It wasn't long ago that Tour players actually drove from
tournament to tournament. Nowadays not only is flying de
rigueur, but the upwardly mobile Tour pro also commands his own
plane. Whether it's David Edwards and his puddle-jumping Cessna
or Jack Nicklaus and Greg Norman and their sleek Gulfstreams,
more and more pros are joining the PGA Tour air force.
The list is long enough to fill the first-class section of a
747: In addition to Nicklaus and Norman, Arnold Palmer, Lee
Trevino, Raymond Floyd, Nick Price, Chi Chi Rodriguez and Jim
Colbert own jet aircraft. Ben Crenshaw, Tom Kite, Davis Love
III, Steve Elkington and Paul Azinger have time-share
arrangements. Payne Stewart leases his plane, while Fuzzy
Zoeller is part owner of a King Air turboprop. Like Edwards,
Bill Glasson lives to get behind the controls of his prop plane,
and several players, including Jeff Maggert and Phil Mickelson,
are working toward getting pilot's licenses.
"For what we do, it's the only way to travel," says Glasson,
whose plane allows him to make one-day appearances between Tour
events. Other advantages are obvious: no lines at the ticket
counter, no lost luggage, no waits for connecting flights, no
cancellations and, maybe best of all, no airline food. Having
your own plane is also a practical matter for some of the game's
"It's the best business tool I've got," says Nicklaus, whose
Gulfstream IV-SP allows him to travel, with only one stop for
fuel, from his home in West Palm Beach, Fla., to Cape Town,
South Africa, to check out a course he is building. His flight
crew prepares meals on board, and he can sleep, take a shower
and hit the ground ready to put in a full day of work. The
G-IV-SP cost $27.5 million, but when you're in Nicklaus's tax
bracket, a jet that costs eight figures makes a wonderful
Planes like Nicklaus's have long been used by business tycoons
and movie stars. Bill Cosby, for example, has two G-IV-SPs at
his disposal. John Travolta pilots his own G-II, and Arnold
Schwarzenegger is notorious for buzzing sets in his G-III.
Nicklaus has been flying in Gulfstreams for eight years and now
represents the company. The G-IV-SP has a range of 4,700 statute
miles, about the distance from New York to Madrid, and has a
cruising altitude of 45,000 feet--10,000 feet higher than
commercial aircraft. The plane, equipped with a satellite
communications system that allows Nicklaus to contact anyone in
the world, is basically an office in the sky.
Some say Nicklaus's rig left Norman with a severe case of jet
envy--the Shark traded in his G-III after the U.S. Open for a
brand-new G-IV-SP that, along with a Bell LongRanger helicopter,
gave him the most airpower on Tour--but he disputes that notion.
"My plane and my helicopter are the furthest things from being
toys that you could ever imagine," Norman says. "People who say
that don't know what they're talking about. It gives me the
opportunity to do more, and that's what life's all about: being
busier and getting better."
Norman and Nicklaus have created separate aviation companies,
and although they both know how to fly, they have hired pilots
to do the actual aviating. Edwards and Glasson are at the other
end of the hangar. They fly their own prop planes, and while
they need more time to get where they're going, they spend a lot
less money than the $1 million-plus Nicklaus and Norman shell
out annually in operational costs. To go 800 miles, Edwards
spends little more than the $320 he pays for a tank of fuel. His
twin-engine, piston-powered Cessna cruises at 230 miles per
hour, or about 300 mph slower than the Gulfstreams. "It's a
little more expensive than flying commercially," Edwards says,
"but for convenience it's totally worth it."
Glasson buzzes around in a high-tech Raytheon Starship, whose
wings and fuselage are made from the same plastics and carbon
fiber used in America's Cup yachts. The Starship's two turboprop
engines are mounted in the rear and push the plane to a cruising
speed of 370 mph. He refuses to take the controls of anything
fancier. "My theory is you should never fly in anything better
than what you have because you'll want it," Glasson says. "It's
a strange disease. You always want to go higher and faster."
Palmer is proof of that. His first flights were in a rented
Cessna 172, which he piloted to exhibitions in 1956. He bought a
prop plane--an Aero Commander 500--for $26,000 in 1961 and
eventually worked his way up to Learjets. In 1976 he and three
other pilots established a world record for aircraft in the
17,600-to-26,400-pound weight class by flying around the world
in 57 hours, 25 minutes and 42 seconds.
Palmer's next step was to Cessna Citations. Later this month he
takes delivery on a $15 million Citation X, billed as the
fastest nonmilitary aircraft in the world. While it doesn't have
the comforts or the range of a Gulfstream, the X can travel at
speeds in excess of 600 mph--90% of the speed of sound. Last
fall Palmer and Russ Meyer, the chairman of Cessna, set a speed
record for the jet's weight class by traveling 3,010 nautical
miles (from Latrobe, Pa., to St. Andrews, Scotland) in five
hours and 58 minutes.
Palmer can hardly wait to go up in his Citation X. "The new
one's like a rocket," he says with a twinkle in his eye. "But
I'd fly the space shuttle in a New York minute if I could."