MONTGOMERY, Texas -- Tiger Woods’s first domestic course design, Bluejack National, will open early next month roughly 50 miles north of Houston. The course already has 75 members and many more curious observers who are eager to further evaluate Woods’s design chops. (Woods’s first design, El Cardonal, opened in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, late last year.)
While overseeing the final stages of Bluejack National in the small town of Montgomery, Woods spoke exclusively to GOLF.com about his latest project, how building courses is different from playing them, and why the demands of his design business will not encroach on his mission to win more majors.
What have you enjoyed as an architect that you didn’t know you would enjoy when you first started?
I’ve always loved the idea of working in golf course design, but what I’ve found is that designing courses is very much a process of discovery. I am an analytical guy, which has always been helpful in my game, but equally so in golf course design. Breaking down the course shot by shot to think through all options in the design has been something I’ve loved. There has been a lot of thought placed on each element here. The result is that we’ve designed a course that emphasizes strategy and creative thinking, while also creating a course that stresses playability, fairness, and enjoyment for all levels and ages of golfers. Most importantly, it is going to be fun. And I think that's what we really need to get back to with the game.
How has your career as a player helped you as an architect?
I have been able to travel all around the world where I have played the greatest courses in all different types of settings. From those experiences, I’ve been able to learn a great deal, which I believe shows in my designs. Integrating varying and diverse qualities into my designs is something I’ve loved and hopefully has helped to create strategic, yet very enjoyable courses.
You have excelled on some of the toughest courses in the world. Does that make it harder for you design a playable, golfer-friendly course like Bluejack?
Playing and designing are two pretty different concepts for me. But I do approach both with a lot of analytical thinking. The key to both is finding creative solutions and opportunities by thinking through all of the options. I suppose the real difference is when I’m playing golf, I am only focusing on my game; when I am designing a golf course, I am doing it for as many people as possible to enjoy. My goal is always to create a course that is fun, yet a challenging golf experience. People will have plenty of options at Bluejack, which will require them to think and be creative while also placing a premium on ball positioning and angles. Creating options to ensure the course remains playable for people of all ages requires a great deal of strategy, analysis, and thought in the design process.
What are the biggest changes at Bluejack you've seen since you started here?
Given its location, I’ve been able to visit very often during construction and see the course’s evolution. To take an overgrown site and create something so majestic has been very rewarding. With every visit, I get more excited about playing and sharing the experience that we have been able to create.
How does it feel to see a course you designed literally rise from the dirt and come to life?
It is extremely rewarding. I am excited to share our work at here, which I am confident will be considered a fantastic addition to Texas golf. I am particularly excited about Bluejack because it’s truly generational. I can see playing here with my kids and my friends.
What in particular makes it family-friendly?
The entire development is focused on creating an atmosphere where the whole family can come together. We’ve taken this to heart in the design to create a course that will be enjoyable for all. The design has integrated a number of techniques to facilitate this – there is no rough, the fairways are generous, and the front of the greens are open and grassed with a greens grade quality grass to promote creative shot making. These qualities help to create a golf course where different levels of golfers can play at the same time for an overall enjoyable, fun experience. We’ve also created "The Playgrounds,” which is a 10-hole short course that is ideal for golfers of all ages and skill levels. The Playgrounds is going to be wonderful for families and entertaining friends, but I also see it as an ideal place to introduce new players to the game in a fun and relaxed setting.
You’ve spent plenty of time in Texas, especially early in your career. What where the biggest challenges of designing a course in Texas?
It is always great being able to play in Texas, and I am very happy that my first U.S. course is in the Lone Star State. I think there is a real “can-do” attitude in Texas, and we have seen that through all phases of design and construction. We’ve faced a number of challenges this year through construction, particularly due to the torrential rains earlier this year, but the team has been fantastic and their resolve has gotten us back on schedule to finish this year.
Now that you have two designs under your belt are you eager to build more courses?
The process of designing El Cardonal (in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico) and Bluejack National has been so rewarding each step of the way, but especially to unveil the finished courses. I certainly want to continue working on great projects, though right now I am also concentrating on winning golf tournaments and majors. I have limited the number of courses that we do at any given time because focusing my time and really being committed to providing my input throughout the design process is important to me. Having said that, I love designing golf courses and look forward to being able to do more.