Punch Shots: Top three Jack Nicklaus Signature courses

By Brandon TuckerMay 30, 2012, 1:58 pm

Nicklaus Design has 365 courses in 34 countries, including 289 designed by the Golden Bear himself, so it's easy to stumble upon one of them during your golf travels. Our experts weigh in on the top three Nicklaus designs they've played. 

Brandon Tucker

Of the 18 Nicklaus Signature I've played, I tend to favor his firm's stuff from the last decade far more than his work from the late ‘80s/early ‘90s.

My favorite of the bunch is the Nicklaus Course at Pronghorn Golf Club in Bend, which recently became public and stay-and-play accessible. Armed with a beautiful, high desert setting and prime playing conditions, the hole variety (especially on the back nine) makes for a most exciting round thanks to two potentially drivable par 4s and back-to-back par 5s. Sunny and dry Bend is a five-hour drive from Bandon Dunes, and absolutely worth the detour if you have a few extra days. 

A close second is Kauai Lagoons Golf Club in Hawaii (pictured above). While it's been in a state of transition for a few years, the new back nine stretch beside the ocean is reopened, re-turfed and better than ever. But as show-stopping as the mile-long stretch of oceanfront at Kauai Lagoons can be, I also love the inland, junglier holes on the front.

Lastly, though unfortunately private and apparently doing well enough to shield off public play, Cordillera Ranch Golf Course, north of San Antonio, is the best course I've seen in the Texas Hill Country yet. Primo conditions to go with some of Nicklaus' most fun green complexes that allow for a lot of ways to attack pins -- plus a show-stopping par 3 over waterfalls -- will please both shot-makers.

Jason Deegan

Some of my favorite rounds have been on Nicklaus courses. Before Tom Doak came along, Nicklaus was “the guy” getting the best coastal sites to design courses. He didn’t disappoint, either, mixing eye candy with strategy for some world-class golf.

First off, the Punta Espada Golf Course at Cap Cana, found in Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, spoils visitors with a Caribbean golf course so visual and interactive with the ocean, it’s almost not fair. Eight holes play directly along – or over – the salt water. Two of the most dramatic tee shots you’ll ever hit come at the par-3 13th hole and the par-4 17th hole. Your spirits will soar as the waves crash around you.

For the second, it’s been more than a decade since I’ve played Great Waters at Reynolds Plantation in Lake Oconee, Ga., but the visions of the nine lakeside holes continue to dance in my head. I visited long before the Ritz-Carlton opened and still came away mesmerized by the resort. A greens and bunker renovation in 2009 has kept Great Waters on any must-play list, even as the club sorts out its highly publicized financial issues.

Thirdly, when I put up a photo of the Ocean Course at Cabo del Sol on Facebook, my wall came alive with comments and likes. The scenery of the course's seven ocean holes is profound, even on a computer screen.

Located in scenic Cabo San Lucas on the Baja Peninsula of Mexico, the club recently tinkered with its back-to-back par 3s at No. 6 and No. 7 to move them even closer to the shore. Nicklaus calls ocean holes No. 16-18 the “best three finishing holes in all of golf.” I’m not one to disagree with the greatest golfer in the history of the universe.

Mike Bailey

Hands down, my favorite Jack Nicklaus Course is the one the pros love: Muirfield Village Golf Club in Columbus, Ohio, home of the Memorial. I had the chance to play this private club a few years ago, and it's the closest thing to Augusta National I've ever experienced. That's no surprise as Nicklaus paid homage to the Masters site in many respects with Muirfield Village. And like Augusta, Muirfield keeps getting tweaked pretty much every year.

Runner-up is the Pacifico Course at Punta Mita Club just north of Puerto Vallarta in Mexico, which is simply on one of the most beautiful settings in the world, with eight ocean holes. Pacifico actually has 19 holes with a 3A and 3B -- the latter of which is the world's only natural island green -- dubbed 'Tail of the Whale.' (Most people choose to play both holes for fun.)

My third favorite may be somewhat surprising; the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club at Dove Mountain, just outside of Tucson, Ariz., is fascinating. It's where the PGA Tour plays the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, and to me, that's what makes this course so cool. Nicklaus designed it specifically for match play, which is exactly how we should play it.

The best example is the 15th, a short par 4 that the pros often try to drive. With desert left of the green, pulling the big stick has its risks, and even if you hit the green -- if you get on the wrong side of the hole -- avoiding a three-putt is nearly impossible, even for the best players in the world.

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Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 9:08 pm

Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.

Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.

In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.

Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.

“I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”

Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking. 

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Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.

Made Cut

Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

September can’t get here quick enough.

Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

“I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”

The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

“My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.

Missed Cut

Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

Tweet of the week:

It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.”