Tiger, Nicklaus take differing paths

Tiger Woods: Designer, El Cardonal at Diamante (2:23)

Tiger Woods talks with Bob Harig about his latest venture, designing El Cardonal at Diamante, a new golf course in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. (2:23)

CABO SAN LUCAS, Mexico -- The view from the 18th tee of Tiger Woods' first completed golf course design is a nice place to take it all in. The Pacific Ocean, the arroyos that dot the landscape, the Sierra de la Laguna mountains off in the distance.

Take a closer look at that massive piece of land emerging from the sea and you can see the lush green grass meandering about the El Faro lighthouse, a sure sign of golf holes carved into the hill, a fairly dramatic place to put them.

Jack Nicklaus designed the neighboring course, and there is more than a touch of irony that the Golden Bear's latest in a long list of projects opened a mere 12 days before Woods christened El Cardonal at Diamante to a good bit of fanfare this week.

The two men's names have been linked for more than two decades, from the time Woods noted Nicklaus' golf accomplishments as a youth and decided he wanted to surpass the 73 PGA Tour victories (Woods has) and the 18 major championships (Woods has not).

Woods' major total has stalled at 14, but he didn't come to the Baja California peninsula to chase Nicklaus in plotting layouts. Both golf legends would say it is mere coincidence that they have golf course designs on adjoining properties -- Nicklaus' latest is Quivira Golf Club -- that opened within days of each other.

While Woods undoubtedly believes he will rejoin the major championship chase and spoke positively about those future developments, he has no goal of matching Nicklaus' prolific design accomplishments.

"I'm not going to design that many golf courses like Jack did,'' Woods said this week at the El Cardonal opening. "That's not my intent. I'm only going to do a few at a time. I'm still in the peak of my playing years and I'm still concentrating on winning golf tournaments and winning major championships.

"I just don't have the time, with family, to try and do all that and try and design 15 courses around the world. I want to do a couple here and a couple there and give them my entire input and time.''

Nicklaus, who turns 75 next month, remains extremely active in a design business that has seen his company open some 380 courses around the world, including five that have hosted men's major championships as well as the Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup and Solheim Cup. This year's PGA Championship (Valhalla) and Ryder Cup (Gleneagles) were both played at Nicklaus designs. According to his website, Nicklaus has done 290 of those courses himself.

Woods' total stands at one, with five others in the working or planning stages.

Nicklaus collaborated on his first course at age 29, Harbour Town Golf Links, with Pete Dye, and had built his dream course in Ohio -- Muirfield Village, home of the Memorial Tournament -- by age 34.

Meanwhile, Woods is about to turn 39, his Tiger Woods Design company having started in 2006 with a couple of projects stalled due to various factors, including a struggling global economy.

He didn't figure an international destination to be the first, but Woods could have hardly picked a more desirable location. Tourists flock to Cabo, and Diamante is a high-end development with a Davis Love III course called the Dunes Course that opened five years ago.

Woods began work on El Cardonal in 2012 and Diamante developer and owner Ken Jowdy paid him the ultimate compliment by announcing this week that the golfer has been hired to design a short course as well as a third layout with the working title "The Oasis."

"It's an endorsement when you want to continue working with him and you realize what he has brought to us,'' Jowdy said. "You just have to look to our members and see the excitement he has brought to this. I don't think anyone else can move the needle like he has for us. For whatever reason, Tiger brings it to another level.''

Woods opened the course with a round of golf on Tuesday and had more than 300 people following him as he hit shots and described what he was thinking as he laid out the holes. He later attended an opening dinner celebration in which he and Jowdy did a 30-minute Q&A in which the future development plans -- including a hotel on site -- were announced.

The 79-time PGA Tour winner joins a long list of a tour players who also got into the design business. Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer have been among the most productive, with courses all over the world. Gary Player has also been heavy into course design as have Greg Norman, Ernie Els and numerous others.

Having played golf courses around the globe, in all manner of conditions, and also learning the nuances of the game and how courses best react, makes these pros a natural fit for such a business.

"Golf course design is an accumulation of all the things you have seen when you play golf,'' Nicklaus said. "As you play golf, as you take it [and] put it on a piece of ground to be here way beyond your golf game and your lifetime. It keeps you active in the game. It keeps your mind alert and totally full of thought.''

Nicklaus has been in demand, among other reasons because his name sells. There is a prestige to having a Jack Nicklaus Signature Design, same as any of the other well-known players who have entered the arena.

In truth, their level of participation is likely tied to how much they are being paid. And because of that, some courses get more attention from the top man than others, with large staffs of designers and construction personnel left to do the heavy lifting.

It is standard practice in the business, and it dates all the way back to the legendary designer Donald Ross, who immigrated to the United States from Scotland in 1899 and produced numerous courses across the country, including his beloved Pinehurst No. 2, where the 2014 men's and women's U.S. Opens were played.

Ross, however, had many that he never saw. Some of that had to do with the travel restrictions of the day, certainly. But many courses Ross designed were done so with the help of topographical maps, not his on-site expertise.

Which leads to an obvious question -- how much is Woods going to be involved?

"I get that a lot,'' Jowdy said. "I think it's been great to work with him. I wondered if he was committed to being in the design business and committed to the project. And the first time I met him, it was clear.

"When you have a chance to work with an all-time great in any profession, they get to where they are for a lot of reasons. It's not just talent. You have to put together talent, work ethic, drive, ambition and they have to bring all that to the table.''

In a way, Woods has little choice but to be hands on. His ETW Corporation employs seven people, and Tiger Woods Design has just two full-time employees, including his long-time friend Bryon Bell who is company president. Woods has two designers, Beau Welling and Shane Robichaud, who work for him on a contract basis. Above all, it's in his nature to be in control.

As he said to those who attended an opening party on Tuesday night, "I put my heart and soul and passion into the things that I do. I don't do anything half-assed. The commitment I think that it takes to design a project that all the people enjoy, I need to be here a lot. I need to be here and be up to it. I believe I've done that.

"The most important thing is that people enjoy it and want to come back and play it again. I think that's the ultimate compliment for a golf course designer."

El Cardonal -- which was named for the ranch that previously was on the property -- measures 7,363 yards from the tips and has five sets of tee boxes. Woods clearly accomplished his goal of giving the average player some options -- the fairways are plenty wide and the greens are generous -- and yet from the back tees, especially when it is windy, it will present plenty of headaches.

On his way to Cabo, Woods stopped at his other design under construction, Bluejack National outside of Houston. That course is scheduled to open sometime in 2015 and will double his portfolio while the design business starts to gain some momentum.

Recently he announced plans for a course in Dubai that Donald Trump will manage and there are other projects under way in Ashville, North Carolina, another in Mexico, along with the one just announced this week at Diamante.

"Tiger's name helped us do everything," said Michael Abbott, the president of Beacon Land Development, which is building Bluejack National. "People should not underestimate Tiger. He's taking that great mind and putting it on paper. He stands over a golf shot and we're wondering how he did that. And now he does that with his mind to design a golf course.

"He's seeing a golf ball move, and to have the opportunity to work with that mind and put it to turf ... there is no better mind to work with."

Woods' design career got off to an interesting start. He submitted drawings for a Golf Digest contest -- when he was 9 years old. From that time, he always had an interest, but said he would never get into the business for real until he had played all over the world.

His Tiger Woods Design opened with a flash in 2006 when it was announced he would design a course with luxury homes and amenities in Dubai. Woods did the work on the design and visited several times, but before the course could be fully completed, the developer stopped work on the project with just a few of the holes grassed in.

A 2011 Arabian Business story reported that Woods was paid in excess of $25 million up front for the project, with millions more to come for promotional work and royalties. But the course never opened, and Woods ran into similar economic difficulties with projects in Mexico and North Carolina.

If that was a blow, Woods has not let on. He persevered to this point, and now Diamante gets the distinction of having Woods' first course and using his name to help sell the property that surrounds it. Fractional ownership opportunities start at $50,000 (plus annual fees) for the use of one week per year and graduate into the millions for purchasing lots, condos and homes.

And it is obviously working, because Woods was signed on for The Oasis project before El Cardonal was even completed.

"This business, and this particular property, it's hard to put into pictures what this property is really all about,'' said Jowdy, the developer and owner at Diamante. "It's all about getting eyes on the property. And Tiger gets eyes on the property, and the more people we can get down here to see the property, the better we are all for it. We want to get people to see it. Having people here gets people interested.

"Tiger Woods is Tiger Woods. He does a lot more for Diamante, he does a lot more for us, than we do for him.''

Woods said he has learned from numerous designers and it is apparent he understands the fatal flaw that has plagued many before him, especially tour players: making a course too difficult. Nicklaus has admitted that was a problem he had to overcome early in his design career.

Sometimes an owner wants a hard golf course, and you have to do what the client wants. But Nicklaus at times designed courses that suited his game -- which meant they were too severe for the average player. "I want people to come back and play the course again instead of getting beat up because it was brutally difficult,'' Woods said.

"My favorite golf to play in the world is links golf,'' he said. "I love using the ground. I went over there [to the Open Championship] and played with Seve Ballesteros in practice rounds and learning how to bump and run a 4-iron. To me that's what you can do here. Hybrids, putters, 3-woods, sand wedges [around the greens] -- you can hit whatever you want and it's nice to have options like that.''

As the opening day was nearing the dinner hour, it was announced that four different options would be offered -- in honor of the choices made at the Masters champions' dinner following each of his victories at Augusta National.

One of those, famously, was cheeseburgers and milkshakes (following his first green jacket in 1997) and then he graduated to more traditional fare (porterhouse steak) following his wins in 2001, 2002 and (fajitas) 2005.

When it was suggested that the club print four different menus in Woods' honor for the future, Woods quickly interjected that they would need to worry about a fifth.

Predicting a Masters victory in April? Well, it was a clever spontaneous moment on the night he opened his first golf course. But as it relates to his goals and the great Jack Nicklaus, it is clear how Woods is thinking.