Panama City News Herald Sports: Redesign on course
Tuesday, January 11, 2005
Redesign on course
Gary Nicklaus surveys renovation work at Bay Point golf layout
By Jason Shoot
News Herald Writer 747-5069 / email@example.com
Gary Nicklaus looks like an artist ready to plunge his hands into a lump of clay. Well, except for the collared shirt, khaki slacks and designer sunglasses. Nicklaus, the son of legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus, is overseeing the renovation of the former Lagoon Legend Golf Club at Bay Point. The course, which will be renamed the Nicklaus Course at Bay Point, is on pace to reopen in the fall.
Lagoon Legend was a grueling layout that rarely allowed golfers to catch their breath. Undulating fairways, five dozen bunkers and water on nearly every hole accounted for Lagoon Legend's 152 slope rating, among the most difficult courses in the United States.
Nicklaus, standing next to the sandcovered wasteland that once was the No. 4 fairway on Lagoon Legend, said his team of designers has a particularly difficult task ahead in balancing how challenging the course will be for both recreational and avid golfers.
"The goal at Nicklaus Design is to come up with a golf course that is
challenging yet fun and playable for golfers of all levels," said
Nicklaus, who surveyed several holes on Monday. "To make it more challenging, the back tees will be a different tee shot, and we'll move the front tees up so a person that can't fly the ball a certain distance will have more forgiving approaches.
"It's a tough balance making it fair for all, but tough for better players. We came up with a well-rounded resort course, and we know it will get a lot of play here. There's nothing worse than a 5 to 6 hour round of golf. We want to keep them moving along."
Lagoon Legend's layout, originally designed by Robert Von Hagge and Bruce Devlin in 1986, covered 6,900 yards from the back tees. Every hole currently is being reshaped from scratch. The skeleton of the course still remains, however, with extravagant homes and roads adjacent to each hole.
"A lot of times, a redesign is tougher than starting from scratch, because when you start from scratch you can go anywhere you want," Nicklaus said. "But here you have set corridors and set boundaries."
Nicklaus has discovered that moving hundreds of tons of dirt and sand has been for a formidable chore for excavators. Bulldozers have been pushing dirt and shaping fairways since the course closed in November.
"We're making bigger landforms and piling the dirt up," Nicklaus said.
"We're making nice structural forms where we can put plants and trees and make it a nice-looking product."
Nicklaus has competed in recent years in the second stage of the PGA Tour Qualifying School at Hombre Golf Club, but hasn't played professionally since missing the cut on a Nationwide Tour stop in Calgary, Alberta, in August 2003.
He said his attention has been diverted toward golf design, and to a company founded with family members called Nicklaus Investments.
"It's an entity involved in buying real estate on Nicklaus-designed
courses around the world," Nicklaus said. "I'm not ruling out (a return) or saying golf is done forever, but it is for now."