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Jack Nicklaus tees off at his latest design

From the towering pines and mountain views, to a trout stream on the 10th hole, Jack Nicklaus said Monday the natural beauty of the Sierra Nevada made it easy to design his newest golf course.

"The good Lord did most of it. We just put a golf course inside it," Nicklaus said as he kicked off the grand opening of Old Greenwood resort.

"The piece of property is loaded with great trees. It's got some great views. We moved very little dirt on this project," he said. "You don't try to fit a round peg into a square hole."

The 7,542-yard layout just south of Interstate 80 near Truckee resembles the course at Reno's Montreux Golf and Country Club -- home of the PGA Tour's Reno-Tahoe Open -- which Nicklaus also designed.

"This has been about four years in the making," said Blake Riva, senior partner for East-West Partners, developer of the 600-acre resort community which is to include 99 luxury, custom homesites.

"We wanted to have the best golf course in the Lake Tahoe area so we thought to do that we should partner with the best in the business," he said.

"Jack's done a great job. Having a world-class golf resort here is good for the whole region."

Nicklaus used a wooden driver -- a replica of the one he played with in the 1970s -- to hit a ceremonial first drive at the 462-yard, par-4 opening hole. Earlier in the day, he hit a few putts on the 18th green, draining his second attempt from 50 feet.

"You didn't think I was going to miss two in a row, did you?" he joked with a crowd of more than 100 people. He also participated in a "cup cutting" ceremony on the green as a substitute for a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

"It's the first one I've ever been involved with," Nicklaus said.

Fellow golf star Peter Jacobsen, who also designs golf courses, joined Nicklaus for an interview before the round of golf.

"It's a challenge to design a course for a Tiger Woods from the back tees, all the way up to my mother, who is a fine player but does not compress the ball like she used to," Jacobsen said.

Nicklaus said he designs his courses with the average player in mind, then extends the back tees to accommodate longer hitters. A certain number of tee times will be made available to the public each day at the semi-private resort.

"I want to make sure the golf course is very playable and very user friendly. The back tees are for your brochures and your scorecard and your advertising," he said.

Based in Beaver Creek, Colo., East West Partners plans four resort communities in the north Tahoe area under the banner of Table Mountain Resorts. The Old Greenwood course is the only Jack Nicklaus Signature course in California that is part of the Audubon Signature Cooperative Sanctuary Program offering planning services to help new developments protect natural resources, the developers said.

"Of all the Nicklaus Design golf courses that I've worked on and played on, this one undoubtedly has some of the most beautiful natural surroundings," said Chris Rule, a Nicklaus Design associate affiliated with the Old Greenwood course.

About 300 people followed Nicklaus and his son Jack Jr. as they played all 18 holes on the par-72 course Monday afternoon. Nicklaus said the 600-yard, par-5 10th is one of his favorite because of the fishing creek that runs the length of the left side of the hole.

"You fish on the left side and play golf on the right side," he said.

Nicklaus and his son spent some time fishing at Little Prosser Creek near Truckee on Sunday. He said he nearly snagged a 5-pound brown trout, but it got away. He said he'll probably spend more time fishing than golfing in the future, while not attending Little League games and football games of his 17 grandchildren.

"Probably next year I'll go back to Augusta (The Masters) and probably go back to St. Andrews (British Open) to say goodbye. That will be enough for me," he said. He said he doesn't practice enough to shoot much better than an 85 in tournament conditions.

"I don't shoot any better than that now, and frankly I really don't care," Nicklaus said.

"I worked very hard at this game for 50 years or more. I think it's just time to do something else. I would rather, frankly, go down to Little Prosser Creek."

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