Why a Golf Course?
Build a golf course was his reply. It was an idea he’d been kicking around for some time; one his wife, Lucy, had heard one too many times when he mention it again after his session with the psychiatrist. “Why don’t you stop talking about it, and start doing something about it?” was here alleged reply.
And so he did. Harald Lassen Jr. remembers the first day he Thompson and Nicklaus looked at the property Thompson had purchased from Hugh Daniel, contingent on it producing a “superior” golf course.
“It was a ice cold December day after Christmas when Jack Nicklaus came winging into Dunavant Road to meet Hall and me. We three had the first look at what is now one of the premier golf layouts in America.
“I shall never forget that day. We rode the prospective property in my old Korean War vintage Jeep. Hall had a miserable cold and Jack was anything but enthusiastic on that frigid first visit.”
But the momentum slowly grew as Nicklaus reported to Thompson that first, he could only find a lot of good par-3s on the property; second, that in actuality, there wasn’t room for one course but two on the property; and three, that they were routing the course the wrong way and hence the majority of the holes were playing uphill.
Nicklaus soon got past the first problem after reviewing aerial photography of the acreage. This also led him to his announcement that two courses could be built. Thompson quickly nixed this idea as he only wanted one course; one superior golf course. And thirdly, the routing was reversed so there is but one hole that plays uphill (No. 12), which is barely uphill.
Another factor that eased Nicklaus’ design was Thompson’s insistence that real estate concerns were unimportant compared to the placement of the golf course. Unusual that a developer would make this request more that 30 years ago, scarcely comprehensible that such a scenario would evolve in todays dollar-hungry would.
Make no mistake there are many houses sprinkled around the Shoal Creek zip code of 35242, you just can’t see them from the golf course and this is exactly what Thompson wanted and Nicklaus delivered.
Thompson wanted a “superior” golf course and that’s undoubtedly what he got. So much so that three major championships were played there in a seven-year span.