Jim Lipe is a senior designer with Nicklaus Design. In that role, he was the lead design associate in the creation of Carlton Woods at The Woodlands, in Woodlands, Texas; Spring Creek Ranch Country Club in Collierville, Tennessee; Mayacama Golf Club in Santa Rosa, California; Cordillera Ranch Golf Club in Boerne, Texas; Cabo Del Sol in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico; Sebonack Golf Club on Long Island, New York; and the May River Club at Palmetto Bluffs, Bluffton, South Carolina.
As a senior designer with Nicklaus Design for the past twenty-four years, I have been in numerous strange and hilarious situations. Not many people know this, but both Jack and Barbara are experts in pranks, gags, and playing tricks on unsuspecting friends. I have been the recipient of more than one “gotcha” through the years.
In some cases, I even inadvertently perpetrated a joke on myself, with less than flattering results.
In October 2006, we’d just finished an all-day site visit on a project in Cabo, Mexico. After driving all over the site for several hours in ATVs, our design team gathered back at the property owner’s elegant home on the beach.
Earlier in the day, I was the last to arrive with one of my associates. Upon my entrance, Jack, who was already seated for lunch with about thirteen others, surprised me by leading the group in a verse of “Happy Birthday” to celebrate my sixtieth.
When it came time to leave, we were all migrating toward the front door, shaking hands with the client and contractor to thank them for their hospitality. In the excitement and commotion, after a long day, I turned from shaking hands and stepped right into a decorative reflection pool in the foyer! The pool, precariously near the front door, was four feet deep, so there I stood, in this elegant home, sunken in water up to my chest, holding both of my arms above my head to keep the blueprints from getting soaked.
Everyone got a tremendous laugh out of my clumsiness. Barbara Nicklaus came back in from the parking area when she heard the commotion, and immediately looked at Jack.
“Jim, you didn’t?” she asked. Jack was laughing too hard to tell her he hadn’t pushed me in, but I later learned that when he arrived at the home, he’d speculated that someone might fall in. Knowing me as well as he does, Jack wasn’t surprised that I had accidentally taken the plunge, but he sure was amused by it!
The homeowner eased my ego a bit by explaining that I was the eighth person to fall in since he’d opened the home. My fall convinced him to cover the pool with a nice plexiglass cover – good news for me since we are now creating two new golf courses on his property!
Jack Nicklaus, through the years, has always tried to learn more and be a better designer. He has never been satisfied with designing a course just one way. In fact, he’s always spoken with pride about the fact that players often don’t know that he was the designer when they come off one of his courses the first time.
“That course was so much different than a previous Nicklaus course I’ve played,” is a phrase that is music to Jack’s ears.
Like our client in Cabo, Jack has had many developers hire him to do multiple courses on the same property, mainly because Jack has the ability and vision to approach each design in a different way. He provides different looks and varying playability.
Just as Jack wants his courses to evolve during construction, he also wants to evolve as a designer and never be satisfied. It is his famous drive, the same internal drive that made him the great golfer he became, that makes him continually improve as a designer.
Jack is also renowned for his attention to detail. His powers of recollection have astounded me and others through the years. He rarely forgets anything related to his designs throughout the entire design and construction process.
Jack is also, contrary to some opinions, very cognizant of and sympathetic to spending as little of a client’s money as possible. Jack doesn’t make demands on a client to move extraordinary amounts of earth or build expensive water features just because the client has the means. He works very hard to work with the land given to him and, whenever possible, disturbs as little as possible of that land to produce a memorable golf experience. Jack is as serious about that as he about doing whatever it takes to design a first-class golf facility and meet the client’s objectives. It is this class associated with Nicklaus-designed projects that continues to make him one of the most sought-after designers of his time.
The thing that stands out most about the man, to me, is his generosity. He keeps most of his good works quiet, so even though I could example after example, just know that he is a generous, loving family man that is also very generous to those that have been associated with him in the design business.
I am blessed and fortunate to have had the opportunity to work side by side with Jack Nicklaus for so many years, and I will cherish those times forever.