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December 4, 2014

Ernesto Coppel

Jack Nicklaus

Q.  Mr. Nicklaus, I want to thank you for this short talk and I want to know, how would you describe this golf course?
JACK NICKLAUS:  Well, how would I describe it … I would describe the golf course as one that's taken a long time to get done to start with, but one that's been well worth the wait.  It's a golf course that's very pretty.  It's got some very, very unusual, spectacular golf shots on it.  It's got some difficult shots.  It's got some easy shots.  It's got obviously great terrain.  Most of all it's got some absolutely unbelievable vistas.  The views from the golf course are really beautiful. 

Q.  How much thought process went into the creation of No. 5…
JACK NICKLAUS:  It’s still going into it.

Q.  What was the thinking?  I know you like short 4s.  What was the thinking behind No. 5?
JACK NICKLAUS:  No. 5, we are changing.  It was done differently than I asked in the end, but that's okay.  The little mounds that go down the hill, those are coming out.   I wanted the tee shot, if you hit the ball into the space I had going down the hill, to run all the way to the green, which is fine.   From the back tee it's only about 270 yards down the hill to carry the green, probably 3‑wood for most for good players.  But I think you'd better be fairly accurate.
We found the location of where we thought we could put a green.  Then we found where we thought we could put a tee.  And then we tried to figure out, ‘how are we going to get there in between it?’  How do you take a spectacular situation like that, and take that shelf that the green sits on and how do you utilize it?
Some people will hit driver, some will hit 3‑wood, some will hit an iron, play it out on the top and it will probably creep a little bit left but it will probably stay there.  And then it's a pitch down the hill.  If you want to be a little bit more aggressive, we take about four of those little sand dunes out down there, and the idea was to hit the ball left, a little draw, and let it feed its way down the hill to the green.
I did one in Hawai'i at Kauai Lagoons, years ago, the 16th hole there.  It fed the ball into a narrow little spot down to the green.  That's sort of where my idea came from: “You know, I think that will work here and let's give it a try.”  We haven't quite got it there yet.  But we will have it there probably … As easy as it is to move dirt out here and push it around, in the next week it will be back where we want it.

Q.  Once that gets done to how you like it, will 5-6-7 be one of the better three‑hole combos you've done?
JACK NICKLAUS:  It's pretty interesting.  No. 5 is just a nice little par 4, but No. 7 was supposed to be a relief.  It's not that bad.
No. 6, I found that little dune down there on the hill, I said to one of the guys who was working for me, "Kurt, take a run down there and see if we have enough room."
So Kurt ran down and came back up and said, "We're all right (indicating breathing as if out of breath)."
I said, "Go and see how much room we we’ve actually got here."  We were playing with him, and I'm afraid the guy almost had a heart attack going up and down the hill (laughing).  There were some spectacular landforms. 
The 13th hole, the par3, that was basically there. We filled in the front part of it with some rocks to make it work.  That green, we are going to change that green.  I'm not wild about the green.  It was supposed to be a bowl and they ended up putting a ridge in it and there's not enough cupping space in it.  So we'll get that adjusted; but that's not a big deal.  The greens are not USGA greens.  The greens are just push‑ups out of the sand.  To change them takes half an hour.

Q.  I found it a wonderful course, especially for women, and I think if the resort is attracting couples and women playing, there are only two tee boxes I'm wondering about.  One is No. 10 and one is No. 16.  It seemed that they were pretty level.  Do you have any plans to do anything with those?
JACK NICKLAUS:  Ladies tee boxes?

Q.  No, they are not ladies.  They are forward.
JACK NICKLAUS:  Forward, excuse me, that's right.  I thought you were saying the ladies (laughter).
I honestly don't even know where they are.  They are pretty low?

Q.  They are ground level, sea level.
JACK NICKLAUS:  Other than that‑‑ if you've got two tees, I'd like to know that stuff.
If that is an issue, then we'll come back and look at it.  You know, one of the things that I do today, which is go see this grand opening of the golf course, I use it as my last site visit to the golf course.
And I invariably, when I open up a golf course, I'll make a few changes.  Because you don't really see it totally when it's not totally grassed, or as the grass comes into play.  Of course in this case down here, you also had a hurricane that came through here a couple months ago.  For them to get the golf course even back and playable to me is amazing.  Was it, six weeks ago‑‑ couple months ago then, 2 1/2 months ago?
We had like four feet of sand on the 18th green, and on the 15th green they had about four feet of sand.  So to even get the golf course back is amazing to me.
But no, there are always a few little tweaks, and those are two tweaks that I missed.  But I didn't actually go look at it to be very honest with you.  What we generally do is try to take the tees and fit them in as we go and sometimes the forward tees end up, trying to get them forward, sometimes they end up in a lower spot.  So we'll fix it.  It's been a request and I think a very valid request.  I have no issue with that.

Q.  In addition to this being a big week for this course, it's obviously a significant week for the announcement of the Congressional Medal of Honor and wanted to know how you feel about that, what was your reaction to that announcement this week?
JACK NICKLAUS:  I thought it was very nice.  It was a very‑‑ to be included in the group that I was included in, to start off with my friend Arnold Palmer, and the number of people starting I think probably with George Washington, the people that have received the medal‑‑ I don't know how many people have received it. But through the years, it's been not a great number.
I had the opportunity when Arnold received it, I spoke for Arnold in that presentation.  I'll just tell you the story because it's kind of fun. So, Arnold was there, and the Speaker of the House and the leader of the Senate and several other senators and Congressman and so forth are there, and they all spoke.  They all spoke very nicely about Arnold and I got up and I did a little talk about Arnold, and there wasn't a whole lot of expression on Arnold's face.
When I finished, I went over and gave him a little hug and congratulations and so forth and so on.  As we walked out‑‑ getting in an elevator, I said, "AP, out of curiosity, how much of that did you hear?  (Laughter).
He said, "Zero."  
I said, "Well, Arnold, a lot of people said a lot of nice things.  You need to get the transcript."  So we had a big laugh out of that, got a big kick.  It was a really nice presentation.
I'm really looking forward to what's going to happen, I think in the spring.  I think they are giving us a couple dates in March to find out when we can do this.  I know that John Boehner worked very hard, along with Pat Tiberi, Congressman from Ohio, to make this happen, and also Rob Portman worked very hard on this along with Sherrod Brown, another senator from Ohio.  There are a lot of other fellas and other people that worked very hard to make this happen.
It passed the House last session and never got brought up in the Senate.  We didn't bring it up.  And so that's a privilege.  I know that Harry Reid had somebody else he wanted to give a medal to, and he came to John Boehner, and he  said, ‘John, I need your help getting this through the House,’ somebody coming from overseas he wanted to get this to.   He said, ‘I'll help you get that but I'll help you get this.’  I noticed that Harry voted for it and helped get it through.
Politics are very strange, but what a nice honor to be recognized by Congress for that.

Q.  Just if you would, your affection for México, professionally, the time you spent here, some of the challenges and some of the triumphs if you would?
JACK NICKLAUS:  I didn't play a lot of golf in México.  There wasn't a lot of golf to play competitively.
I think basically the only time I played in México was the old Canada Cup; Arnold (Palmer) and I played it at Club de Golf.  Played some 3- Tour Challenges or something like that, in '78, is that when it was?  And then I played another event, too.  I'm not sure what it was.  I remember I played the first two rounds and on Friday night I went home and watched my boys play a high school football game and came back on Saturday.  They were playing for the state championship, so I had to be home for that.
So I obviously played another tournament, not sure what it was.  But then we started doing golf courses and the first golf course I guess I did in México was probably Palmilla, I would think.
I sort of go back and look at the first time I came to Baja, it was 1963 or 1964, and I remember I told a story a little earlier in an interview.  I was flying in on my Aero Commander, I had a co-pilot with me, and I was flying in.  I was getting ready to start throttling back on the runway in Palmilla and all of a sudden felt a hand on my hand push my hand forward.  The Palmilla runway sits at an angle and I was lining it up like it was a flat runway.  All of a sudden it was below the hillside, which would have been right in the face of the hill.  A little push that says, ‘I think we need a little gas here.’
That wasn't a big deal, but it was– I’ll never forget, it’s like it was yesterday.  And so the runway there is one of the fairways we had at Palmilla.  So when Don Koll decided to do Palmilla, which was some 23 or 24 years later, 22 years later, whatever, 1986, I came down here, the runway was still there.  Cabo had not changed at all.  We used to be able to come down here in the ‘60s, we came down here with a tee shirt, swimming suit, a pair of sandals and 20 bucks and stay for a week.  Now you might not be able to get out of the airport for that, I'm not sure.
My friends call me, they say I'm the guy who ruined Cabo.  I think from one standpoint, what we did was really introduce the game of golf to Cabo.  We had a little nine‑hole golf course down here at the time, and‑‑ some people say yes, some people say no.
But when we came back and Koll wanted to do Palmilla, we did 27 holes and then he said,  ‘I have another project,’ and he wanted to do Cabo del Sol and we did (the Ocean Course) at Cabo del Sol.  Both properties were great properties.  Cabo del Sol (is) probably a little bit more spectacular because it hit the ocean.  Just one hole I think gets down to the sea at Palmilla. But at Palmilla, we used to come down here and stay when we were fishing.
And then I stayed here at, used to be the old Hacienda Cabo San Lucas, and we used to go fishing out here.  We used to swim out under the arches and all that kind of stuff.  I always enjoyed coming here.  Then all of a sudden we started doing golf down here, and it just exploded.  The real estate values and the golf courses and the developments … and I'm sure when we came here in '86, there was nothing here.
When did you start this (Quivira)?  2000?
So, it's been a great experience to be part of the growth of Cabo and be part of what they have done.  It's been fun and hopefully we're not done.

Q.  Is there a fishing trial?
JACK NICKLAUS:  No.  I fished a little bit out here.  We fished in the early years.  I used to come down here to fish and once I started to come down here to work, I haven't fished since. 

Q.  Compared to other places in the country, you've done multiple courses‑‑
JACK NICKLAUS:  Here I think almost all the projects have done pretty well down here.  I think that when Discovery Land Company took over at El Dorado, and we had, I don't know, half a dozen holes on the ocean and they took four of the holes off the ocean.  I said, ‘Don't get it all off to where you end up with everything inland.  You have to keep a little there for what's going to happen.’  I think they kept enough.  For a measly six or seven hundred million dollars worth of real estate, they took my holes off the ocean …  really upset me.  I'm being facetious.  They did exactly the right thing. 
What we do is we suggest a lot of times, ‑‑ that was a joke incidentally.  I hope somebody caught that.  But we'll come along and we'll do a golf course and utilize the ocean.  And we say, okay, now, when you start to sell, we ought to take some of those holes and move them back off the ocean but leave some of them on the ocean so the golf course keeps its reputation and value.  From a tourist standpoint of bringing people and attracting golfers, the mousetrap's got to work, so you have to make sure the people see what you're doing.
So I think they did the right thing at El Dorado.
We have a lot on the ocean here at Quivira.  Actually from our original plan, we have less than we originally planned, which is okay.  But the places we have it, I think it's very strategically placed and I think it actually works very well.  So I don’t think this project really sacrificed any ocean lots for what we did with the golf.

Q.  This new golf course and Tiger's is coming. What do you think about the moment for this golf destination?
JACK NICKLAUS:  What do you want me to tell you?  I don't understand.

Q.  Tiger's‑‑
JACK NICKLAUS:  Who?  (Laughter).  I'm sorry, I don't know who you're talking about.  (Laughter).
Did he actually do the golf course next door?  I don't know, did they do the golf course?  Have they?  Is it done?

Q.  We don't know.
JACK NICKLAUS:  Oh, yeah, you don't know whether it's done or not‑‑
I honestly don't know anything about it.  I know he used to own a golf course next door but I don't know what stage it's in.

Q.  What tweaks did you see that you want to make?
JACK NICKLAUS:  It's the first time I've been able to see the greens at a speed that they are going to be. They were growing in the last time I was here.  I think I was here three months ago, was it, something like that, just before they finished up the grass.  So now I've seen the greens where they are, and I found two or three greens that were probably a little bit more severe than they needed to be in a couple of areas.
So we will adjust those, and these are very easy to adjust since they are not USGA greens.  They are just on the sand.  So to make that adjustment is very easy, very fast, and they’ll get back in play very fast.
So I want to make sure that this golf course is very playable all the way around.  And I know Chris Cochran, my design associate on the project … I give Chris some freedom at times to do some things, and he made a judgment on the par 3, No. 13, that ended up putting…  I just had a big, soft bowl, and he wanted to keep the rocks on the right side of the green for visual appeal.  But even with that he had to put a little ridge into it to drop in, and you can't keep the ball on the green.
So I said, ‘Chris‑‑ I love the rocks‑‑ yeah, but they have got to be able to play the hole.’  That was done since I was here, but we'll change it back.
I said, ‘I'd rather that somebody find their golf ball and play the hole than worry about playing the rocks.  We'll see.  I don't think they are going to go anywhere.  But those are little things that you do when you're finishing up a golf course.  And we had a similar situation on 14th green with the ridge, it's more than we can stop a ball on.
And the 9th green was a little quick around the one side and I think that probably happened with the hurricane and probably got cleaned off and probably got pulled off a little too much.  We'll fix that.  They are little things.
But I want to make sure, any time I leave the golf course, I want to leave it so the golf course is playable and fun and maintainable.

Q.  Thank you very much for your participation and for your growing of golf in México and this nice spot.  I would like to ask you in retrospective or your perspective of the golf in México right now, and could be Mr.Governor or Mr.Owner, could we expect a PGA TOUR event here in the next years? 
JACK NICKLAUS:  You can always play tournament golf on any of the golf courses that are here.  But that's not what is important.
First of all, if you take the back tees on a U.S. average, 1.8 percent of your play is played from the back tees, okay.  But everybody wants a number on their scorecard that says 7,000-plus yards. It's kind of a prestigious number, whatever it might be, as the length of your golf course.  But does it mean anything?  No.  Does it mean anything if you have a tournament here?  Probably no. I don't think this golf course is designed to have a tournament. I think it's designed for a development.
It's designed for people who live here to enjoy it and play golf, the hotel and so forth and so on.  That's what it's for.   Host a tournament?  Yeah, you can have a tournament.  But do you need a tournament?  No.
If the Governor here decides that he'd like to publicize the Baja Senior Tour, I think that if he'd like to have that, and he wants to have everybody  work together to have a tournament and they pick a site, certainly it could be very successful and it would attract some people and so forth.  But I don't think that's the reason for it.  This is a destination resort, not a tournament course like you would have in Los Angeles, or San Francisco, or Phoenix.
And I don't think it's important.  Could you have a tournament on the course?  Sure.  Could you make it so it's competitive?  Sure.  Always put that in the golf course.  But is it important?  No.

Q.  The all‑inclusive that you enjoy here, starting with the driving range, the food and comfort‑‑ is that a Mexican hospitality thing?  I've never seen that in the United States or Canada?
JACK NICKLAUS:  There are some all‑inclusive places in the States and Canada, but I think that's been very popular in México.  I think that's more down here than we see up in the States.  But you know‑‑ why don't you respond to that.  That's a better way to do it.
ERNESTO COPPEL:  The trend is all‑inclusive in everything.  We missed the boat for years with our real estate program because we didn't see the writing on the wall.
The present and future of traveling is mostly all‑inclusive programs.  So golf is not an exception.  So that's why we're doing this.  And we are getting better numbers in our bottom line, but we are getting hated by all the restaurants around us. But so sorry, it's our turn.  So that's why.  It's as simple as that.  Basically, we are the ones who promote the destination, we are the ones who invest money and funds in order to make the destination popular, to make the people decide where to go on their vacation.
That is a very important part of the program because it saves money to the user and it gives them a much better level of quality in food and beverage.  So that is the present trend on that matter.  Because we are desperate to make a buck, we will go and take anything (laughter).
JACK NICKLAUS:  I think it's a feel‑good thing.  I mean, what does it really cost to have snacks, water, put it all‑inclusive in your price and have your meals and so forth and so on?  Most of the clubs that I'm involved with, a lot of times you go to a club or a place, and you're paying for a bottle of water, you're paying for a handful of peanuts, you're paying this and that and so forth.
We do it at most of our clubs, it's in a different way but it's the same thing.  If you go to the Bear's Club, we have a no‑tipping policy.  We have all our drinks, everything, all breakfasts are free.  They are all-inclusive.  We figure we charge the guy enough to join the place, we can give him something and have him feel good.  I think the all‑inclusive is the thing that people really like about their vacation, not worry about having to reach in their pocket and grab $5 every time you turn around and enjoy it.  I think it's very nice.

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