“Golf’s return to the Olympic Games will have a very important role in the growth of golf around the world, and also in Spain.” This is Jack Nicklaus’s view, expressed in an interview given to La Moraleja – he designed the Madrid club’s four golf courses.

Golf,” added the player considered the best golfer in the history of the game and currently one of the world’s premier golf course designers, “needs to grow in Europe more than in the United States, because (the latter) is a more established market, with 16,000 golf courses, nearly 10,000 more than Europe has.”

China, Russia and some areas of the Near East offer new and thriving opportunities for the golf industry, together with southern Europe and northern Africa, and in Nicklaus’s opinion they still offer great potential. “I believe that in the next few years we will see a large number of Chinese golfers emerge, and the government there will realise how many jobs this sport can provide. You just have to look at the United States: golf contributes about 70 billion dollars to the economy and two million jobs. So, bearing in mind that China’s population is four higher more than the U.S.’s, the potential is huge... As for other countries, Russian plans to build several golf courses and, as a design company, we are very active there. In addition, I believe that countries with a good climate such as Spain, Portugal and Morocco will continue to see golf as a development factor and an attraction for tourism. In my opinion we will continue to see growth in golf in some parts of the Near East.”

According to the interview, Jack Nicklaus believes that, in spite of the economic crisis suffered by western countries, golf is in good health. “I see many positive indicators,” he said, indicators such as the number of junior players (three million in the U.S., the highest total in a decade) and the record amounts paid for the rights to some professional championships. “Nevertheless,” he continued, “we need to invent new golf experiences and alternatives so golf can grow. Perhaps creating layouts where people can play for 30, 60 or 90 minutes; that is, the time they have available. We just need a product to offer them. Our sport has to be innovative, and provide new ideas and reasons to encourage people to get up off the sofa and go out and play golf.”


Golf course design

Nicklaus is currently one of the most highly valued golf course designers, and his company, Nicklaus Design, has created layouts around the world and has offices in 14 countries. But he has a particularly special relationship with La Moraleja Golf. “Course 1 was my first design in Europe. We inaugurated that layout in 1976 and I’m still very proud of it.” Now he is also proud of Course 3 at the same club. “It offers very good and solid golf; the layout is extremely varied and aesthetically very attractive. It’s a course you can play very differently depending on the wind conditions. No one will be bored playing this course.”

The course was also built to facilitate maintenance that respects the environment. “In the current times there should be no excuse at all for not building a course correctly so that it can be maintained easily and properly, because we have all the knowledge and technology we didn’t have 30 or 40 years ago.”

The last edition of the Ryder Cup – in September – was in fact held at one of his most highly praised courses, the PGA Centenary at Gleneagles. “I don’t believe the layout had anything to do with the result of the competition,” he said. “The Europeans, quite simply, played better. They carded around 110 birdies against the Americans’ 78.” But if he had to choose one of his courses Nicklaus would opt for Muirfield Village, because it’s “the place where I was born and grew as a person and as a golfer”.


Impressive career

Born in 1940 in Ohio, Jack Nicklaus’s impressive career is well documented. This is just a brief summary of his most important achievements during a career that will be hard to beat:

Wins: 118

PGA Tour: 73

Champions Tour: 10

Other victories: 35

Majors: 18

6 Masters: 1963, 1965, 1966, 1972, 1975, 1986

4 U.S. Open: 1962, 1967, 1972,  1980

3 The Open: 1966. 1970. 1978

5 PGA Championship: 1963, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1980

6 Ryder Cup (player): 1969, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1977 , 1981

1 Ryder Cup (captain): 1983