Tiger Woods has been in the news a lot the past few days – and that’s before an eagerly expected announcement about whether he will play in the Masters next week. After making the cut in his most recent comeback at the Genesis Invitational last month, his best performance since a severe car accident, Woods said he intends to play in all four Majors this year if his body holds up. Since the Masters is first, it’s widely expected that he’ll be there.
But all the recent news has been about the other side of his golf business, the design side. Woods has become an increasingly high-profile golf course designer, and the resume of his firm, TGR Design, keeps growing.
Two days ago, Golf Digest published an article stating that Woods will help baseball star Mike Trout design a golf course in New Jersey. Trout was Rookie of the Year in his debut season, has won the American League’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) award three times, and is a 10-time All Star, all of this with the Los Angeles Angels, who in 2019 made him the highest paid player in baseball at the time.
Now the slugger is planning to build a private club, Trout National – The Reserve, in his hometown of Vineland, NJ. Trout told Golf Digest, “I love South Jersey and I love golf, so creating Trout National – The Reserve is a dream come true. And then to add to that we’ll have a golf course designed by Tiger? It’s just incredible to think that this project has grown to where we’re going to be working with someone many consider the greatest and most influential golfer of all-time.”
TGR Design is hot and getting hotter. Just yesterday, the PGA Tour announced that they are moving the World Wide Technology Championship, previously known as the Mayakoba Classic, from its original namesake resort on the Yucatan Peninsula to the west coast and El Cardonal – the first course Tiger Woods ever designed, opened in 2014.
The Mayakoba Classic was the first PGA Tour event in Mexico, and Mayakoba is a beautiful resort with a Greg Norman-designed course and several standout hotels, including Rosewood, Banyan Tree, Fairmont and Hyatt Andaz, and I once played in the Pro-Am of the Mayakoba Classic there. But as the Golf Channel reported, the PGA Tour’s move came after the resort hosted an event by rival LIV Golf. The Tour announced it will move the World Wide Technology Championship to El Cardonal, once of two standout courses anchoring a development called Diamante Cabo San Lucas, which also has an exceptional design by Davis Love III. Many think it is the best golf facility out of many good ones in the Los Cabos region. The tournament will be part of the fall 2023 schedule, dates for which have not been announced yet.
Most importantly, it’s one of handful of public Tiger Woods’ course designs you can actually play.
“People want to play a Tiger course because it’s a Tiger course, just as they have embraced Jack Nicklaus designs in the past few decades,” Michael Patrick Shiels, author of Secrets of the Great Golf Architects and co-author of Good Bounces & Bad Lies, told me. “In the golf industry we tend to focus on top architects, but the reality is that the average golfer doesn’t necessarily know – or care – who Tom Doak or Gil Hanse is, but everyone knows who Tiger Woods is, and if they play golf, they care.”
I’ve written extensively about Woods’ emerging second career as a designer, and while the first course he ever designed in the U.S was private, as is Trout’s project, and another he has underway in Park City, Utah, there is a growing body of his work you can play, including El Cardanol, which is open to the public. Diamante is a beach community with overnight accommodations offered in residential units, from studios to large homes. In addition to one of the two marquee 18-hole layouts, Woods also designed the Oasis, a 12-hole short course, and a natural grass putting course here. He is designing another eighteen as well.
The easiest place you can tee it up and see what Woods is all about as a designer – and maybe the best – is at Big Cedar Resort in the Missouri Ozarks. The passion project of Bass Pro Shops founder Johnnie Morris, this is simply one of the best golf resorts in the country, but because it has so much more than golf, it flies under the radar. An enormous sporting enterprise, Big Cedar occupies 4,600-acres on the shore of 43,000-acre Table Rock Lake, a famed bass fishing spot. It has two full-service marinas, state-of-the-art shooting facility, and tons of outdoor activity, from hiking to horseback riding to a unique cave tour and even its own giant nature reserve just off site.
Big Cedar also has five golf courses, making it one of the nation’s largest golf resorts. Ozark National, by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw is a Golf Magazine Top 100 You Can Pay (54) and ranked Number One in the state. Tom Fazio’s Buffalo Ridge here was ranked Number Two. There are also exceptional par-3 courses by Jack Nicklaus (the first par-3 layout ever used in a PGA Tour sanctioned tournament) and Gary Player (considered by many the best par-3 in the country). But Woods’ nineteen here, Payne’s Valley (named in honor of native Missouri golf champion Payne Stewart) is the newest, and I firmly believe, based on many years rating golf courses and resorts, that it is the best of the bunch. It is just a spectacular course and great fun to play. I say nineteen because he built a fantasy island green extra hole at the end that has to be seen to be believed.
I attended the grand opening and Woods told me that, “Playing in countless pro-ams over the years, I’ve realized that most golfers struggle with the game. That has had an impact on my philosophy as a golf designer and wanting to create more playable courses. Most of my golf courses have tightly mown areas surrounding the greens. This gives the high handicappers lots of options including a putter for their recovery shot after missing a green. I try to create wide landing areas off the tee to help the higher handicapper keep the ball in play, but the preferred angle of approach in these wide landing areas is usually protected by bunkers or other hazards. This challenges the better players to take on these hazards if they want to have the best chance to score.”
All of this is in evidence at Payne’s Valley, and I wrote about the course and Big Cedar here at Forbes in far more detail previously, so read this. Big Cedar has several hotels, cottages and home options, even its own glamping resort, but in late 2021, it opened the Buffalo Ridge Cottages, a new luxury enclave of standalone units overlooking Payne’s Valley, just a fabulous place for golfers to stay (read more here).
The newest public Woods’ option is also the highest profile – California’s famed Pebble Beach Resort. Since 1957 they had a short course called the Peter Hay, and Woods was chosen to replace it with something more similar in quality to the other renowned courses. In 2021, Woods’ nine opened as The Hay, and at just $65 is by far the most cost effective way to sample the resort’s golf. It includes a nearly exact replica of the peninsula Seventh on the Pebble Beach Golf Links next door, arguably the most famous par-3 on earth. Woods also designed the Hay’s 20,000 square foot natural grass putting course.
Woods also designed another short-course, the Playground, on Eleuthera in the Bahamas. It’s in the private Jack’s Bay Club, a luxury real estate community with numerous sporting activities, but the course is open to visitors staying in any island lodging. The Playground is a ten-hole par-3 course right on the coast with wind and stunning ocean views.
Tee it high, let it fly!
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