This year the Nicklaus Signature Course, designed by the Golden Bear himself, celebrates its 25th anniversary. In 1988 Nicklaus, along with Tom Watson, Nick Faldo and Sandy Lyle, played an 18-hole shootout to officially open the course.
Since then the course has played host to numerous high-profile events including 9 European Tour events and the 1999 English Amateur, where a young Paul Casey beat an even-younger Simon Dyson.
In celebration of the course and its anniversary, Jack Nicklaus sat down to talk about the course and what inspired him to be involved.
ST MELLION: What do you feel that you accomplished, here at St. Mellion?
JACK NICKLAUS: “First, it helps to understand some of the history of the St. Mellion project. Originally, I twice – maybe three times – turned down the Bond brothers, Herman and Martin, when they asked me to design the golf course.
I did so only because of the challenge of the property. Essentially, they wanted me to put a golf course on the sides of this hill. I asked them if we could find a little bit better piece of property that was more conducive to building a golf course. They said no, and it was because of the existing golf course, and the location of the clubhouse and everything else. So I reluctantly turned it down.
They came back and said, “Please, Jack, do this golf course. It just makes sense for us. We just can’t do anything else.” I said, “Ok, but understand it’s going to be a unique golf course.” where we have had to design and build the course into the side of the mountain, with a stair-step approach to fit the holes in there.
I was told at the time that it was the largest civil contract in Great Britain that year, because of the amount of Earth we had to move to make the golf course work.
In the end, it’s a golf course where, actually, each individual hole is pretty darn good. They might be in a unique location, but I thought the golf course, as such, turned out to be a really good golf course from a playability standpoint.”
ST MELLION: But is it a good golf course?
JACK NICKLAUS: “I think it is a very good golf course. It plays really well. It was a strong golf course when it first opened. I have always been very proud of taking the site given to us and turning into something that has now hosted at least a dozen professional or significant events. I think the golf course, hole for hole, turned out to be a very good golf course.
I haven’t been there for a while, but it was always a good strong golf course, a strong test of golf.
I learned recently that the St. Mellion International Resort was nominated for England’s Leading Golf Resort, and I am hopeful that the experience we created there is chief among the reasons for that.
From where we began to the fact we are here today celebrating the 25th anniversary of an English success story gives me a great deal of pride.”
(As a side note, Jack Nicklaus also pointed out that at least one of the holes at St. Mellion has been replicated in the Bear’s Best concept of golf courses, which have been built in Las Vegas, Atlanta and now South Korea)
ST MELLION: Where would it rate in all the courses you have created worldwide?
JACK NICKLAUS: “Let me ask you a question, “Who is your favourite child?” You can’t answer that. Well, asking me to rate this course compared to others, is like asking me to rate my children. I would never do that.
I will only say that I believe St. Mellion—as a test of golf, as a design, and looking at each individual hole and its beauty—would rank the golf course very high.”
ST MELLION: When was the last time you were here, and did you get to play the course?
JACK NICKLAUS: “Although I am unable to get back there often, I know that the team at St. Mellion has nurtured the course and taken great care of it, and because of that they have been able to maintain its position as one of the most recognized and popular courses in the UK. St. Mellion was my first design opportunity in the UK, and because of that and the success of our collaborative effort, it holds a special place in my heart.”
To learn more about St. Mellion, book tee times and get discounts to play the Nicklaus Signature course, visit our St Mellion course page.