Nicklaus Discusses New Course in Long Neck

By: Jeff Shelley

Golf’s fabled “Golden Bear,” Jack Nicklaus, paid what will be the first of several visits to Delaware’s Rehoboth Beach area. Golf’s all-time winningest player – with 100 career victories – stopped by to discuss his design for the new Peninsula Golf Club in Long Neck. The prolific architect, who has crafted over 200 courses worldwide, is finalizing his design of the layout. Construction started on it in October 2003.

The course is part of a 1,200-acre development in Sussex County. Besides the semiprivate Nicklaus track, the project involves 1,400 homes, various recreational amenities and 15,000 square feet of commercial spaces. If all goes well, the course will open in spring 2006. The project, which the county approved in November 2002, is backed by Larry A. Goldstein of Odyssey Development LLC.

When Nicklaus dropped by Long Neck to show off his preliminary design, he commented, “I never know what I’ll end up doing. I like to let a golf course evolve. The more I see a piece of ground, the more I see how it sort of relates and works with the water and marsh.”

Peninsula Golf Club will be Nicklaus’s first design in Deleware. After he discussed the project with the local media, Nicklaus appeared at a reception at nearby Rehoboth Beach Country Club, a gathering attended by 200 people.

“Each property is unique unto itself,” Nicklaus told Mike Lewis of the Delaware State News. “I don’t want someone to come off the course saying this is a Nicklaus golf course. I want them to say it’s a good golf course.”

Nicklaus said the layout was penciled out at his offices in Florida before he flew to Long Neck. “Normally, when I get on the ground, I change everything. (But this time) I changed almost nothing,” he said.

As for Peninsula’s ability to tame golf’s ongoing technological advances, the 18-time major winner said, “It’s almost impossible to design a course to keep up. The golf ball goes 25 yards farther than it did in 2000. Every golf course you build now is obsolete.”

He added that the advances in clubs and golf balls have widened the gap further between average players and the tour pros. “Bobby Jones said 75 years ago that the biggest problem in the game was the equipment. We have wonderful golf courses in this country and around the world that are obsolete because of one thing – the golf ball. It’s absolutely ridiculous. It really upsets me to see the game getting hurt by the equipment and taking the skill out of the game.”

Nicklaus estimates he will return to the Peninsula site 10 times before the project is completed. “Our job is to keep the beauty of the property and bring some of it into play,” he told Lewis. “We want people to enjoy the game and have fun with it. This property has a nice blend to it.”

For various reasons, mainly related to health, Nicklaus has shifted his emphasis from playing competitive golf to designing courses. Ten of his courses opened in 2003, and a total of 54 have debuted since 1999. “I certainly don’t play very well any more,” he joked about his shift in focus. “Thank goodness I can still do something.”