He’s flown more than 15 million miles, designed hundreds of golf courses, and won 165 tournaments, but Gary Player has no intention of slowing down. By, Melissa Gillespie
Recognized around the globe as the Black Knight, Mr. Fitness, and the International Ambassador of Golf, Gary Player is also a renowned golf course architect with more than 300 design projects across five continents. Recently, his company, Gary Player Golf Course Design, opened five new courses in five different countries, validating his tagline: The World’s Most Traveled Athlete™. The man who refuses to slow down has a strong passion for the environment and a real message to convey about water conservation. —M.G.
Where do you call home? My ranch in South Africa. Taking care of my horses, the 140 species of birds, and my farm is my ultimate happiness. It is also a real business, but it is work with the soul.
What about your Jupiter Island, Florida, home? Our offices are in West Palm Beach, and it was the most peaceful place nearby I could find. But my farm is my great joy.
What recent golf course projects have you completed? We opened five new projects in Abu Dhabi, Morocco, Italy, China, and Mexico.
How do you choose a course project? You don’t choose it; the project chooses you. But the project obviously has to have quality attributes and decent ownership. We don’t accept every job.
You’ve played at courses all over the world. Which is your favorite? Cypress Point [Monterey, Calfornia], but CostaBaja in La Paz, Mexico, is quickly becoming a favorite: I have never seen a golf course anywhere in the world with better views. When you come here, there is great peace—and ocean views from 14 holes.
What made the CostaBaja project challenging? There is so much in contrast in what we were able to create here with the green fairways against the desert conditions and the beautiful blue Sea of Cortez. It is a very strong layout set against such stunning visuals. But it was not easy–a lot of rock, high elevation.
“Eco-friendly” is a popular term, but what does it mean for your design? I am very much an environmentalist. Natural resources can be preserved by using native plants and more organic materials. Golf courses act as a greenbelt, which are important, as long as they are done correctly. If you leave it up to the average businessperson, they will just build and build.
How do you design to conserve resources? Water is becoming a dwindling resource and there are more important needs than the watering of golf courses. We use about one-tenth of the water that [other courses] use. No more fresh water for golf courses.
Why so passionate about water conservation? In general, people don’t worry about their health, the environment, the ocean. But the water situation is really going to be a chronic problem. There is sewage in the ocean. Can we eat a piece of fish that isn’t contaminated?
You’ve already accomplished so much. What’s next? The biggest problem in the world today is obesity. I am trying to get the message across to people to exercise and treat the body like a temple. You have to keep your body moving.