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My Design | Jack Nicklaus

Jack Nicklaus strengthened a weak link at Muirfield Village

By: Tom Cunneff

Appeared in Spring 2012 LINKS.

SOON AFTER Jack Nicklaus opened Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio, in 1974, he took a poll of members to see which holes they liked best. He got back 14 different selections. “So that meant I had four holes to work on,” he says.

One of those was the par-three 16th, but he only got around to redesigning it last year. “When you’re spending as much money as we did on 16 for only one golf hole, other priorities take precedence,” he says. “But I finally said, "I want to do 16 while I’m still here."

A small pond in front and three bunkers now guard the 204-yard hole, which had just a bunker front and back before. The green also lines up better with the prevailing southwest wind, so balls don’t run through it as they did before. “There was really nothing wrong with the hole,” says Nicklaus, “but I just thought of 16 as a nice way to get from 15 green to 17 tee.”

Ouch! Good thing the old 16th isn’t around to hear that. Truth be told, it was a fine hole but suffered by comparison with the fantastic holes that preceded it, the short par-four 14th with its crossing creek and narrow green and the roller-coaster par-five 15th."

At that point in the round I thought we could introduce some more excitement,” says Nicklaus. “Before there might be some birdies and bogeys but most people made par on the hole. Now if you hit a good shot, you’ll be rewarded. I think it’s an easier hole for a good shot. I think there will be more twos on the hole, but if you hit a bad shot you’ll be more severely penalized, and if you bail out you’ll have a much tougher par.” The fact that the 16th will prove pivotal in next year’s Presidents Cup matches was another factor in redoing the hole. “Many matches finish around the 16th, 17th hole,” he says, “and I didn’t want to see those matches finish on a weakish hole.”

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