From the tranquil surrounds of the grand old parkland layouts to the windswept challenge of a classic links, there is a golf course out there to suit all tastes. Although we all have our favourite golf course it is unlikely that many of us have had the chance to play the courses that the greats of the game have strut their stuff on which got us wondering about the favourite golf courses of Messrs Nicklaus, Watson, Woods & Co.
Jack Nicklaus – Pebble Beach
Pebble Beach is immensely popular among the greats of the game and the greatest of all time ranks it as the very best. Its setting on the Monterey Peninsula is its greatest strength as that allowed its designers, Jack Neville and Douglas Grant, to lay down what has become one of the best and most popular golf courses, not just in the USA, but in the world.
“I fell in love with Pebble Beach the moment I set foot there to prepare for the 1961 U.S. Amateur. After playing the course what seems like hundreds of times over the years, it remains one of my favourite places to play golf. The first thing you can’t help but notice is the location. The scenery is incredible. You just don’t get opportunities to put a golf course on such a marvellous piece of property like you have at Pebble Beach. Aside from aesthetics, Pebble Beach is a great test of golf. It’s a wonderful thinking-man’s golf course. That’s why it’s such a great U.S. Open venue. It forces you to use your head, and it both toys with and tests your composure. You must keep your emotions in check or Pebble Beach will beat you.”
The Golden Bear on Pebble Beach.
Tiger Woods – St Andrews Old Course
The sense of history and tradition that surrounds the St Andrews Old Course certainly adds to the appeal of this famous links course but the layout itself remains one of the very finest in the world. Testament to this is the fact that the Open Championship returns here every five years. The Old Course is a truly great course and is the absolute favourite of many of the top players in the game, the most notable of which is a certain Tiger Woods.
“You know, my favourite golf course is St Andrews. Obviously it’s the home of golf and the history behind it; that golf course, the nuances and the intricacies behind it and understanding how to manage your way around that golf course, that’s fun. I enjoy that type of golf.”
Tiger on the Old Course
Nick Faldo – Royal Melbourne
Although the courses that host the major championships are always going to be in the forefront of the great players minds there are many other courses around the world that are every bit as good. Six time major champion Nick Faldo favourite course comes all the way from the Land Down Under.
“I love so many aspects of the design: the way it plays firm and fast; the way the bunkering frames and almost intrudes into the putting surfaces; the brilliance of the bunkering style with its native “scrubby” look; the often ultra-wide fairways that reward the golfer who thinks where best to position the drive; the mix of long, demanding and short, intriguing par 4s; the splendid contouring of the greens; the rich variety of approach shots that you can play into those greens, thus encouraging and rewarding imaginative shot making, and the fact that there is often a brisk wind coming at you from every direction during the course of a round. As a proud Brit, I’m not sure I should be declaring that the best golf course in the world is to be found in the ‘Land Down Under,’ but it might just be true.”
Sir Nick Faldo on Royal Melbourne
Gary Player – Muirfield
Like St Andrews Muirfield is historically important when it comes to golf as it is home to the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, the oldest golf club in the world. Muirfield has hosted no less than 15 Open Championships and is a particular favourite of one of its past champions, Gary Player.
“Muirfield was the site of my first major championship, in 1959, so fond memories flow when I think of that beautiful place. My ancestors are from Scotland, and you’ll never find more knowledgeable golf fans than the Scottish. I’ve always loved links courses, because no two days are ever the same given the elements. From a design standpoint, I love the sharp, dramatic bunkering, and the fact that links golf gives you so many options to play all kinds of shots. Muirfield has stood the test of time, and that’s the mark of a great design.”
Gary Player on Muirfield
Tom Watson – Ballybunion Old Course
It wouldn’t be foolish to assume that Tom Watson’s favourite course would be Turnberry as this was the scene of the 1977 Open Championship, which was arguably the greatest major championship ever played. However Watson has three other courses that sneak in ahead of the famous Ailsa Course. Watson has particularly strong feeling for Harbour Town and Pebble Beach but perhaps his all time favourite is the Old Course at Ballybunion.
“It’s a course you will always enjoy and never tire of playing…In short, Ballybunion is a course on which many golf architects should live and play before they build a golf course. I consider it a true test of golf. One of the best and most beautiful tests of links golf anywhere in the world.”
Watson on Ballybunion