Masters of the Moss

As an ode to those who tend to Golf's most unique and challenging venues, this section features

Superintendents and Course Designers who go beyond the standard, and inspire us all with their

talents and creativity.

Ben Crenshaw Interview PDF Print E-mail
Written by BRUNO   


Two Time Masters Champion and Course Designer Ben Crenshaw



To the casual golf fan, Ben Crenshaw will always be known as the two time Masters winner & the

1999 Ryder Cup Captain who led the amazing comeback at Brookline, but to golf design aficionados,

traveling golfers and industry experts, he will be known just as much for the great design work he has

done on landscapes around the globe with partner Bill Coore.


(As a scribe, competitive Mid-Am, and Landscape Designer/Agronomist, this interview might be the

equivalent of a Green Jacket for me).


During the past two decades or so, Crenshaw-Coore have designed and constructed what are considered

to be some the best courses around the world. I have yet to experience Sand Hills, which is their most

celebrated design (located in Nebraska) and is on every raters Top 10 list. It has been my good fortune

to experience half a dozen of their designs: Dormie Club (N.C), Pinehurst No.2 - restoration (N.C),

Sugarloaf Moutain (FL), Bandon Trails & Preserve (South Coast of Oregon), and the new Streamsong Red

(in Fort Meade, FL).


Crenshaw warms up to hit the ceremonial 1st tee shot at the Streamsong Grand Opening on Jan.26th




I had the pleasure of meeting Gentle Ben at the Streamsong Grand Opening a few weeks ago, and spent

sometime with him this week at The Allianz Championship in Boca Raton. We spoke about Streamsong,

Bandon, The Ryder Cup, and what's on the horizon for the rest of 2013:


LinksNation: How's your game? (Ben had just finished his 1st round - shooting 74)


Ben Crenshaw: I do the craziest things, I played o.k in spots today . . . but I just hit 3 or 4 of the worst

shots you ever saw, I hit a couple of wedges fat, stuff like that.


LN: Is the design work keeping you from practicing on your game the way you'd like?


BC: I wish I could blame it on that, but I've played enough golf over the years . . . yeah I do work on

architecture and think about it alot, but that's what I want to do . . . I'll do that the rest of my life.The

golf - I've been very fortunate in the game, but the last couple of years I seem to do some strange stuff

out on the course, but it's still fun.


LN: We stood on the 1st tee watching your partner Bill Coore, and Tom Doak hit their ceremonial tee

shots during the Grand Opening at Streamsong (on Jan.26), what were your impressions from the day?


BC: The whole Golf community really came together well. Tom's enthusiasts from Renaissance design . . .

it's nice to see those people again. We had the best time, we'd work and then we had this trailer where

we'd have lunch and just throw these ideas around, it was fun.


LN: I had heard that during construction you were staying over in the small town of Mulberry?


BC: Yes we stayed at the Best Western out there. A few times I stayed in Tampa, but that's a hike.


LN: When you first arrived and were shown the property at Streamsong, what was your first



BC: Bill (Coore) my partner went first, and he said "Ben this place is OUT here, but it looks very

interesting. Then I came down a couple of weeks later and I thought this could be something. It's very

unique and I can't say enough about Rich Mack's courage to convince their board . . . it's obviously their

property and have mined it forever. Rich is a big Golf enthusiast from Minnesota . . . our hat's are off to


LN: I was at Streamsong last May for a site visit with Tom Sunnarborg, and when we stopped by the tee

on the Biarritz, my jaw dropped.


BC: Bill and I always liked that green site . . .  we thought, what are we gonna do here? I came up with

that idea and Bill said I really think we oughta do it. It seems to fit, certainly it's an exciting hole and we

hope that people have fun with it and I think it works there. There is no question, we tried to climb into

Seth Raynor's mind there, because it seemed like all across the landscape - that all of his replica holes fit

. . . so we thought what the heck, we're gonna try it. It's an ode to him.


Streamsong Red "Biarritz" 16th hole



LN: I know you're a big fan of Raynor's work, there is an amazing "Biarritz" at Mountain Lake, have you

ever been there ?


BC: I HAVE NOT! Can you believe all of the times I've been to Central Florida, I haven't gotten there! I

have been invited there by a member. I believe Mike Keiser (owner of Bandon Dunes and Cabot Links)

just stayed there. All I've ever heard is, that you have to see it.


The par 3 fifth "Biarritz" at Mountain Lake in Lake Wales, Florida.



LN: Some of my favorite designs are the ones that get very little publicity, especially places like Dormie

Club and Bandon Trails, which I think is sooo underrated . . . your thoughts.


BC: Trails has a lot of different looks, the sand and vegetation are beautiful which were alot of fun to

work with. The different looks yielded some really good situations, it has a little different atmosphere

because it is a little more inland (than Pacific, Bandon and Old MacDonald) . . . it has the feeling that

it is sheltered a bit, which is ok .


3rd hole at Bandon trails



LN: Sugarloaf Mountain, another of your brilliant works, (has fallen on hard times and temporarily has

closed), is there a word on that situation ?


BC: A great piece of property, the last we heard was that they were a daily fee operation.I haven't

heard anything lately. What a great piece of property that is.


Short par 3 eleventh at Sugarloaf Mountain (now closed) - which boasts the highest elevation in Florida at 324 feet


LN: Switching gears, Ryder Cup. I know what was said publicly, but when you finally head back to

your room that Saturday night . . .  what was said between you and Julie (Ben's wife)?


BC: Julie is a competitor, all the wives are too. We came away frustrated that day, we saw alot of

good golf that day and alot of good putts that just missed by a whisker. I knew that they were on

edge to burst out if they got a run going. Obviously, the key was how we started on Sunday, without

that it wasn't going to happen. We got some momentum and isn't it ironic that - that is what happened

in Chicago. I wrote a letter to Jose Maria Olazabal and I was so happy for him, he really inspired his

team. It is extremely ironic since he was on the other side of Justin Leonard's putt (in '99), he is such

a wonderful guy.


LN: Can you reflect on Payne Stewart and what it meant for him to be on that team ?


BC: He was the spirit of that team, everybody knew his personality . . . he fit in like a mosaic with the

rest of the team. You had Tom Lehman who was solid, and Hal Sutton was playing the best golf of his life.

Tiger, Phil, Mark O'meara and all of those guys,

but Payne really was the vocal spirit . . . it

meant so much to him to be on that team.

Obviously winning at Pinehurst gave him plenty

of points to get on that team. It was tragic that

we lost him just a month after that great time

that we had together. He had one of the

most beautiful swings you ever saw, graceful,

fundamentally proper and his personality allowed

him to wear those clothes and he wore them

very well. That was him . . . we miss him dearly,

we really do.



LN: Tom Watson is getting another shot at the

Ryder Cup in 2014, any chance if asked that

you might be interested in giving it another shot?


BC: The last one took years off of my life! No,

I probably wouldn't, I could never have a better

memory than in Brookline . . . it can't get any

better than that.


LN: 2013, How much are you going to play, what

Design work is on the horizon?


BC: I may play a dozen tournaments, maybe. Design wise we have a couple of things to chase

after. There is a Dallas project, and we are doing a few things at Maidstone, some bunker work.

They have some gorgeous sandy ground and some outlines and pits that were there, so we

will be bringing them out. Also some things down the road at Shinnecock. It should be a fun year.


- Thanks to Ben Crenshaw





Ken Nice - Bandon Dunes Resort PDF Print E-mail
Written by Bruno   



Ken Nice - Director of Agronomy at Bandon Dunes Resort



In the fourth edition of "Masters of the Moss", LinksNation traveled across the

country to experience Bandon Dunes Resort and it's 5 spectacular golf courses:

Bandon Dunes, Pacific Dunes, Bandon Trails, Old MacDonald and Bandon Preserve

(which opens today, May 1st).The Director of Agronomy at Bandon Resort is Ken

Nice, he's a native Oregonian and the man responsible for the care and well being of

the terrain that former USGA Executive Director David Fay called "the epicenter of

golf on planet earth".Since Bandon is now regarded as such by many knowledgeable

people in the industry, it goes without saying (but I'll say it here), Ken Nice is one of

the most important people in the world of golf today . . . he conducts himself with an

air of casualness and a quiet confidence that immediately command your interest and

respect.After our initial face to face meeting at Bandon Preserve was cut short by a

timely hail storm, Ken and I managed to finally have our Q&A just last week.



LinksNation: There is 85 holes of golf at Bandon, how big is the property at Bandon



Ken Nice: The entire resort property is 3300 acres.


LN: How large is the staff that you manage?


KN: We have roughly about 100 staffers in the agronomy department


LN: What are the biggest challenges for you with the golf courses on a daily basis?


KN: Probably one of the biggest challenges is how we deal with the wind, not only as

it relates to irrigation distribution, but also it can move an amazing amount of sand

overnight.Preparing bunkers day in and day out with the north wind howling, it's

such a harsh environment during the summer months.For us the wind is probably our

biggest challenge during the high season.


LN: The winds are more severe during the summer months?


KN: Yes, it's a constant 20-30 mph everyday, it starts in the morning . . .

sometimes it does die down at night but you cant always count on that.


LN: That must create an ever evolving set of golf courses.


KN: Yeah, in fact the bunkers at all of the golf courses do evolve over time, they

change . . . they are different than at the time of construction.Irrigation distribution

and also fertilizer applications become more of a challenge in terms of -When is your

window?When is it not?That's why I think it's easy for me to identify wind as our

greatest challenge, because it impacts so many of our functions.Every property has

it's challenges, it's always interesting talking to other Superintendents . . . like all

things, there is no one right way to do things, but at the same time there are

certainly fundamentals out there that all of the best guys don't stray very far away



LN: How many rounds are played at Bandon each year?


KN: Between 120-130 thousand rounds


LN: What's a typical day for the grounds staff ?


KN: 5am start, crew out the door by 5:30, basically here at Bandon we try to get

all of our mowing done ahead of the first group, so that our guests don't interact

with mowers.Then the crew takes lunch and reassembles afterwards to odd projects . . .

from there, if it's busy they might be working on divot repair, that's something we do



LN: How much different is maintaining these links courses as opposed to a typical

American layout?


KN: Certainly the mowing frequency is less, in fact everything is less . . . fertility,

irrigation, and mowing.The only thing that is equal to or even possibly more, is our

top dressing schedule.That's something that is a very necessary practice for us.The

thing with fine fescue that you find is, it's not so much what you do, it's what you

don't do.You have to observe a level of restraint.We rarely verti-cut, you minimize

service disturbance with fine fescue as opposed to other grass species.There is very

minimal grooming, no hollow core aerification, always small solid tines, we never pull a

plug (there have been no plugs ever pulled from the greens at any of the courses at

Bandon Dunes).So, basically a combination of low to moderate fertility, a consistent

top dressing program and some venting open for infiltration, I see no reason to pull a

core.Our goal is to build the profile up, accordingly if you have a perfect profile your

building up, why remove it.This helps keep our true firm surface, and also it

minimizes some competing grasses.Any annual Bluegrass that may try to move in,

has a tough time . . .  having no hollow cores open for that, helps our cause.


LN: One of the things I found while there, was how authentic all of the golf courses

actually played as links, to a lesser degree with Trails which obviously isn't on the

coast line.I've played and reviewed a few courses in the top 100 in America that are

links style, but DON'T play like links at all.


Par 3 - second at Bandon Trails




KN: Our thinking is Bandon Trails looks like a parkland course, but plays like a links course.


LN: When I was asked by friends and colleagues about the experience of playing the

courses at Bandon, other than the obvious things like weather, scenery and the dramatic

looks of the holes, I told them "I never hit a lob shot in the 5 rounds I played"! Everything

around the greens was along the ground.

Even after a torrential rain at Bandon Dunes early a.m that Tuesday (on 4/3), where

the greens were under water (and we walked off the course) . . . 4 hours later when

I returned to the 1st tee at 12:30 it played firm and fast.That was something I

didn't expect . . . as an American golfer that is something I'd never experienced.

KN: That is something that has been a pride for us, that the golf courses are

maintained that way, and that's the experience that people are going to get when

they're here, we really embrace that we get to maintain authentic links courses in

every sense of the word.We feel kind of a connection with all of the guys who are

in the U.K and Scotland and what they do, it's the right property, the right climate

the right soils but then most importantly above all is an owner (Mike Keiser) who has a

vision and it filtrates down to everybody.

LN: Where did you go to school?

KN: I went to two schools, first went to a school called Willamette in Salem, Oregon

and actually graduated from there with a minor in Econ and a major in Psychology.

Then I spent about 6 or 7 years as a self employed landscaper.I started to get interested

in golf, and thought this is kind of a good combination.My father who was a retired professor

at Oregon State at the time, told me about Tom Cook's Turfgrass program at the University.

He's been the professor to many Superintendents in the Northwest, so at that point I decided

it would be a good idea to formalize my education in Landscape & Turf, so I went back to school

for another two years and earned my degree in Horticulture and Turfgrass science.

LN: Did being a local and growing up in Oregon help somewhat with knowing the conditions?

KN: I wasn't too far away from Bandon Resort, maybe a 3 hour drive.It's kind of

different, even though Bandon and Corvallis are only 3 hours apart, it might as well

be a 12 hour flight to Scotland . . . you go from the valley and the heavy clay/loam

soils to sand and coastal climate, it's really quite a contrast.It's nice as an Oregonian,

obviously I have alot of pride in Bandon Dunes and to have the opportunity to work

on the property, but also as an Oregonian to have Bandon Dunes here in the state,

it's a double pride thing for me.

LN: What did you learn from having the USGA Pub Links in 2011?

KN: It was actually our 3rd USGA event hosted, we had the '07 Mid Am and the '06

Curtis Cup here as well.It always amazes me by just how good these top amateurs

are.Their level of skill is always impressive to me, at the same time it's fun to put on

those championships with the USGA and see what tweaks we have to make.There

are some logistical things that we learned, but more than anything really is the

team effort it takes to put on a USGA event . . . luckily everybody here embraces

the Team aspect and everybody jumps in and does their part, no matter what it is.

LN: How involved was the USGA with you in the set up of the courses?

KN: They are very involved, from green speed measurements, to watering. You don't

want to lose control of the golf courses, but at the same time you want it to play

firm and fast.We more or less put the cups where they tell us to put it, they are

involved in every aspect of the golf course.


14th at Old Mac




LN: Bandon Trails and Old Mac were the courses used for the Pub Links right? Why

those two and not the two coastal layouts?

KN: They wanted two contrasting courses, and that was probably about as far apart

as you could get, atleast in terms of our property.Plus Old Mac hadn't been part of a

championship, Pacific has had the Curtis Cup, Bandon was part of the Mid Am, so it

was good opportunity to use Trails and Old Mac.

LN: Is there any of the five courses that pose a different or tougher challenge than

the others?

KN: Pacific Dunes has the biggest challenges when it comes to wind, bunker

maintenance, water and so forth.Bandon Trails has tree issues to deal with that

obviously the other courses don't.

LN: Bandon Preserve opens May 1st, were you involved in any of the actual

construction process with Coore/Crenshaw?

KN: Yeah I was involved in the planning management aspect of it, getting the

irrigation contractors and making sure we had the drainage plan.More than anything,

just making sure that they have everything they need to do their job, and then

obviously from the agronomy side of things, I had alot to do with the grassing and

how we were going to go about it.Feed rates and growing protocols that kind of

stuff.I was probably less involved in BP than I was in Old Mac, Pacific, or Trails from

a hands on stand point.


It hailed just after meeting Ken at BP, just one of the elements in play on the south coast of Oregon.





LN: I've heard Superintendents, including someone I respect a great deal, my friend

Matt Shaffer at Merion have told me that the newer style golf shoes with their multi

pronged sharp plastic cleats have been more harmful to their courses greens and

tees than the old metal spikes.Do you have an opinion on this?

KN: When things start to slow down here in the early fall with our fine fescue we are

susceptible to scaring and abrasion, what we call the "fall scuffys" here.Every foot

dragger leaves a scar and a scuff, I would think that the modern golf shoe does not

help our cause . . . but it's not a major issue for us, our greens don't tend to

footprint up as the day goes on.They stay pretty true throughout the day, it isn't

really anything that we're worried about or talk much about during the day.

LN: Last question Ken, but it's not golf related.I wanted to ask you about your dog

Mia . . . I remember when we met, seeing her following you around and you telling

me how she was basically abandoned by someone and was living out there in the

wild at Bandon Trails (Mia is a black/brown Papillion).

The lovely Mia


KN: She was out there atleast a month that we know of, she is a pretty alert little

thing and she must of had a pretty good hiding place there, she had her den

somewhere.She was pretty astute at hiding in that den, then from a food standpoint

she had been seen by enough people trying to catch her, I know I'd ride by and

place a couple biscuits close to where she was hangin out and then I'd come back

from the store and I'd see that the biscuits were gone.When they tried to live trap

her it took awhile because she wouldn't go in the cage initially, and so they would

set out food and they had to move it incrementally closer everyday.

When they finally caught her, I was away on vacation with my wife, we had just

arrived in Hawaii and were at baggage claim when the animal control and shelter

people from Coos County called me and told me "hey we caught that little black dog,

it's a Papillon" I had promised them if they caught her I would adopt her.I did some

research on Papillons and she really fits the description to a T.She's really a bright

little dog, they are the #1 small dog during the agility trials.She is great, she is so

easy to have out on the golf course, she doesn't get in anybody's way.She is definitely

a bright spot for me.

LN :I think if Mia could speak she'd say "ditto".


Thanks again to B.R Koehnemann and Ken Nice.



Matt Shaffer - Merion Golf Club PDF Print E-mail
Written by BRUNO   


The lineage of designers and Supers who have come through 450 Ardmore rd in the past

century is basically a who's who in American golf.Hugh Wilson designed what Jack Nicklaus

once deemed "acre for acre Merion might be the best test of golf in the world".William Flynn

(Shinnecock designer) was on hand to help with the finished product on the East course and

went on to become Merion's first caretaker, before continuing on as one of the most influential

course designers of all time.

Flynn's right hand man (and construction foreman of Merion), was Italian immigrant Joseph

Valentine.Mr.Valentine became the man who took Merion's turf and Agronomy in general to a

whole new level (he is credited with creating the foundation of perhaps the world's finest

Turfgrass program at Penn State University, at the Joseph Valentine Turfgrass Research

Center).After over half a century at Merion and 46 years at the helm, he turned it over to his

son Ritchie in 1962 who held the standards up for another 27 years.


The very first of these features, is a man who has the honor of preserving and presenting one

of most revered parcels of real estate in the history of the game: Merion Golf Club, in Ardmore,



On July 4th, I was lucky enough to spend some time with the man in charge of the carpet

under the wickerbaskets: Matt Shaffer.


Shaffer clearly knows the lineage of his predessors, and he wears it well . . . he is a graduate

of the Penn State Turfgrass program (1974) and has worked at numerous clubs around the

nation, not the least of which is Augusta National Golf Club.In his decade at Merion, Matt and

his staff have prepared the East Course for a U.S Amateur (2005) and a Walker Cup (2009),

but not since 1981 has Merion hosted a professional Championship.In 2013, the best players in

the world will return to Merion for the U.S Open.


Matt Shaffer


LN: Supers and Grounds personnel are known for working large amounts

of hours, what are your hours during a typical week?


MS: Usually I'm here about 72 hours a week, six 12hour days . . . some

of the other guys like Arron McCurdy our Superintendent work over 80



LN: Merion is hosting the Open here in 2013, what sort of course

preparations will you do prior to the event ?


MS: The usual things like extending a few tees and narrowing fairways,

which will change some of the clubs players choose from the tee box on

many holes (on #2 Shaffer showed me where the new rough line would

start . . . good luck hitting that fairway with a driver).We may modify a

green or two, and firm the place up a bit, but the club and its members

are determined to challenge the best players in the world as it has always

been here, at under 7,000 yards.


LN: Why did you come to Merion?


MS: Merion is the perfect fit for me, I've had opportunities to go other

places, but have turned them down . . . because it just didn't feel right.


LN: It's clear that Merion is not your typical American golf course . . .

how is Merion compared to the typical American club ?


MS: They (Merion) have the same mentality as I do, I'm an edgy guy.

We're all about playability, if it looks good that's great, but we are not

going to compromise playing conditions for aesthetics.


LN: Do you think Americans are influenced by TV and infatuated with lush and green?


MS: Yes, I was overseas in Scotland talking to the Superintendent of a links

course, I asked him about fertilizer use, how often he feeds the turf.He could

not remember ever using it, so he calls his father over (who was the Super

for decades previous), his Dad thought long and said "never needed to

fertilize". I was blown away by that answer.Ofcourse that's not the case over

here, Rick and I (at Pine Valley) spend alot to make it look as natural as



LN: How big is the property here?


MS: It's tiny, the entire facility is 121 acres - the East Course itself is 94



LN: Tell me about course designer Hugh Wilson?


MS: He only designed three courses, the two here at Merion and another

down the street called Cobb's Creek.Wilson went over seas to Scotland to

study course design, he brought Flynn in to be his construction manager,

Flynn brought Joe Valentine, they were responsible for some of the

bunkering you see today.


LN: When were some of those changes made ?


MS: Probably in the early twenties, Wilson was very sick when he was

working on the West Course.


MS: (Shaffer flips roles) Tell me, what's the best course in Florida in your opinion?


LN: Without a doubt to me it would have to be Jupiter Hills, it has

everything . . . surprising elevation (for South Florida) just off the ocean,

a magnificent George Fazio design and has an amazingly natural feel.The

clubhouse is worth seeing as well.TPC Sawgrass is the hardest.


LN: The wicker baskets are an iconic symbol of Merion, who makes them?


MS: they are actually made in North Carolina, because of the cost we have

to collect them every night (Miguel Crespo is the caretaker of the wicker



LN: Tell me about the new maintenance facility.


MS: We moved in just about a year ago, my old office was up there at the

clubhouse (about a long par 4 away), but my guys were down here, being

with them constantly has had a positive impact on our operation.With the

new facility, we pretty much can do it all, the old facility had limitations.

(The clock in the breakroom counts down the days and hours till the 2013

U.S Open)

Cristine Poole, Matt Shaffer, & Harry Hill at the new maintenance facility at Merion photo: Ron Tarver/

The new facility also serves as a great learning area and dormitory for

Merion's famous intern training program.Other green features include a

closed system for recycling of water used for cleaning equipment and a

closed mixing and recapture system protecting the fertilizer, as well as a

chemical building that ensures total capture and containment of any spill

and zero discharge into the environment.

Even the roof is green. Literally. The building is constructed partially

underground, so the roof appears as an extension of fescue rough

adjacent to the 18th tee.

In fact "just a stones throw" from behind Matt's office sits the very spot

from where the plaque comemorates Hogan's famous 1 iron shot into

the 72nd hole of the 1950 U.S Open, Hy Peskin's photo has been the

most published in golf history (below).

After meeting Arron McCurdy, the Super of the East Course (Matt Shaffer's

official title is Director of Course Operations), Shaffer took me on a tour of

the famous 18.After showing me the new tee boxes and where future

modifications for the Open will occur, we settled for a chat on the 11th

tee (I hadn't realized the signifigance of the spot until moments later).


MS: This is the 11th hole, a short little par 4, it's not a driver hole.Do

you see the little creek guarding the green down there?


LN: Yeah, it's a gorgeous little hole . . . looks like a hybrid or long iron

off the tee?

11th at Merion photo by Robert Fagan


MS: It's only 349 yds, but do you realize the signifigance of this hole?

(not waiting for an answer, he continues)

This is the hole where Bobby Jones captured the Grand Slam in 1930.


LN: Wow, that's right, amazing ! (instantly I had chills, and as I'm soaking

in the moment, Shaffer forms the perfect segue)


MS: So, do you think Tiger will ever get it back?


LN: (kinda surreal, talking about Tiger on the tee box where Robert Tyre

Jones Jr won the Grand Slam, but I snap out of it and re-engage) Not

sure Matt, I think he will definitely win again, but passing Nicklaus' 18

majors is looking really tough right now.He's young enough, I think he

still has a shot.

We went on and toured the rest of the East Course, and I thanked Matt for

granting us access to his operation.Just like the great men who tended for

it's grounds previously, Matt Shaffer and Merion are the perfect fit.


To see a video of Merion from my friends Jamie & Michael of New

Zealand (pureGolf2010), they were guests there on July 4th, 2010.

(coincidentally a year to the day of this interview with Mr.Shaffer)

click below:!