HORSESHOE BAY — The sport of golf is alive and well. And legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus can attest to it.
That’s because Nicklaus, winner of 73 PGA Tour events, said all anyone has to do to judge the health of the game is visit Skywater Over Horseshoe Bay.
AT A GLANCE
Click on the viewer below, follow Jack Nicklaus around the construction site
and get an update on some of the golf course’s specific characteristics
The upscale development, which went through a company reorganization last year, offers a course Nicklaus helped design.
“We hope the impact is Skywater,” the so-called “Golden Bear” said Friday. “This group has made the investment and gamble. The economy will turn and make it successful.”
Nicklaus was there to talk about the course he is designing and had two objectives.
“One, to let you know we’re alive and well. Progress is moving forward,” he said. “And two, to go through the course. As I understand it, we are in very good shape.”
This marked the first time Nicklaus had been back in the area in about six years. He is designing the course under his company, Nicklaus Design. The course is A Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course, which means everything on the course, right down to the smallest detail, is there because he decided it would be.
“It’s where I’m doing the golf course,” he said. “It’s where I want it and I’m happy with it.”
He planned to look at 14 holes Saturday.
The goal is to finish the course in a year, the golfer said, and design links where a balance exists on a course that challenges players but doesn’t discourage them.
Nicklaus said he envisions a place where players of all levels can enjoy the game enough to return.
“We want to challenge people who play 99 percent of the time,” he said. “When they show up here, we want to give them a golf course they can be proud of. Golfers don’t want to feel like amateurs. We want people to enjoy their experience. You don’t want to make it so hard they run away.”
Nicklaus played golf with Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints, former Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino and Kenny G, a Grammy-winning international recording star, at the Honda Classic Pro-Am Wednesday.
Kenny G hosted the Pro-Am.
“With Drew Brees and Dan Marino, I was a hundred yards behind them,” Nicklaus said with a laugh. “They’re still young enough to hit.
“Kenny G is a scratch player, a nice player,” he added. “He and I hit about the same distance.”
He laughed when asked about the state of golf without Tiger Woods, the player who many believe is the Jack Nicklaus of today, noting the question came just 15 minutes into the press briefing.
Woods, who admitted to adultery, has taken an indefinite leave of absence to work on his personal life.
“First of all, Tiger will be back sooner rather than later,” Nicklaus said. “I’ll bet pretty highly he’ll play The Masters (in April). It’s none of my business what’s going on in his life. He’s a golfer and been a golfer all his life.”
Nicklaus added the game is bigger than one player, noting it survived the losses of Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Arnold Palmer and himself.
“Is (Woods) a great player? Absolutely,” he said. “Does he add a lot? Absolutely. The game of golf is a big game. He has his own issues, and I think he’ll solve them.”
While construction of golf courses has slowed in the United States, Nicklaus said that is not the case in the rest of the world.
He has designed courses across Asia, including China, Vietnam and Korea; and in North and South Africa.
“We’re very busy,” he said.
Golf will be an official sport for the 2016 Summer Olympics hosted by Rio De Janeiro.
“Brazil is one of the hottest areas for golf courses,” Nicklaus said. “We’re interested in going out there and growing the game of golf in the world. Golf shouldn’t be a game (only) for the rich. People from all walks of life can learn it.”
Nicklaus and family members also produce a line of sportswear under the Golden Bear label.