The “signature architects” have a tremendous influence on the evolution of modern golf course design. Jack Nicklaus is the best choice to lead this category.
It is not necessary to introduce Nicklaus’ competitive golfing career. His career in golf course design is a remarkable one, thanks to his half-century-long experience covering some 400 layouts around the world.
Nicklaus began his professional career in golf course design during the height of his game. He teamed up with Pete Dye and designed Harbour Town Golf Links. It debuted in 1969. In the early days of the course’s controversial design, Nicklaus’ name was attached to it. This helped to lessen the fury of his fellow pros and gave Dye the cover he needed to develop as an architect. It was Nicklaus’ springboard to the same profession and a lucrative side-business that he did in addition to his work on the course.
Nicklaus, who added golf course design to his long-standing playing career, followed Arnold Palmer’s lead in making his success on the course a strong commercial brand. The Golden Bear transformed from a golfer into a corporation and made golf course design an extracurricular activity that was profitable for other greats of the game.
- Top 20 Nicklaus Design courses by Overall Rating
- 20. PGA National Resort (Champion).
- 19. Quivira Golf Club, Cabo San Lucas, Baja Sur, Mexico
- 18. Old Works
- 17. Kinloch Golf Club, Taupo, New Zealand
- 16. Four Seasons Golf Club Punta Mita, Pacifico
- 15. Cabo Del Sol (Ocean), Los Cabos, Mexico
- 14. Hualalai
- 13. Mayacama Golf Club, Santa Rosa, Calif.
- 12. Cabo del Sol (Ocean)
- 11. Valhalla Golf Club, Louisville
- 10. Manele’s Challenge
- 9. Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea, Incheon City, South Korea
- 8. Reynolds Plantation (Great Waters).
- 7. Punta Espada Golf Club, Cap Cana, Dominican Republic
- 6. Vista Vallarta Golf Club (Nicklaus).
- 5. Castle Pines Golf Club, Castle Rock, Colo.
- 4. May River Golf Club
- 3. Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y.
- 2. Punta Espada Golf Club
- 1. Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio
Top 20 Nicklaus Design courses by Overall Rating
20. PGA National Resort (Champion).
Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
George Fazio and Tom Fazio designed the original layout. Nicklaus rebuilt the South Florida course in 2002. Nicklaus was also responsible for the notoriously difficult final hole, which is a pair par threes and a par four. This area was home to the 1987 PGA Championship and the 1983 Ryder Cup.
19. Quivira Golf Club, Cabo San Lucas, Baja Sur, Mexico
This Cabo course was ranked seventh in our Best in Mexico ranking for 2022. It isn’t lacking in views. Ron Kaspriske said that the Cabo course’s quirky and fun design was like playing golf in a Salvador Dali painting.
18. Old Works
Nicklaus faced one of his most difficult challenges when he built Old Works on a former cooper-smelting and ore mine. To prevent upward leakage, he had to cap the course’s footprint, line the bottoms and bunkers of the greens, lakes, bunkers, and tree roots. You can see the site’s past in the bunker sand made of black slag.
17. Kinloch Golf Club, Taupo, New Zealand
The Jack Nicklaus 2007 design, built on the North Island volcanic base in New Zealand, was three hours from Auckland. It debuted at No. 94
16. Four Seasons Golf Club Punta Mita, Pacifico
Punta Mita, Mexico
It would be easy for you to concentrate on hole 3B which is one of the most impressive one-shotters anywhere in the world. The hole measures 194 yards and features the only natural island green in the world. Players can walk to it at low tide but must use an amphibious cart to get there at high tide. The course has eight holes that border either the Pacific or Banderas Bay and is as memorable as the hole. Nicklaus built a second course, Bahia, at Punta Mita.
15. Cabo Del Sol (Ocean), Los Cabos, Mexico
Cabo Del Sol’s Ocean Course was the marquee course at Los Cabos for many years. Nicklaus described 16, 17, and 18 as “the best finishing stretch in golf” at the Ocean Course, which opened in 1994. Its greens are perched high above the water. The course is ranked No. The course, No. 91 in our latest World 100 rankings, also has back-to-back par 3,s six and seven.
This course is set in an ocean setting with green fairways and black lava. It has more drama than Tennessee Williams plays. January is when the Champions Tour season-opening tournament takes place at the course. Hualalai boasts a strong collection of par threes. The 167-yard 12th has a Riviera-Esque pot bunker in its middle. The 17-yard 17th overlooks the Pacific.
13. Mayacama Golf Club, Santa Rosa, Calif.
Dramatic, elevated tees in the Sonoma foothills provide stunning views of Mayacama. It is currently 114th on our Second 100 Greatest. Since 2005, Mayacama was ranked within the 100 Greatest (highest rank was No. 66), for all but two years. It was also ranked 100th in our 2019-2020 ranking.
12. Cabo del Sol (Ocean)
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
The Ocean course was built on Nicklaus’s “best golf property” site. It is set against a stunning backdrop of the desert, mountains, and the sea. Nearly half of the holes are located along the coast and its craggy rock outcroppings. Giant Cardon cacti guard the greens and tees. The 17th hole measures 178 yards. Golfers can tee off at a cliff overlooking a beach and a green protected by the Sea of Cortez. The course has more ocean holes after Nicklaus’ 2010 renovation.
11. Valhalla Golf Club, Louisville
Since opening in 1986, the course was owned by the PGA of America. The 2024 PGA Championship will be held at Valhalla. This would be the fourth major for the PGA. It has hosted 2000, 2006, and 2014 PGAs as well as the 2008 Ryder Cup.
10. Manele’s Challenge
This course is challenging, with lush green fairways that are bordered by black lava and ocean views on 18 holes. It offers plenty of visual fireworks, as you rack up double-bogey after double-bogey. Three holes are located along the edge of the Cliffs, including the 202-yard 12th (pictured), which is perched 150 feet above Pacific. Although you may not wish the round to end, it will be a pleasant experience. Your reward is a stay at Four Seasons Resort Lanai in Manele Bay.
9. Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea, Incheon City, South Korea
Nicklaus was the host of the 2015 Presidents Cup. He transformed this once flat terrain into rolling terrain with views of Songdo International Business District.
8. Reynolds Plantation (Great Waters).
Great Waters is one of five courses that Ritz-Carlton guests can play. It’s located on the shores of Lake Oconee. Nicklaus played the front nine through evergreen corridors. The back nine holes face the lake and most of them were routed by Nicklaus. Six greens are hardened by the water. From the 1990s through the first rounds of Accenture Match Play’s precursor, Great Waters was completely renovated in 2009 with a bunker and green renovation.
7. Punta Espada Golf Club, Cap Cana, Dominican Republic
The airport is located in Cap Cana, a 46-square-mile community. It is just a short drive away.
6. Vista Vallarta Golf Club (Nicklaus).
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Vista Vallarta is situated on rolling terrain at its highest point. The views can be distracting from the golf holes that meander through thick forests of palms, ficus trees, and over creeks. To overcome risk-reward holes such as the 381-yard 4th or the 536-yard 10, you’ll need to use all your brainpower. If golfers have the skill to drive down the dangerous right side, they can make it home in one shot.
5. Castle Pines Golf Club, Castle Rock, Colo.
Castle Pines currently ranks 48th on the latest 100 Greatest. Its highest ranking was 28th in 2009. Castle Pines is a top-ranked course that Jack considers to be one of the most playable. The course hosted The International, the PGA Tour’s 21-year-old event until 2006. It was not able to find a sponsor and was taken off the schedule.
4. May River Golf Club
May River captures the essence of the gentler, more relaxed Nicklaus style. The course is part of Palmetto Bluff’s Lowcountry community. It also includes the Inn At Palmetto Bluff. Large natural waste areas surround the fairways. There are many holes on the layout, and none of them are identical. The 7th hole, at 336 yards, is the best. You can either use a fairway wood or a long iron off the tee. The wedge approach will take you to a narrow green that is surrounded by wetlands. This is the most dangerous short iron you will ever hit.
3. Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y.
The neighborhood of Long Island already boasted two of the most prestigious courses in the world, Shinnecock Hills and National Golf Links of America. But the addition of Sebonack on 300 acres along the Peconic Bay with stunning views of Shinnecock and National, cemented this stretch of golf’s status as one of the top. Jack Nicklaus, Tom Doak, and Ron Whitten collaborated in 2006 to design their course. The end result is still a wonderful addition to Long Island’s eastern edge, which will forever be a golf mecca.
2. Punta Espada Golf Club
Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic)
Punta Espada is where you will find the turquoise Caribbean Sea, white-sand waste areas, and fairways. Eight holes in this resort community are played along the ocean or above the water. Two additional Nicklaus courses are in the works.
1. Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio
Muirfield Village, which Jack Nicklaus and his crew have been constantly improving and tweaking (including a complete restoration in time for the 2022 Memorial Tournament), is Jack’s dream come true. He wanted to bring a great club to Columbus. Since 1976, the club has been a worthy host for the Memorial. It also hosted the 1987 Ryder Cup as well as the 2013 Presidents Cup. Muirfield Village ranks 15th on our latest 100 Greatest, and it has ranked as high as eighth in 1985.