The fascinating advice Jack Nicklaus gave to five elite college players

jack nicklaus

Jack Nicklaus' advice? Become self-reliant.

Getty Images

The final set of collegiate awards were handed out this week with five Jack Nicklaus Awards being announced Tuesday. One player from each level of college golf earned the honor, but they were also treated to a virtual banquet in which Nicklaus imparted plenty of wisdom that he gained during his career.

Highest on the list was this simple mentality from Jack: “To become a golfer, you’ve got to be responsible for your own game.” It was wisdom imparted to Nicklaus from Bobby Jones, which Jones told him back in 1959 when Nicklaus competed in the Masters for the first time as an amateur.

“You’ve got to understand who you are, what you can do, what you can’t do, and so forth,” Nicklaus said. According to Nicklaus, Jones had seven years where he was too dependent on working with his teacher, at age 14 through 21. “He said, ‘Once I stopped running to [his teacher] Stewart Maiden, and learned how to correct myself on the golf course, and learned how to manage myself, that’s when I became a golfer.’” 

We’ll gladly take his word for it. 

Sahith Theegala
Nicklaus Award winner Sahith Theegala taking ‘Mamba mentality’ to the pro ranks
By: Sean Zak

Nicklaus challenged the five winners of his namesake award by saying he hoped they were not of the generation who run to their teacher every time an issue comes up in their golf swing. 

“I didn’t care if it was the 2nd hole or the 70th hole of a golf tournament,” Nicklaus said. “If I had something in my swing I did not like, I corrected it right then. 

“I hope you don’t fall into the category of running back to your teacher ever five minutes,” he continued. “A lot of guys do. A lot of guys have their teacher on the practice tee every day. I just think that’s wrong because he can’t go out on the golf course with you. You’ve got to take your own game to the golf course.”

Nicklaus pointed out how his coach, Jack Grout, was never out tinkering with Nicklaus’ swing on the practice range. Nicklaus’ range sessions would largely be spent alone, and he’d pull in Growt if he ever had a question. “Basically, I liked to be able to correct myself, manage myself, control myself — that package is what takes you to the next level and you can learn how to win.”

Nicklaus Companies and are affiliates of 8AM Golf.

Sean Zak Editor

Zak is a writer at GOLF Magazine and just finished a book about the summer he spent in St. Andrews.