Jack Nicklaus Interview

This url was posted over in the Thunderdome (SITD). Long but very interesting.


GREAT Stuff!! The ending was priceless… Think we’ve all been there… :slight_smile:

I love his comment about Johnny Miller - the moment you think someone else is better than you, you are done.

Thanks for posting. I enjoyed the interview and there were a lot of gold nuggets in there for those interested in pursuing a path of golfing excellence.

On the state of the game…
Jack’s message is not clear to me.

One minute it’s “we need to shorten the courses and make the game more enjoyable because golf is too difficult”.

The next minute the golf ball flies too far and needs to be rolled back because it’s making the game too easy.

Who ever said golf wasn’t supposed to be difficult?

Jack’s course designs are not consistent with what he preaches. Eight tiered greens with 10 foot deep bunkers you have to take a ladder down into… or shallow greens that are only functional if you drop the ball in from the sky with a parachute and have been adequately watered are not designs consistent with his comments.

Fact being that Jack is the greatest player of all time. Jack was a persimmon player who played the rubber ball, not the plastic golf ball. His era had the best players. His era embraced the great classic tracks and the game was more interesting and had plenty of players and fans who supported it.

The “growing the game” obsession has more to do with shareholders and not the tradition values and ethics of the game.

I would sure like to see the elder statesmen of the game of golf be more consistent with their beliefs and uphold the values of the game that they were brought up with regarding golf. If they truly believe their era was better, then they should be doing all they can to promote the values and the style of play from their era. I see too much compromising… and guess what? the game has been compromised.

Ditto to John !
It all remains me of today’s politicians. Most of them know deep down what is right, but inflow of money is so great, so why they should be the ones to rock the boat.

Mr. Nicklaus would be a perfect force to change this nonsense. When I listen to him, I feel he knows, but I am afraid he is not courageous enough to state it plainly and save the game.

Wow harsh…
I think Jack is a class act. He was a wonderful player and is still a great ambassador for the game.
Thanks for posting the interview. I enjoyed listening to Jack’s words.

Jack is a class act no doubt. I certainly have never stated otherwise. However, if one were to collage all the various comments and subtle innuendos that Jack, Arnie, Gary or even Johnny Miller have made over the years about the modern game vs the game they played, it would hammer home the point. But for every jab they make at what has happened, they come back with many more compromising statements that will put them in good grace with today’s press, ruling body etc.

[youtube]arnie1 - YouTube

I think video clip is very telling if you observe closely.

“When I think about the spirit of the game… it was just as much fun with the old equipment.”

If this is in fact true, then what is the point of radically changing the game’s equipment? To better the game? Palmer is clearly stating it’s not making the game more fun. And if you look at his face when describing how we all thrive on the modern equipment, then how his face lights up talking about the old stuff… the answer is right there. It’s not just as fun… but clearly it was much better internal experience for him. The key is the “spirit of the game” Where do I see the spirit shining through? When he mentions the old stuff. It’s like a lightening bolt going off in his eyes. So to keep this in proper perspective, he’s talking about the spirit of the game, not shareholders stock prices.


warning about the new ball, very stern looking.

talking about the old equipment, pure joy.

If there was ever a player who won over fans wearing his emotions on his face… this is the guy. I trust these expressions more than I ever would reading an article or hearing someone talking about what he said or didn’t say.

Palmer is probably the best link between Hogan’s era and Tiger’s. Started his career when Hogan was basically finished, and ended when Tiger took the stage.

I think Jack is being honest in his answers. He probably just doesn’t share all the same beliefs as you. I really got the impression that he wants people to enjoy the game he loves. Making it easier for people with less talent or time than is necessary to get really good will help make it more fun. Rolling back the ball to make courses smaller makes it cheaper. Everything seems to make sense and he explained it all quite well.
As far as his course designs, I highly doubt any clients ask for a 6800 yard persimmon track… Also he designs higher end courses so maintaining more land is usually feasible.
Haha and the ethics of golf? Where did you get from? Are you saying Jack is unethical because he doesn’t perfectly support your views on the game? It’s a game, it’s supposed to be fun. I mean what do you expect Jack to say? That anyone who doesn’t sneak steel spikes onto the local course and game persimmons and balatas is a sinner?
And with all that being said if Jack is a class act let’s go ahead and give him the benefit of the doubt even if you think he is contradicting. Basically everyone on the planet is at different times.

I don’t know where you made this leap in logic as John never said anything about Jack being unethical. But I have to agree that Jack is being a bit compromising in his statements. I can remember him as far back as the mid-80s saying the golf ball was getting too long. I think his statements in this interview sort of back off that a little. He wants to grow the game, but I also think (my personal opinion here) that he has a lot invested in his golf businesses and he doesn’t want to jeopardize that.

He basically implied that Jack was more concerned with money than “the ethics of the game.” Going against ethics is more or less the definition of unethical.
I just thought it was funny Lag is criticizing Jack on “ethics” that aren’t universally accepted but rather Lag’s own opinion.

It is perhaps necessary that compromises be made in order to grow the game. And this could be said for many things. Thus, growing the game is a slippery slope. Whether or not the game should grow, and if so, how so, is a reasonable topic of debate. But where there is big money to be made is where big money will be made. The influx of big money, which relies on growth itself to sustain, is the driver behind the growth of the game. And Jack in certain ways is part of the big money. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he has many internal conflicts regarding all this. My bet is that, on the balance of things, Jack thinks the way the game is played today in comparison to the persimmon era (his era) is inferior. But he is kinda stuck because of his multiple role in the game. That shouldn’t be reason to not be critical of him – he’s fair game because he is part of the entire machine.


I made this statement in a separate paragraph referring to a general train of thought that runs throughout the golf community.

As Norcalvol brought up, the issue of growth itself being necessary to sustain business ideals does not necessarily better the game itself. Palmer clearly states it was just as enjoyable with the old stuff. His non verbal expression clearly prefers the old stuff.

Is golf a better game than it was in the persimmon era? No. More convenient and easier to play, yes.
Should that be the goal to make it more user friendly?

I agree that Jack and Arnie often sound like politicians. Understandably so, because they are invested in growing the game. But my feeling is that if they REALLY wanted to protect the integrity of the game, they could do a lot more about it.

They both have Tour events. What would happen if they said, “you know what, it’s my event, my course, I think this is how the game should be played, and if I am going to be cutting checks on Sunday, these are the rules, this is the ball, this is how the course is going to be set up” … etc… If they lose the PGA Tour support, so be it. Stranger things have happened.
If they don’t want to disturb the PGA Tour or the protocols of the USGA, then they have an event off season that they finance or put together. There are a lot of businesses that would follow their lead I can assure you and support the cause with their name backing it. These guys are in HUGE positions of power and influence within the golfing community. Why not get a proper golf ball made? I’ve personally been looking into getting it done, and it’s not that expensive. Almost in reach on a golf teachers budget.

Hogan for example, wasn’t in the business of building courses or running tour events. He made clubs, and good ones. He always offered proper pro line gear for the better players and played persimmon and blades right into the grave. That level of integrity is more impressive to me. Things didn’t get really go crazy until after he passed, but I am sure if he were still alive and it good health, he’d be more vocal about it than the big three are now.

Just my opinion.

I understand that’s your opinion, and that is just fine.
I have always felt though that it’s best to discuss issues with the person in question. That is why I criticize abs here rather than at other forums or with other golfers.
But the fact is Jack is not here to defend his name from criticism given by people who I presume don’t know him. So that is why I spoke up.
In the end we don’t know why Jack does what he does. We all could be way off base with our opinions and could be damaging Jack’s name with the opinions shared here.

I have met Jack and I know Jackie Jr well. Jackie and I have played together many times, ate hamburgers together etc. Jack is a public figure and makes statements to the public in public forums just as he did at this lecture hall etc. I’m not taking issue with what he does in his personal life. I don’t take issue with much about Jack or any of the great players. But when they say, with great conviction, that the ball needs to be rolled back, courses shortened etc… then turn around and say that the game is too hard and needs to be made easier and so on… well, what is it? I’m not making anything up here.

Regarding your comment:

Do your research, here is Mayacama Golf Club designed by Nicklaus and clocks in under 6800 (6785). It has hosted US Open
qualifying many times and is a classic persimmon length layout. It also has an active caddy culture. They charge top dollar for membership and they get it.

The course plays fine as long as the greens are watered. But this is generally where I take issue with Jack’s designs because they rely upon the conditioning to be playable. A truly great course will play fair under most any conditions, bone dry or wet, or with any of the prevailing winds… outside of a typhoon.

Back to Jack, I acknowledge that Jack is the greatest player ever, and I don’t care if Tiger wins 25 majors, it’s nothing compared to what Jack did. He won in an era against more Hall of Fame players than any other era. He won playing persimmon and a balata ball, which was a much more difficult and demanding game. Tiger is the titanium king hands down. But Jack’s record is far more impressive because of who he had to beat.

Haha good job lag. You found a course built over a decade ago that is under 7000 yards… There are a million of those. But they are built that way less now.
The demand for that type of course is much lower now. That is all I was saying. The same thing with old equipment. Is there a market for those things? Sure, but it’s shrinking.
Anyway no worries. We can agree to disagree.

Oh also just to throw my two cents in about persimmon and balata. I have been able to play persimmon and balata a number of times and I never found it to be that difficult. Different? Absolutely, but not harder. After adjusting to the gear my scores were about the same as they are with modern stuff.

Point being that a course doesn’t need to be 7400 yards to be challenging or even enjoyable. Merion was 6850 on Sunday at last years US Open and not one player broke par. Every hole was fair if the players hit the ball straight. Greens held good enough, and surfaces were pristine.

What is the point of making the ball go 15% farther, then make the courses 10% longer? What is the argument for this kind of thinking as far as the game of golf is concerned?

How is this good for the game?

Costs go up to play
Takes longer and slows down play
The plastic ball doesn’t feel as good.
The plastic ball can’t curve and be shot shaped as well
The metallic ping of titanium doesn’t sound as good
Players lose feedback from the giant clubs and don’t improve as effectively.
Plastic spikes don’t grip the ground as well for the player to properly develop their swing
Cost of gear has skyrocketed
The game has broken away from it’s traditional values.

What are the good points?

I absolutely agree that a course doesn’t need to be long to be enjoyable. My home course is 7k yards and a neighboring course is a tight mountain track that I think is about 6600 and it’s one of my favorites in the area.
I never said longer golf courses are necessarily better, but that they are becoming more and more common, and as a business Nicklaus Design is going to have a lot of people that want longer golf courses.
Do I think it makes sense to have the ball fly 15% further? Not necessarily, but I was just making a comment on the way things are moving and the products that the consumers are demanding. My posts were only an attempt to defend Nicklaus. It in no way actually represents the type of golf and or gear that I personally demand. I can play pretty well with modern and vintage gear and don’t care too much if the course is 6400 or 7600; I usually enjoy the challenge either way.

Jack and Arnie are past their prime obviously and are now in the role of the game’s elite elder statesmen. Arnie talked in the interview clip I posted about “the spirit of the game”. I take that seriously when I hear it, and he spoke about it and later on about the ball going to far. This is stuff about the game. The tradition, the spirit of the game etc.

I am sure the definition of the game of golf will not mention it as a business that is ideal for targeting higher than average household income levels. Golf has been exploited. That exploitation is NOT in the interest of “The Spirit of the Game”. It is in interest of the business of golf. Jack and Arnie both speak out about the true spirit of the game and the business interests which are often polarizing and often don’t share the same values. It is similar to what politicians often have to do to gain favor of certain groups they really would not support if they succeed in the election.

It’s not an easy line to walk.

But my feeling is that “the spirit of the game” needs stronger representation.