack National, his first US design, is outside of Houston, in Montgomery, Texas. The course shows where a great deal of his influence came from. The philosophy of the company is to design courses that will provide many options for players of all abilities, offering fun for all players while still providing challenges to experienced players. You can read our full review of the BlueJack National here.
The Final Draft
The success of these great course designers is built on years of navigating some of the best golf courses in the world. Combining this experience with their extensive knowledge of how the game is meant to be played is also key. Perhaps, it is also their way of giving back to the game that gave them so much.