Jack Nicklaus Museum a thrill of a lifetime

By Jason Stahl, Contributor

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- If you're a fan of Jack Nicklaus, you're going to love the Jack Nicklaus Museum. If you're a fan of the Ohio State Buckeyes, you're probably going to reach a state of euphoria only previously attained through the use of illegal substances.

The museum is located in the heart of The Ohio State University's sports complex. To the right is The Jerome Schottenstein Center where the OSU roundballers play. To the left is the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. Behind it is the Bill Davis Stadium, home of Ohio State baseball.

"If they hit a pop fly, they're in our backyard," says Danielle McIntosh, the museum's marketing director. And she means it.

It's almost enough to make you forget why you came, which was to see a facility dedicated to the greatest golfer of all time. Over 24,000 square feet of space is put to good use, housing trophies, photographs and 2,000 pieces of memorabilia collected from a career spanning four decades and including 20 major championships and 100 worldwide professional victories.

"The goal is to give people the full picture of Jack Nicklaus, not just as a golfer but a family man and businessman and golf course designer," says curator Steve Auch.

The self-guided tour starts with galleries dedicated to different decades of Nicklaus' career, starting with the '50s.

One of the items on display in the '80s gallery is Nicklaus' famous George Low Wizard 600 putter, which he used to win 15 of his record 18 professional majors and 78 of his 100 individual titles. The putter is named after George Low, a former tour player who made a living by wagering on his putting ability. Low approached Nicklaus in 1962 at the Phoenix Open and asked him to try one of his putters.

After the decades galleries, you can lick your chops in the major championship galleries, broken out separately to give them their own importance just like Nicklaus put special focus on them in his career, comments Auch.

The first major gallery is, of course, the Masters gallery. And yes, there is a green jacket on display, but it's not Jack's.

"You're supposed to keep your jacket in your locker at Augusta National Golf Club," says Auch. "This one's on loan."

And visitors expect to see six green jackets representing Nicklaus' six Masters victories, but Auch says they're surprised when they find out no matter how many Masters tournaments you win, you only get one jacket.

A nice feature for the wifey difeys and anyone else with an interest in interior decorating is a replica of the Nicklaus family room from their residence in Palm Beach, FL. The furniture was picked out by Jack's wife, Barbara, as was the wood paneling and cabinets. Baby pictures and other mementos from five children and over 20 grandchildren reinforces Jack's dedication to family. There's even a video on family narrated by Jack Nicklaus II.

"We try to reach people in many different ways, and we know people react to video," says Auch. "That's why we have 20 different video productions throughout the museum, one in each gallery."

Perhaps as important as his playing career has been Nicklaus' career as a golf course designer, so museum visitors can check out a whole room dedicated to this aspect of his career. A little short on imagination? No problem. A giant map lights up each of the 270 courses worldwide that Nicklaus has designed. Armchair designers will no doubt enjoy the rest of the exhibit as it shows the progression of golf course construction project, from staking out a site to putting the flags in.

The endorsement gallery is fun, too, says marketing director Danielle McIntosh. "It's really a hoot to see Jack in polyester suits and double knit pants. Most people know he endorsed Rolex watches and Lincoln Towncars over the years, but Magic Chef microwave ovens?"

The most recent gallery to open is called "Friends of Jack," which features signed photos, cards, letters and personal mementos the Nicklaus family has collected from luminaries in the world of politics, entertainment, sports and art. One item is a signed letter from Ben Hogan asking a teenaged Nicklaus to give his clubs a try "just once."

Also part of the "Friends of Jack" gallery is a three-screen, 18-minute video presentation narrated by Sean Connery. The video simply shows friends and family talking about Jack, and some roast him. Gary Player talks about how slow he played, and another person mentions how Nicklaus loved to eat and that if you weren't careful at the dinner table, he'd butter your hand and try to eat it. But apparently it's as touching as it is funny, as marketing director McIntosh attests to seeing more than a few grown men leaving the gallery with tears in their eyes.

For more information

Jack Nicklaus Museum
2355 Olentangy River Rd.
Columbus, OH 43202
(614) 247-5959

Where to stay

Fairfield Inn & Suites
3031 Olentangy River Rd.
Columbus, OH 43202
(614) 267-1111

University Plaza Hotel
3110 Olentangy River Rd.
Columbus, OH 43202
(614) 267-7461

The Blackwell
2110 Tuttle Park Place
Columbus, OH 43210
(614) 247-4000

Where to eat

Cap City Diner
1299 Olentangy River Rd.
Columbus, OH 43212
(614) 291-3663

Fish Market 1245 Olentangy River Rd.
Columbus, OH 43212
(614) 291-3474

Buckeye Hall of Fame and Café
1421 Olentangy River Rd.
Columbus, Ohio 43212
(614) 291-2233

Jason StahlJason Stahl, Contributor

Jason Stahl currently works for Medquest Communications in Cleveland, Ohio, as Editorial Manager. Prior to joining Medquest, he spent five years with Advanstar Communications as Managing Editor of Landscape Management, a trade magazine covering the professional landscaping business. He graduated from St. Ignatius High School in 1989 and John Carroll University in 1993.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment