The Golden Bear Touch
Colorado Benefits From Nicklaus’ Second Career as Golf Course Designer
Castle Pines Golf Club was Jack Nicklaus’ first Signature Course in Colorado, opened for play in 1981. The course was designed with great care to follow the natural contour of the land, and complement its densely wooded areas and rolling hills.
When Jack Nicklaus stepped up to the 18th green and drained an 8-foot putt to win the 1959 U.S. Amateur at The Broadmoor, it proved as a springboard for a legendary and unprecedented career. He is golf’s greatest champion, winning a record 18 major titles.
Along the way, Nicklaus had his eyes on a second career, one as a golf course designer, always keeping Colorado in the forefront of his mind.
Today, golfers across the Centennial State can enjoy the Nicklaus touch at one of 13 courses spread across the state; no other state has more of the Golden Bear’s imprint than Colorado.
“Colorado represents a confluence of so many important moments and memories, not only in my professional career – be it as a player or course designer – but in my personal life,” Nicklaus says. “Few states have been more important to my second career as a golf course designer than Colorado. I love the outdoors and the landscape that is special to Colorado.”
Starting in 1981 with the design of Castle Pines Golf Club, Nicklaus and later his firm, Nicklaus Designs, brought his style and philosophy of enhancing the natural splendor of each individual area to make golf more than just a game, but a total experience.
“If you had a Nicklaus golf course, it added a whole lot of credence to the development,” says Keith Schneider, general manager at Castle Pines Golf Club who previously worked for Nicklaus as assistant pro at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio, before heading to Colorado in 1981. “At that time, there was no Nicklaus development in Colorado. He definitely used the natural beauty and natural amphitheater of how the golf course sits in the valley. That makes it more playable, and everything feeds back to the golf course.”
For example, Nicklaus’ Meridian Golf Club in Englewood shares traits of legendary Scottish links with its rolling fairways and deep pot bunkers. Or you can stand at the tee box at The Country Club at Castle Pines and, at 7,000 feet above sea level, view Pikes Peak to the south, Mount Evans to the west and Long’s Peak to the north. Down in the valleys, mesas and arroyos of Cougar Canyon Golf Links, the black sand bunkers pay tribute to Trinidad’s rich mining heritage.
Closer to home at the fabled and beloved Broadmoor, experience the unbelievable mountain views on the Nicklaus-inspired 2006 makeover of the Mountain Course.
“It’s spectacular,” says Russ Miller, director of golf at The Broadmoor. “It’s a true mountain experience. The views are incredible. You’re literally on the side of a mountain.”
That’s what Nicklaus had in mind all along.
“It’s a package,” Nicklaus says. “While I was playing golf, it was always pleasant to play in a place that was aesthetically pleasing. Every once in a while, you’d go to a place where there wasn’t any wildlife, there wasn’t any beauty – and it wasn’t nearly as much fun. I’ve always been a wildlife lover. You do become more aware as you go on, seeing things you like and things you think that work.”
Overall, Nicklaus’ name is on nearly 400 courses in 39 states and 41 countries. Several of his courses have hosted professional tournaments or amateur events, including those sanctioned by the PGA Tour.
From 1986-2006, Castle Pines Golf Club was home to The International, the first event in PGA Tour history to use the Stableford scoring system, which ditched pars, birdies and bogeys in exchange for points based on the number of strokes taken at each hole.
The Broadmoor has hosted its share of big-time events, most recently the 2011 U.S. Women’s Open, and will again take center stage in 2018 when the U.S. Senior Open visits Colorado Springs.
While many figure The Broadmoor simply can sell itself on its name and sterling reputation, Miller knows otherwise.
“We’ve got to remember that a lot of our guests are from different parts of the country,” Miller says. “They don’t see the elevation and mountains and prairies and plains like we do. We thought it would be a great tie-in since this is where Jack won his first major tournament. Definitely, having the Nicklaus name involved with us always helps.”