From making a hole-in-one at this year’s Masters Par 3 Contest to captaining the South African Men’s and Women’s Olympic Golf Teams, Gary Player showed no signs of slowing down as he reached the age of 81.
2016 marked another milestone year for the Black Knight as he continued to leave his impact on the golfing world, and leave his global footprint across the golf course design industry.
Gary Player-designed courses closed out the year particularly strongly, hosting professional tournaments around the world for five consecutive weeks starting with the Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open at Saadiyat Beach Golf Club in Abu Dhabi, and continuing through November with Hero Women’s Indian Open at DLF Golf and Country Club in Delhi, India, the Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player at the Gary Player Country Club, and the Gary Player Invitational at the Lost City Golf Course. The streak finished the first weekend of December at the acclaimed Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek Country Club in South Africa.
Two venues hosted European Tour events, two hosted Ladies European Tour events, and the Black Knight held one of his six annual Gary Player Invitational charity events at the Sun City Resort.
Currently, the internationally acclaimed design firm has projects under design or construction on five continents ranging from Gary Player Signature layouts to a collaboration with legends of golf to a 12-hole family style short-courses at Big Cedar Lodge for those still learning the game.
“Gary Player’s global appeal and vast design experience have allowed us to shift our focus to virtually any emerging market around the world,” said Marc Player, CEO of Black Knight International and President of Gary Player Design. “Declines in traditional markets simply don’t have as much impact when your brand is international and you represent a golf icon who is staying incredibly active and relevant.”
Two of the most exciting projects in the United States are vastly different. At the historic Greenbrier Resort, a design collaboration between Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino and the late Arnold Palmer started last year. Earth has started moving on site in the Appalachian Mountains, and meaningful progress has been made over the last several months. About 800 miles west, in the heart of the Ozark Mountains, Gary Player Design’s 12-hole short course is nearing completion. The unique design creates a playable course that brings people and families together. Not to mention your round can be complete in under two hours.
“We are excited that our client is dedicated to developing a world-class golf experience, and we aim to implement design elements that will lead to the promotion and expansion of the game in this emerging market while captivating and enhancing the natural features of the site,” said Senior Designer Jeff Lawrence.
In the Far East, Vietnam has emerged as a golf destination and China reignited golf development around the country. Gary Player Design has been engaged in multiple locations and continues to expand its footprint in Southeast Asia.
Senior Designer Steven McFarlane, who has led much of our work in Asia said, “Vietnam and China are fascinating countries with an incredible variety of golf course sites. Vietnam has considerable government support and we are seeing some positive signs coming out of Beijing that golf will experience sustainable growth in the near future. We have high expectations of working there for years to come and are hopeful to open several courses in China this calendar year as well.”
The Black Knight’s unrelenting desire to get as much out of life as possible is as evident as ever within his golf course design firm. Trips around the world to places like Cuba, Honduras, Vietnam and China shows the Grand Slam Champion will not slow down anytime soon. And not only in golf course design.
“From golf course design to philanthropy, there is a great deal left that I want to accomplish,” said Gary Player. “I plan to stay active by helping those in need for as long as I can. It is my hope that I will be remembered for being more than just a golfer. I really want to impact people’s lives positively.”
Pictures courtesy of the European Tour, Grant Leversha, Tristan Jones and Kevin Murray