Masters of the Moss

An ode to those who tend to Golf's most unique and challenging landscapes



Interview: Jack Nicklaus PDF Print E-mail

 

By Jason Bruno

 

Jack Nicklaus is the greatest Champion our game has ever seen, he knew how to take a tough loss with

grace and he knew how to console and respect his challengers after they were defeated by him. When he

walks into a room you feel it, it's a strong presence. Much like Arnie, Jack William Nicklaus is the sports

hero to so many . . . and he carries it well. He knows how important he is to those and doesn't shun that

responsibility.


Nicklaus was on hand as the honorary Captain of the American Team of Mid & Senior Amateurs at the

opening ceremonies for 1st Annual Concession Cup on Tuesday, April 29th 2014. It was an honor to

sit down with the Golden Bear for a brief Q&A about the Concession Cup, Amateur Golf, Course design,

and the Ryder Cup at his course in Scotland, at Gleneagles.




LinksNation: It's been 45 years since the actual Concession putt was given to Tony Jacklin at Royal

Birkdale in the 1969 Ryder Cup, can you look back to it's origins and today . . .


Jack Nicklaus: I didn't think it was a big deal, it was just a short putt. Tony (Jacklin) thought it was a

big deal, and the golf world did too I guess - to me it was just the right thing to do at the time, now

they have a golf course here called the Concession named after that event. Tony's done a great job

here with the theme and Ryder Cup memorabilia, now to have an amateur event with Tony and I as

honorary captains is very special. Hopefully it will be a great event and the players will enjoy the golf

course.


LN: These are some of the best Mid Ams and Senior Amateurs in the world, there should be some

high quality golf, your thoughts . . .


JN: You'll see some good golf, no question about it. People will enjoy seeing them play.


photo by Scott Baker

Vinny Giles, Jack, Tony Jacklin & Garth McGimpsey Tuesday at the Concession Cup press conference




LN: This is quite the stage for many of these players, as you stated in the press conference - Amateur

golf is where it all began for you.


JN: Some of these players are former Walker Cup players and some have not played in an international

competition before, those players will see it as a new experience and I think will enjoy it. The ones who

have, will enjoy a renewing of that experience, two years from now it will be played in Great Britain and

back over here in another two years, being played on a bi-annual basis. It's kinda neat much like the

Walker Cup - that's the thing that launched my career, because of the Walker Cup, I played in the

Masters, I got into the British Amateur, the U.S Open that year. I got into all kinds of things because

of the Walker Cup.

 

 


photo by Jason Bruno

The gorgeous par-5 seventh at Jack Nicklaus' Concession Club



LN: When Tony (Jacklin) pitched you the plan and concept to build this course, was there an idea for

this course to become a championship type venue for an event such as this?


JN: Yes. He wanted to have a championship course, that's what Kevin Davis (The original owner) wanted

when we first started. He wanted to have a strong golf course if we were going to have an international

competition, with the golf course being suitable to handle that. I think the golf course might be a little

too difficult for its membership at times, it will certainly test the best players in the world.


LN: How has your design philosophy changed or evolved over the years?


JN: It changes everyday, it depends on what I'm doing. To tell you what my design philosophy is

anymore, I'm never sure. It all depends, alot of people say - what side of the bed you get out of.


LN: I've noticed in recent years, the green complexes you've designed have become much more

challenging, your thoughts . . .


JN: Now I've gone the other way, I've gone from flat greens, to smaller greens, to larger greens,

to rolling greens to difficult greens to mild greens - I'm in a mild green state right now. That's the

side of the bed I got up on this morning.


LN: Has that been influenced by developers or members ?


JN: Depends on what you're trying to accomplish, depends on who you're designing the golf course

for and what they're trying to accomplish, what they really want and what the property is - that

determines what you have to do.


LN: I've talked some with John Sanford (A mutual friend of Nicklaus and I & an accomplished course

designer himself - who is part of the Nicklaus design team working on Trump's NYC links course)

regarding the Ferry Point project, can you expound on that?


Trump Golf Links Ferry Point



JN: It's been 10 years in the doing or 12 years I suppose, certainly hope that we got it pretty close to

right . . . since it's taken a while doing it. It's for the city of New York, it's right at the Whitestone Bridge

in the Bronx, you're looking at the New York/Manhattan skyline. Since Donald Trump took it over, he's

actually got the thing to the finish line, he's done a very good job of doing that. The golf course is strong.

I think the city of New York has 17 public golf courses, (the process has been going on) thru the last term

of Guiliani and the last 3 of Mayor Bloomberg. They said they had enough courses that the average person

can play, they wanted a golf course where they could host a World Championshipevent. They could hold

a World Championship event on this golf course . . . they could hold a U.S Open, or PGA Championship or

anything else they want to hold there. It's an old dump site that we covered with sand. There aren't any

trees on the interior part of the golf course, there's alot on the outside of the golf course, but the interior

is basically sand. We moved the sand around and created a links style course which seems to fit there

very well, it's on the water . . . the wind will be a great factor there.

 


Jack congratulates Tom Watson at Pebble Beach in 1982



LN: I know you're close friends with Tom Watson, what will he bring to the Ryder Cup team this year

that maybe the past few captains haven't?


JN: I don't really know from a tangible standpoint, but from an intangible standpoint - Tom is a great

winner, Tom's won 5 British Opens, Tom is loved in Scotland . . . the players will all look up to him, and

respect him. So there are many intangibles there, tangibly you're still going to have to play golf. The

players that will play golf well will win, it's on my golf course at Gleneagles - the golf course is a strong

course. If the weather is good, they'll shoot some good scores on it, if the weather is bad they'll

struggle on the golf course - like they would on many Scottish courses in the weather. It will be a

great event and I think Tom will do a great job as captain.


 

Thanks to Scott Tolley & Jack Nicklaus


 

Special thanks to Tom Sprouse and Jane Dally.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 
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.

 

 

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

impressions?

 

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 him.


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.

 

 


 


 

 



 
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,

Pennsylvania.

 

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

hours.

 

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

possible.

 

LN: How big is the property here?

 

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

acres

 

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

baskets).

 

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/Philly.com


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:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mm1L9JlXzTI&feature=player_embedded#!