I am very pleased to be joining up in a strategic alliance with Jack Nicklaus and his design team because he is my best friend in golf.
I play a lot of courses around the world and aesthetically they are very good, but playability wise they have faults. Being a world champion, Jack understands the intricacies of building golf courses, so I’m very happy to be joining the best as we both know how to avoid these faults. I don’t think there is a designing pairing more experienced than Jack and myself.
I think we both have the same ideas when it comes to design. Maybe his greens are a little bit more undulating than mine, I am inclined to make softer greens for the average person. But there is very little difference in our ideas, that’s why we’ve joined forces, we are so similar.
When it comes to designing a golf course, you have to look at the ground on which you’re given and the area in which it sits. There are so many factors to consider when designing a course. Do they have much water? What is the climate? The quality of the soil. There are lots of variables. It’s something you have to have a feeling for, and instincts are important. Once you fight against what is given to you, your costs will go up.
Do not manicure the landscape between the tee boxes
It is essential for courses to have different teeing options for different levels of players. But you don’t have to plant manicured green grass in between those tees – it is a waste of water. I was playing at one of Jack’s courses recently, The Bears Club in Florida with some people from Britain, and I was explaining to them how well Jack had done with the tees and all the natural foliage that exists between them, which only rely on rain water. That’s something I’ve always done. My brother is a leading conservationist and he has said for a long time that the world is running out of water. So we have to build golf courses in the future that will not need an abundance of water. There are so many things you can do to save water. I have developed a new bunkering system and I used it in India and it became the leading course there. I have repeated it in South Africa and it’s the leading golf course there too. The bunkering doesn’t need any watering or weeding, no fertilisation and the ball never buries in the sand.
I think the course that Jack did at Muirfield Village is a masterpiece. They can have the amount of greenery there due to the rainfall in Ohio! It’s getting harder to design championship courses these days due to the distance these guys hit the ball. If players continue to hit the ball 350 yards longer courses are required. Sustainability is a word many businesses are focusing on and golf should be no different. To save water and prevent courses expanding it would be much simpler to cut the ball back 50 yards for the professionals and not amateurs. Controlling the ball makes more sense than pushing courses to 8,000 yards!
“There were a lot of players who could play in America but were not very good when they went overseas.”
One professional that has impressed me a great deal this year is Collin Morikawa. Not just for his Major success but the fact he is prepared to travel to become the best. To be a superstar you have to travel outside America and his victory at the DP World Tour Championship and to win the 2021 Race to Dubai showed he understands what it takes to be the best. Ben Hogan did it, Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Tom Watson, Gene Sarazen, all the greats of golf went outside of America and won. But there were a lot of players who could play in America but were not very good when they went overseas. Billy Horschel also won at Wentworth this year, a course I’ve had so many great memories on, and maybe their success will encourage more American players to travel outside their homeland.
So if players start traveling globally and winning around the world, when does a great player become a superstar? First of all, to be successful you have to be a great putter, hitting it a huge distance is an advantage but it means nothing if you struggle on the greens. So, you are a great driver of the ball and a brilliant putter but the mind is the key to become a superstar. When you look at golf’s superstars – I’m talking about players who have won six or more Majors – they had an extraordinary mind on the golf course, different to other players. I can’t tell you what it is though. It’s called ‘it’ – and nobody can define it.