Monday, 27 December 2010

1970-1980 Jack Nicklaus begins...

Another fascinating period for what it meant to the future of golf course architecture. As an important side note, what I’m going to continue to talk about is the major events and major players in the design business who have made a lasting impact on the way golf architecture is now practiced. This means I will skip by some who did have an impact. That was always the idea of this series – but I know that I’ve now entered the era where most architects are alive and many are in practice – and a few may be sensitive to being ignored.

This era was the initial sign of the future rise of the celebrity or “brand-named” designer. The first “name” designer was Jack Nicklaus, the designer of Glen Abbey Golf Course in Oakville, who remains even through to today the best known of the “brand-name” designers – those golf architects who are recognizable by name. His later successful transition from player to architect ushered in the next great architectural trend – one that remains prevalent today – the trend to hire a “brand name” designer to design a new course. Nicklaus’s serious interest began with his visits to The Golf Club to see what Pete Dye was building. While he struggled with many of the ideas that Pete had, he certainly became increasingly interested enough to get eventually involved with Pete - as only a consultant - at Harbour Town in South Carolina. Harbour Town turned out to be ground breaking and the flash point to beginning a new trend in golf course architecture. Harbour Town may have been the symbolic end to the Trent Jones era even though he and many others continued to build in that style long after the popularity had declined.

In 1973, Jack would work with Desmond Muirhead to develop Muirfield Village Golf Club, the new home for his Mermorial Tournament. The plan involved a tournament course - largely based upon Augusta National - and a housing community built around the outside of the course largely to finance the project. Muirhead planned the community and (according to most) routed the golf course. Desmond was a man with unusual ideas - and likely frustrated Jack – and they parted ways before the course was built. Jack hired Bob Cupp and Jay Morrish to be his staff and to see the course through to completion. Jay Morrish was the on site architect for Muirfield Village. The course displayed Jack’s ideas about play - demanding high soft approach shots - and aesthetics. H followed this approach until the last few years where he softened his demands on players and began to build courses that were a little more player friendly - and better from my view. With the success of the Memorial Tournament and the high praise for the course, Jack Nicklaus was in high demand right from the outset. He would become one of the most prolific golf architects in this era.

Pete Dye was definitely the rising star in golf architecture circles during the 1970’s. The decade began with Harbour Town, which immediately attracted golfer’s imagination during the Heritage Tournament. They were enthralled by his courses that looked so different than anything else they had seen. The timber banks, waste bunkers, pot bunkers, tiny greens, use of accent grasses in the bunkers, tight fairways, etc. This looked nothing like their home course and golfers traveled in droves to see this magical place.

This happened because this was also the decade where televised golf took off with large ratings brought upon by stars - like Jack Nicklaus. The public was now exposed to all these new courses through their television and this exposure was responsible for the rise of Pete Dye.

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