Golf Digest has released its annual world top-100 list, including four Nicklaus Design layouts in three different countries. Three of the four to be included in the prestigious list are newcomers to the ranking: No. 70 Cabo del Sol Ocean Course in Los Cabos, Mexico; No. 76 Punta Espada Golf Course in Cap Cana, Dominican Republic; and No. 94, Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y. Muirfield Village Golf Club, host site of the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide, is the only repeat Nicklaus Design course on the list, improving 19 spots to No. 34 worldwide.
34 (53) Muirfield Village G.C.
Dublin, Ohio, U.S.A. / 7,392 yards, Par 72
This is the course that Jack built, and rebuilt, and rebuilt again and again. Since its opening in 1974, Nicklaus has remodeled every hole at Muirfield Village, some more than once, using play at the PGA Tour’s annual Memorial Tournament for some guidance. In the past five years, he totally changed the par-3 16th and par-4 17th holes. Just before the Presidents Cup in 2013, he added a new back tee to the par-4 18th, extending it from 444 yards to 484. That’s how a championship course remains competitive.
70 (New) Cabo del Sol (Ocean)
Los Cabos, Baja Sur, Mexico / 7,091 yards, Par 72
When Jack Nicklaus first saw this Baja Peninsula site, what can best be described as Scottsdale-meets-the-Sea of Cortez, he told reporters, “This is my chance to design a Pebble Beach.” He took full advantage of that chance, routing an exciting 18 that plays from highlands of desert cacti, over dry washes and down to the sea on both nines. When the layout opened in 1994, Nicklaus said it had the three finest finishing holes in golf. That might still be true 22 years later, given that the greens at 16, 17 and 18 are all perched atop rocks above the crashing surf of Whale Bay.
76 (New) Punta Espada G. Cse.
Cap Cana, Dominican Republic / 7,396 yards, Par 72
Jack Nicklaus got his start in golf [course] design working with Pete Dye, and his 10-year-old Punta Espada is a lively version of Dye’s 40-year-old Teeth of the Dog course (No. 56) farther down the Dominican coast, from the broad waste areas of brilliant white sand usually associated with Pete’s work, the low-profile greens and the eight green complexes right on the Caribbean shore. Punta Espada starts and finishes on the Caribbean and returns to it early in the back nine, with the awesome 249-yard par-3 13th directly over an ocean cove.
94 (New) Sebonack G.C.
Southampton, N.Y. , U.S.A. / 7,534 yards, Par 72
Not since Augusta National has history’s greatest golfer teamed with one of the more highly regarded course architects on a design project. But the joint venture by Jack Nicklaus with Tom Doak at Sebonack was complicated by the fact that golfer Nicklaus was also a highly esteemed course designer in his own right, and the project sat right beside two American icons, Shinnecock Hills and National Golf Links. Some pundits have reduced Sebonack to “Tom’s bunkers, Jack’s greens,” but in truth it’s just the opposite. Doak convinced Nicklaus to go with small greens of sweeping contours and little imperfections. Meanwhile, Jack insisted that Tom tone down his usual ragged, jagged bunker faces to make them palatable to high-handicap members. The playing strategy can be credited to Nicklaus.
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