The only collaboration between golf’s greatest legends, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, King & Bear in St. Augustine, Florida, is set among pristine lakes, beautiful loblolly pines, and stately oak trees. Located at the World Golf Village – a massive residential golf complex that also features the World Golf Hall of Fame – each hole contains design characteristics of both players to create a unique layout in northern Florida.
The King & Bear golf course gets its name from both designers. Palmer earned the nickname “The King” during his playing career, while Nicklaus adopted the “Golden Bear” moniker.
The two World Golf Hall of Fame members, both inducted in the inaugural class in 1974, put the spotlight on their decades-old friendship, rather than their storied rivalry, to create the co-design. King & Bear stands as a representation of their shared love of golf course design. Arnold Palmer Design has created more than 230 golf courses worldwide, and Nicklaus Design has more than 400. These two legends of the game put their heads together and the resulting golf course is beautiful, challenging, and remarkable.
Measuring 7,279 yards from the back tees and 5,119 yards from the forward tees, the course is sure to challenge avid golfers while providing player-friendly conditions for beginners. The layout puts a premium on driving, which should come as no surprise as both Palmer and Nicklaus were known for their power at the height of their playing careers. Golfers will also experience Nicklaus’ inviting fairways and Palmer’s fast greens.
Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer officially opened the golf course on November 15, 2000. Not long after in 2001, the two played each other on the layout in the Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf series. Palmer shot his age in the first match, a 1-under 71, and Nicklaus shot a 75. They were teammates later that same week on the same course for the Legends of Golf on the Senior PGA Tour, now the PGA TOUR Champions.
“We always want to beat each other, and that’s what is great about our relationship,” Palmer said after shooting his age on the course. “I hate him out there and he hates me when we play. But when we walk off that course… it’s great to have a friend like Jack Nicklaus, and I hope he feels the same way about me.”
Of their storied rivalry and friendship, Nicklaus explained, “We spent a lot of time together, but we loved beating each other. That was what, you might say, ‘wound our watches.’ But Arnold was always my friend. He always had my back and I always had his back. He was a good guy. He did so much for so many that I am just happy I was one of them.”
So enamored was he with the course he helped design, Palmer selected King & Bear’s hole No. 15 as one of his “Dream 18” in Sports Illustrated’s Preview to The Ryder Cup 2006. King & Bear also was named to Golf Digest’s list of the Top Public Courses in Florida in 2015. The layout was also selected to Golf Magazine’s 2016–2017 list of the Best Courses You Can Play in Florida.
Since its inception in 2000, King & Bear has hosted the Legends of Golf, a PGA TOUR Champions event; the Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf match between Palmer and Nicklaus; and Qualifying Schools for the PGA TOUR and PGA TOUR Champions.
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