Episode #33: Architect Craig Schreiner Takes You Inside the Renovation of Pine Lakes Country Club 05/12/2021
Meredith: Welcome to the Gimme Golf Podcast, powered by myrtlebeachgolftrips.com. I'm your host, Meredith Kirk. Today, on episode 33, we have golf course architect Craig Schreiner on the show. Craig is leading the greens in bunker renovation at Pine Lakes Country Club, and we are really excited to talk to him about this project. So, here in at Pine Lakes Country Club at history hall with golf course architect Craig Schreiner in golf writer, Chris King. Gentlemen, thank you for joining the podcast today. So, great to have you on.
Chris: It's a pleasure to be here, as always.
Craig: Yeah, it's a thrill.
Meredith: Okay. Well, Mr. Schreiner.
Craig: Yes, Craig.
Meredith: Craig. Thank you. So, Craig, I saw you walk in the room. And I have to say, you look super cool. I'm looking at your shirt right now. You've got the palm trees, the pineapples, and of course, the Pine Lakes Country Club logo, the cool glasses, and your super, super tan that you've just been telling us. You've been out on the course, working on all these bunker renovations, and the putting greens, and you've probably spent a lot of time in the sun here at Pine Lakes. So, I want to dive into what's going on here at Pine Lakes? We're going through renovations.
Craig: We're regrassing. The greens were rebuilt. I shaped them I think about eight years ago. And part of that little document there shows how we recuperated all the lost space. In time, greens always shrink a little bit. So, they lost almost 40% of their original size. So, part of this document here was to research, show where the original greens outlines were.
So, when we rebuilt the greens to modern standards, we put them back. Because the goal was to restore this course, not change it, and make it something different. But to really put back what was here, the first golf course in Myrtle Beach, designed by Robert White, first president of PGA of America, and a charter member of the American Society of Golf Course Architects, which I'm a member as well.
So, the research starts with documentation. And they were in this great room, where we took a lot of time early on to dig up a lot of the things that had to do with the golf course. And sure enough, we found lots of original drawings, which are essential. What's rolled up there are the original 18 holes, plus Robert White in 1950, designed nine more for a 27-hole complex here because things in Myrtle Beach was starting to open up in the '50s.
It was here at 27. This building is on the National Register of Historic Places. And we also had to deal with that group when we got involved with the golf course. They didn't direct me in any way. They relied on my expertise for the golf course, because they know a lot about buildings, but they didn't know anything about golf courses, which was great when work with preservation societies, they can get a little too detailed.
And they gave us the free rein, but we still wanted to have research in that area. So, we found original drawings, not all of them, but several. Enough that I could capture the components of the greens, Robert White's style, and he had things he called peaks. And they're usually left and right back rear of greens. For definition, just to give the greens a little hours and years, the two chimneys on this great building.
Well, his greens always had little peaks. So, we followed up on that one. We renovate what shaped the golf, reshaped the golf course, and actually added a few more in some different spots. But now, they're regrassing to a different grass. They decided to go with Sunday Bermuda, a little finer, really beautiful turf. And at the same time, they said, Craig, you want to do the bunkers?
And I said absolutely, because when we did the original restoration, we didn't touch the bunkers because we left them alone for the most part. But that didn't play really well with golfers because we kept the original beach sand. They didn't even incorporate new bunkers in here. They just use the naturally indigenous sand, but doesn't drain as well. And it tends to-
Meredith: Is it more dense?
Craig: Yes, and it's finer. And so, it just doesn't percolate water better, and the golfers, and the superintendent, they get tired of playing with that mess. So, Max Morgan called me, and said do you want to do the bunkers? I said absolutely. I've got a big project in two weeks. I had a month to do this, but I made time for this because I was so excited.
Because now, we can build the bunkers to modern standards. And really give a great playing experience for the golfers, and then make it a little more... actually, a lot more economical to take care of. But most importantly as a player, bunkers will be very consistent.
Meredith: Okay. And then, what about the greens? So, if you're expanding the greens, the bunker is going to be more player friendly. When golfers come out here, can they expect to play better, shoot a little bit lower scores? How will that affect them?
Craig: I want to tell you something that I've been at these 34 years now. And when I sampled this particular bunker sand up at Crows Creek, I think Crow's Nest, I think it's up the roadways, it is the most forgiving scene I've ever hit out of. So, you can actually go a little too fat, and the club bounces off of it. It doesn't take way down, and the club continues to speed through.
And even if you're decelerating, you actually can get the ball out. It's actually very playable sand because it seems to keep a little firmer underneath. It's like hitting off fairway wood off of Zoysia grass. It's very resilient, thick.
Meredith: Is it like if your skin is like the powder?
Craig: Yeah. And so, it's very forgiving. But that's the good news. The bad news is the greens are going to get faster.
Meredith: But see, I love that. I love fast greens.
Craig: The good news, but the greens are shaped, when I shape them, we shape them to what we'll call modern slopes, because they can get to 12 and 13 on the strip if they want, and 90% of these greens will be pinnable. But there's still movement in it, but you won't watch it roll off for green. So, they have been tweaked for, you know really modern speeds to be fair to the golfers too.
Meredith: That's good.
Chris: Sorry, Meredith. When you talk about 90% of the greens being pinnable after the work is done, to give people who are listening, and have played the course before an idea, at what percentage of that green would you say was pinnable prior to this work?
Chris: So, it's a considerable-
Craig: And for the Ryder Cup matches at Oak Hill, I was commissioned to restore the greens to original size, old Donald Ross golf course in Oak Hill in Rochester, New York. And this really blew these folks away because when I researched the old drawings as opposed to what they had now, they had lost almost 40% of the green space at Oak Hill, 40%. I love their oak trees.
Oak Hill, but I said yeah, pricing your oak trees as your greens are shrinking because there's no sunlight. Well, they didn't really want to hear that. They wanted to get the green. We've got the greens restored back to size, but in order to keep them there, they had to start taking some trees out and they did. God bless them, they did. Just Oak Marr set the tone, when they came in, and cut them just like your haircut.
And now, you can't find the tree at Oak Marr. But then Oak Hill say well, if Oak Marr is doing that, then it's okay for us to remove some of these trees. And they did. And so, now, same thing happened here. They were really small. If you look at that drawing, a little white in the middle there is what the green was when I got. And then, in the darker green, that's how much they had lost on the 18th green. So, that was almost 40% of the green.
Meredith: That's amazing. How long does this process take, and when can golfers get back out there, and try these new greens?
Craig: I think they're on a fast track. So, I'd say nine to 10 weeks total, and we're already two weeks into it. So, clock is running. And the Founders Group International has done this before. They have good agronomist, good head guys that know what they're doing. So, they did it at Myrtlewood. And so, now they've got that experience under their belt, they're ready to go here.
Alan Jarvis, one of the best superintendents on the strand is here. And he grew in this restoration years ago. And he's worth his weight in gold. He's already taking initiative around the perimeters of the greens, fine tuning them, top dressing a little more. So, when we restore our runoff areas, which white hat a lot of, they're going to be smooth, and pristine, and really quick.
So, he's top dressing them now more heavily than you would if done under normal playing conditions if there were golfers out there. So, he's super grooming this place getting it ready. So, I'm really excited that our team is very coherent and very cohesive. And we're all playing to the same piece of sheet music right now.
Chris: How are the changes you're talking about going to change the golf course for Players? You talked about the runoff areas. I was out there looking a little earlier today at nine particularly in the back. That's going to be a different course or a different hole.
Craig: Yeah. Actually, there's going to be a little less bunkering, a little less sand. Same amount of bunkers, maybe one more, but smaller. A little more old style back, down to a flatter sand, still have bottoms, and nice contour to them. It's not flat sand like always, but there'll be a little bit smaller with more grass faces. On a couple of the deep bunkers out there, because on some of these bunkers are 12 feet deep.
I'm going to have a little more grass face, and a little lip so that maybe if you hit short on number one, or something, a starting hole. I want to speed play up a little bit on the first hole rather than having me in a 12-foot bucket. If they hit a little bit to the right, then may be on the new Zoysia face-
Meredith: Chris, that's great for you.
Craig: ... get up and down. But if you pull a little bit left, and then you'll be in the bunker. So, we're trying to make some decisions to make it a little more playable in that respect. So, a little less sand area, but they're still very strategically located. And then, we're going to probably put two new tees out here because three and 18 are proving a little too strong.
So, we're going to move everybody up a set, new forward set of tees on three, and 18, and then everybody gets to move up, especially if it's really windy. And then, you'll find more people getting the top of the hill at 18, top of the hill over on three. We made a decision when we restored it that we changed it to par 70. We took it, and reduced it to a 70, took two strokes off, but added two beautifully brutal strong par fours.
And I like that, I personally love the 70 because it's easier to break 80, but it gives you the opportunity to take some old weak fives, and turn them into a really serious part fours. So, three and 18 are proved to be that.
Chris: Well, there are several really strong par fours.
Craig: Yeah, yeah.
Chris: Thirteen, 14, among them as well. When you talk about the bunkers, and restoring them a little bit, you talked about building them to modern standards, but also bringing them back to maybe a little bit more of what people would have experienced when the course opened as White designed it. Can you explain the difference there, it's going to be modern, but also a bit of an old school type feel?
Craig: What was here a month ago were bunkers that had been edged for years. Every time you edge a bunker, you cut into the new grass, it keeps getting bigger, and higher, and higher, and higher, and higher, and higher, and closer to the green. And subsequently, when you get a thunderstorm, that washes down. So, you start to create this problem. We're bringing the faces down.
We're going to be putting Zoysia turf on them, which is allowed to get a little longer, a little more gray eyebrow on them, a little more moustache, not finely tuned so balls will hold up in it, and it gives it a better texture. A little more durable, and it doesn't have to be mowed all the time. You let it grow. If you hit a ball into it, you can still find it. It won't bury.
It's not like Bermuda, they get like that, and ball disappears on you in a Bermuda rough or something. So, it'll have an older looking risk to your face. That's one of the goals we were after. The bunkers will have drains for the first time. None of the bunkers out here had drains because this is the... I think we're on the tertiary sand dunes.
St. Andrews were primary sand dunes formed by the ocean, primary sand dunes are the Dunes Club, Ocean Boulevard. Secondary dunes would be just the other side of Business 17 Kings Highway. This is tertiary sand dunes. In other words, these are a little more established, but they're extremely well drained deep sand. So, they didn't even require drains. We're putting drains in these new ones, and drainage chambers.
So, that one the new six inches of sand is put on top of that, if we get a brutal thunderstorm, those bunkers will perfectly, the washers will be minimal, if anything, be ready to play as soon as the rain stops. So, they'll drain as good as you can find anywhere. That's a big upgrade from what they had here. So, the natural sands are beautiful, they're great, but they just don't drain as well because they're finer.
So, we're dealing with a little coarser material. And again, this is a BV Hedrick is the name of this premium bunker sand comes from, just over the border in North Carolina. And it's awesome stuff. And in 37 years doing this business, one of the best things I've ever found for bunker. So, that would be a really good upgrade with regard to these hazards.
The nice thing is like you've ever heard of walk-in basements in houses when you buy them? And you don't have them down here because we live in low country. These are going to have walk-in bunkers so that as you walk into the front, each bunker is going to have a real low profile on the playing side as you look at it. And they'll be easy to walk in and out.
You won't be crawling down in them like a lot of people. People can stumble, golfers are getting older. Last conversation I had with Alice Dye, who was also one of the members of our society before she passed, was that she admitted to our society, the American society at one of our meeting, our last meeting at Jupiter Hills when Pete was still alive, and Alice was still alive obviously.
She looked at Pete and she said, "Christ, what were we thinking when we made all these bunkers so hard?" Because now, they're in their 80s, but anybody, all of our society members are looking at each other go yeah, it's about time, we agree [inaudible 00:14:35]. And she said, "We need to soften these bunkers up. Pete, we can't even walk in and out of our own bunker."
So, when I talk to Alice about a job I'm going to be doing down at, her and Pete's courses in John's Island on Vero Beach. I got her blessing on it because I'm renovating that one too, but I'm not going to change it or anything as far as the Dye's name is concerned, but we're doing a really good job there. But she said, "Make sure those bunkers are walkable that you can get in and out of them."
And we're doing the same thing here. So, older members or older people, they'd be easier to get in and out of. And then, I'm putting noses and capes on the big deep ones. This is different, but it's a little bit of the older style. So, that if you're in the middle of one of those big bunkers, you don't have to rake your way all the way out, and then go all around, and up to the top of the grain, you still can't see.
We're going to have a feature in each one of those big ones that you can actually walk out of. Play up, it comes into the middle, and turns, or twists each one like we saw on nine.
Chris: Yeah, exactly.
Craig: That's just so you can play your shot, rake, and then walk up easily with even bad knees, and get up to the green. So, you're going to see that on the deepest bunkers.
Chris: So, doesn't that encapsulate how golf course design has changed? The designing courses that are easier now, right?
Craig: Yeah. I've always been a proponent of playable golf courses, and also affordable to build. I got an argument with Pete Dye in Columbus. When we had our annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio. Jack was hosting us at Muirfield. It was a great tournament. There're some great golf courses down there. A couple guys went up to Firestone. I had done work on Firestone South, renovated it. And after I renovated all the greens, Tiger Woods won there seven times.
Chris: At least, somebody-
Craig: And all the top five players in the world won there as well. At any rate, because we made them ready for these high speeds today. So, we toned the greens down. Well, at any rate, we were having our meetings, and I said to Pete, I said, "Pete, these courses are too hard." And he's up at the podium, one of our distinguished senior panelists, and I was just saying, "Pete, we're just making them too hard."
And Golf Digest gets into it in best new golf course, best new doesn't mean it has to be the hardest. Everybody thinks that doesn't, that doesn't help our game. So, he said, "If you make them too easy, you'll starve." And everybody laughed. But God love Alice, before she passed, she said we made these too hard. And so, golf today needs to be a lot friendlier.
And I think that this is going to have 26, maybe 27 bunkers, and half the area of most golf courses on the Grand Strand, in terms of the area of sand. And I'll challenge you to anyone of them that nobody is going to be shooting subpar here because we've got lots of movement. There're other things you can do other than sand bunkers.
You can have steep runoff areas, or some stuffed collection areas that make it a little more challenging. So, we want you to find your ball and hit it again. We don't want to put you in a position where you're trying to hit shots out of hazards that not even the best players can hit. It's no fun.
Meredith: Well, I love how passionate you are. You're definitely an artist. I love the adjectives that you use to describe all these changes. You visually have taken me on a journey. I can actually see all these changes. I'm so excited about these renovations. But I'm so curious about your history as a golf course architect. Just briefly tell me a little bit about how you got involved because I'm totally digging your vibe.
Craig: Well, I was very small as a kid. And I tried to carry bags, golf bags at Fairlawn Country Club in Akron, Ohio. And the Burton bags that they were using, the old leather Burton bags from Georgia, even with all the straps all the way up, they would drag when I went down hills, and you don't drag all leather bags, et cetera. But they loved and they said, "We need a locker room attendant, assistant that can shine shoes at the club."
And I said, "I can do that." I was always there every morning. And so, they hooked me up in the club. So, I couldn't carry because I was too small, but I could shine shoes. So, I'm working in the locker room with this wonderful old son of slaves. Jessie Gordon from Buford, South Carolina. Now, this is in Akron, Ohio. And this was the greatest man I ever met in my life.
And he immigrated up from South Carolina to go north. Actually, for safety. It was still not fun to be down in the south if you were back. But he was a great man. He taught me how to shine shoes, but he had the greatest work ethic. Well, at this club, Eddie Elias is a member. Eddie Elias was one of the founding guy, who started sports representation. Sports agents.
McCormick was from that area. And so, Eddie Elias developed a talent agency. And Ken Venturi, [Costas 00:19:41]. Who else? Marlo Thomas, Bobby Rahal, all these people, Chi Chi Rodriguez. All these people were coming in and out of Akron, Ohio. Well, one of the members there was a big landscape contractor, and he said when you get to be 16 and you can drive, Craig, come work with me.
I said great. Next thing I know, I get a job with him. And what are we doing? We're grassing a golf course called the Sharon's Club in in Sharon, Ohio. It's a men's golf club developed by two industrialists from Akron, Ohio. And golf courses designs, golf course, I'm thinking this is wild. Next thing you know, I'm meeting an architect, because he happened to be there that day.
And all of a sudden, I thought, "Wow, what a great profession." So, caddy for briefly, shining shoes. And then, he said, "Well, you need a degree in landscape architecture." So, I went to Oregon State, and got my degree in landscape architecture. Got back, contacted golf course architects, they said we're not hiring, we're not hiring, we're not hiring.
Contacted a guy named Dr. Michael Horton and he was in Columbus, Ohio, golf course architect. He said if you're really interested, and you want to become a golf course architect, you need construction experience, you need agronomic experience. So, I went to Ohio State, turfgrass degree at Ohio State. Played golf there. This was in a, what we call a satellite campus, two-year campus.
I already had a bachelor, so now I needed my associates. So, I get a degree in turfgrass science. I got two scholarships, one from the American society or Golf Course Superintendents Association and Ohio Turf Foundation. When I got out of that, got that all finished, got registered as landscape architect, then I went to work for the premier golf course builder in the world, Wadsworth Golf Construction.
And they gave me by choice of projects. And I chose Valhalla in Louisville, Kentucky. It was just being built, Nicklaus signature golf course. My hero, Buckeye Jack Nicklaus, someone I thought I'd never meet. Next thing you know, I'm building these big stone walls on the greens around Valhalla and watching Nicklaus come out. Once I got the construction experience with the premier builder, and then I went to work for other golf course architects as apprentices.
And I worked with a guy named Dan Seacrest in Kansas City for a couple years. I worked as Horton's design coordinator in Columbus for a couple years. And then, I opened up my own office. Now, here's where it gets interesting. I had an offer from Jack Nicklaus to go to work for him as a senior designer. And that doesn't happen often, as a senior designer, not [inaudible 00:22:25].
And I turned him down. Because while I was interviewing for other people, and I had an interview with Tom Watson, I had interview with other people, and other architects. I thought I need some money. So, I actually applied for a job for a golf course restoration in Cleveland, Ohio called Manakiki, it was a Donald Ross golf course. And I got the job as myself, as Craig Schreiner, not working for someone else.
And then, I just thought why not keep going on my own because ultimately, that's what I wanted to be. And at Pebble Beach, when I was inducted into the society with Nicklaus, I just sent him a letter and said, thanks, but I'm not going to take the offer. And he already told me, he said, keep in touch. And he wanted me to work with him because I had the ideal background.
Someone told me what to do. And I went and did it. And I loved every minute of it. From the maintenance, to the construction, to you name it, playing experience, that whole thing. And so, it's my life. And being in here in this room, and having the opportunity to talk to you, Sports Illustrated was conceived here, maybe in this very room.
Meredith: Right, exactly. We could be in the same spot.
Craig: And you know what I wanted him to do? I wanted him to do the swimsuit thing, in one of these big bunkers for the 50th. And I couldn't convince him to do it.
Meredith: That's actually a great idea.
Craig: Only me can tell him to do it for the 75th. All right, let's get the girl, let's get seven down here. It would be fun.
Meredith: Yeah, I'll send a little memo.
Craig: Maybe we could use you.
Chris: Not me.
Craig: I'm picturing you in a speedo. Let's just see.
Chris: Nobody wants that, Craig.
Craig: So, I know I deviated a lot there. But it started shining shoes at a really great country club that had real serious golf connections. And my brother, Danny, who worked for ESPN for a lot of years in Bowling for a while, but he was a great golfer, and he was the tournament host for the Golf Channel for the first five years. He worked with Mark Lydell on camera, and then he lost his central vision.
Just when the Golf Channel was beginning to explode in their sixth, seventh year, and he lost his central vision with Stargardt's, a hereditary disease, and he couldn't follow the ball on the monitor. It's terrible story. Greatest guy ever want to meet. First year, he's a member of Firestone Country Club, he wins the men's championship. That's what kind of a golfer he was. So, this course, though, has got great lineage.
Meredith: This is so exciting. And I know that we have taken up your time here because you were out actually working. What were you doing today?
Craig: Today, I was working on building the feature with some sandbags on the cape feature on number five. Now, the reason that that's key is because the back nine is still original golf holes. You'll see the original holes on this particular plant, I brought it just so you could take a look at it. But those are still original holes. So, 10 through 18 are all pretty much what was there.
And so, what we're using it to, as a prototype, for four and five or newer holes. Actually, the whole backside or front side is basically newer holes. So, this golf course has gone through several transformations, but I'm trying to make that nine look a lot like this one, and play a lot like it. And I think it does. But now with the bunkers, we're going to have a cool cohesiveness all the way through it now.
As far as the real architectural elements, the bunkers with our little peaks, and such that he had on his plan. So, my goal now with this very first feature is to show Steve, okay, this is our prototype, we're going to emulate this on probably half the bunkers on the golf course so that there's continuity from the front nine to the back nine. And when someone comes here to experience it, it's my hope they're not going to know which were original and which weren't.
And the bunkers are where you really make that signature. The greens I know are going to have... they'll be beautiful because they have been shaped, and it slopes that they can speed these greens up as much as they want do it. But the bunkers are really been the missing link here. And that's why I was so up in the air when they said, "You want to do the bunkers?" I said, "Are you kidding?"
Meredith: Yes, you get to do both.
Craig: I literally pulled my equipment from Debidue where I just did a practice area, and stopped it right here. I started working that day here. I worked two days before I even had a contract. That's how excited I was to get on this golf course. Have you ever crossed from the third green? I love this place so much that we relocated here.
Chris: Do you or do you feel like that the bunker work will complete the process that you started in '08, '09? Is that fair?
Craig: Absolutely, yeah.
Chris: You would talk about this being a course that you would restore, as opposed to renovation, as an architect, when you're making recommendations for people about work, how do you decide the difference between this is a restoration project and we need to renovate the project? Does that make sense?
Craig: Yes, yeah. Because if you take a look at his drawings for his greens, and the greens are the heart of every hole. They're like my wife's eyes. It starts there.
Meredith: Oh, you're such a romantic, I love Craig's-
Chris: To Meredith, [crosstalk 00:27:54].
Craig: It just gets better from there out, if you know what I mean. But at any rate, the greens are the soul. They're the heart of every golf hole. And his typically had two-foot a fall from the front to the back, it's even spelled out on a couple of his drawings. So, most of his greens do this. Now, in the '50s, and '60s and '70s with the newer architects and Ross, we started seeing greens do a little more like this, and water going off to the side, water over here, maybe a little run off in the back, a little on.
But his are all like this, and I've kept that to a degree, but with the newer ones, I have water going off a little on the side, but for the most part, these greens look at you. That's one of the elements that I kept as far as the original architecture, because we didn't really change much of that. We just softened the slope so that higher step meter readings will be able to pin 90% of the green space.
What's use of having a green if you can't use it at a tournament speed. So, that will be the case. But now, the bunkers were the missing link. And so, this will add the cohesion that we really need. So, the bunkers were actually not over articulated, but we are putting some noses on them too. Just so walking out can be a lot easier, and raking the bunkers will be a little more accommodating to the golfer.
So, they don't have to rake their way all the way up, and then go all the way around, speed of play issues like that, that that's what we're trying to do. But if we do this right, there's enough continuity from beginning to end that the experience will be real congruence. And then, we may introduce a little bit of a wispy, I call it a mole. Sometimes you got one on your nose, but on the right spot.
You know what I mean? It really add, like some of the people from India where they always have that little beauty, I forget what they call that little dot that they put on their face and East Indian women are, and it's fabulous. But anyway, we're going to maybe go with one little wispy grass on one or two of those little knuckles in the bunkers now, and do a couple on the front, couple on the back.
It's the newly bought that's out there, give each little feature a little beauty mark. That's the word I know, I call them all beauty mark. We're going to add that to the bunkering too, but not so much that you hit a ball on it, and lose it. We want to keep the playing experience friendly and that. So, just one small one that they can keep, it'll go to about that height, but just a little something to add a little something different to it. That's what we're going to plan to do here.
Meredith: Well, the changes are so exciting because we saw the difference at Myrtlewood when dan Schlegel came, and worked on that course. So many people that I talked to, because I'm at Myrtlewood all the time. I teach out there a lot. They love the course. They love the changes. It was such a positive thing for Myrtlewood having those renovations.
And I'm really excited now for all the people, the golfers coming here to Myrtle Beach to play golf because now, they need to replay Pine Lakes after this. It's going to be a different course, and the way you've described it. You guys, don't you feel it? The energy is so good. I am so excited to play this course. Nine weeks, there's a countdown now for the golfers coming here.
Craig: It'll be a lot of fun, and it'll be friendlier. When we did Grande Dunes a member's club. I worked with Nick Price there, PGA Hall of Famer. What a great guy. He was adamant about not making this golf course too hard. He loved big greens, big wide landing areas, even though he's a really good, with the driver. But he wanted a friendly golf course as well.
But they're the more modern greens are a little bit bigger, and there's runoff areas. But the greens are big enough that even if there's a runoff off the back of number two, or something, if there's a big enough green that you can work the shot into it. Opening day, he shoots 66 from the tips. And he missed three pots less than four feet. It should have been a 63. So, it's testimony to the fact that we want playable golf courses.
Craig: So, that's what I think is going to be more obvious here, especially to the members, the people that know this golf course that have been in all these really deep flower bunkers. They're going to notice right off the bat, it's easier to get in and out. And it's una via, a little Spanish in there. It's one way so that you can hit your way in, rake, and walk up the nose to the vine. You don't have to walk back. You're not missing any. You're going forward the whole time.
Meredith: Muy bien.
Chris: When you talk about stuff like walking in, the reduced raking and stuff that people will have to do, as an architect, can you talk about how much that will speed play, particularly to place like this, over the course of an entire day? You have, say 100 people coming through in the morning. It seems to me that that's something that a lot of people that if you're playing the course, you'll never know the difference, but you'll get to the end of it and go, "Hey, we got to run for hours in 10 minutes on a full day," is that... am I-
Craig: Well, it boils down to time and economics. Golf can't function if it's not economically feasible to keep the golf courses running. And a quick round of golf is a great round of golf, to me. I've got other things I'd like to do. I love golf, but there's other things I like to do, and I'm not interested in five-and-a-half-hour rounds at all. I'm interested in three hours 20 on a long round.
And so, speed of play, the place where it gets penalized and mosses in large bunkers. I was brought in up at Long Bay to diminish the size of those big hazards, but still not lose the visual texture of that, because that's part of the signature. Same thing down to Debidue, big waste features, et cetera, so on, and we're doing the same thing. But all I'm trying to do now is shrink them a little bit.
Keep them visual in the key areas just so that there's less chance to get in them, easier to rake through, and to get in and out of them. And I've just never been an advocate of penalizing bad shots. I'd rather you find it, hit it again. But some of the sand on some of these golf courses is so you're penalizing bad shots, and now you're getting frustrated customers, people that don't want to come back.
We already have short attention spans, the kids have even less. So, we need to make it a little more forgiving. And I think that was great to hear Alice Dye say we got to be smart about where we put these bunkers. So, you don't need a lot of bunkers to make a really good golf course. You just need strategically-placed sand.
Chris: Speaking of Alice, if we could revisit something that you did discuss earlier, what's it like to argue with Pete Dye?
Craig: It's fun. Not many people do it, but I wasn't afraid to. And because I understood gravity. You know what I learned at the Baltimore Country Club at Five Farms in Maryland when I did my turfgrass internship, my required internship for my degree at Ohio State, was that the biggest waste of time in the world, and one of the greatest punishments is to send your labor out to restore sand faces on bunkers that washed out during a thunderstorm in 85-degree heat with 80% humidity.
Because you will take the work spirit out of any laborer fast, especially a guy who's aspiring golf course architect. I learned that gravity is the one force that none of us in this room can resist. My eyes are getting smaller and smaller. I got to work harder and harder to keep gravity from going over my belt.
Meredith: We should lay flat all the time.
Craig: Yeah. The ball doesn't go as far, all that. It's all gravity. Well, guess what? Gravity has an impact on a golf course every single day. And so, reworking the sand faces is just actually playing into mother nature's hands. So, adequately placed bunkers are more important than a lot of bunkers. And a golf hole, par four, it needs two bunkers to be strategic.
If the green is designed in a way, and bunkered here, it should be leveraged back to where the fairway hazard is. Wherever that fairway hazard is, that's your beacon, you actually want to hit the ball. If it's designed under strategic architecture, you want to hit as close to that severe hazard as possible to get the best angle into the green.
So, if there's a right-side bunker and a fairway, that should mean that the left side of the green is protected, forcing you to be over here more, skirting the hazard to get the reward, the easier second shot in. So, it's all about [inaudible 00:36:30]. That's why everything starts at the green and goes backwards. Okay. Par threes are the one variance to that norm because if you've got an elevated tee in it, you can surround the par three with sand if it's short enough.
The seventh at Pebble Beach, something like that, you got the ocean behind, wind, and then bunkers in the front 105, 107 yards shortest hole on tour, why would I mention that hole? Because it was my first hole in one. That's a little self-serving. But the point of it is, is that when you have what, 30, ultimately, you need 30 to 36 bunkers on a golf course to make... if they're strategically designed, that's all you really need.
Meredith: Well, I love what you said, it's about the greens to the tee, not the tee to the greens. And I think for our listeners, that's just huge, that statement because oftentimes, if you're going to a new course, you haven't played it, and you're looking at the course layout, what do we do? We start at the tee and say, "Okay, if I hit driver here, place it here." But you're saying it's really opposite. Do you think he could play better golf going backwards like that?
Craig: You have to. It's what Hogan taught us. Where's the pin today? And if the caddy says it's 105, 106, he'd look at the caddy and say, "Which is it, 105 or 106?" It's all about where is the fight? Because again, if golf courses are properly, you're playing with gravity. Law of physics, the ball, you hit it through the air, but you play it on the ground. You want to be a great golfer, learn how to putt. Don't even think about a driver, putt.
Meredith: Forty-five percent.
Craig: Putt. And what's putting gravity? You've got to see where it's going. I always tell a lot of people, you want to know the secret? I would sit and watch Firestone on the south with my friends. And I could tell them every single pin placement sitting in a chair exactly where that ball was going to break. Because I designed them, and I finished graded every single one of them myself.
I finished grade all my greens. But I know where the water is going off. As a designer, I know. So, whatever quadrant that pin is in, I can tell you just from the memory as to where the water is, well, that's gravity, wherever the water is going off. Well, that's where the ball goes.
Meredith: Is that how you read greens that maybe you haven't designed when you're playing?
Meredith: Do you envision water just flowing over it?
Craig: When you walk up to a green, you just look for the subtle depressions. First, you get the picture out in the fairway, and you can see the main features. And then, as you walk up, you start to look where's the water going off the edges? And if you've ever got any question in your mind as to boy, is that on the ridge, or where is it? You've already at least got a 50/50 chance if you know that that's where it's headed.
They always say on these mountain courses, where's the river, or where's the... the announcers are always talking about that, the ball tends to go this way. I just say look at the horizon of the green. And that should tell you right there as you walk up, and look around where the water is going off. That's generally where the ball is going to be going.
Meredith: That's great advice.
Craig: And when we do a green, we'll do three greens inside a green. That's what Donald Ross taught us. What Ross brought from St. Andrews was a more agronomical and more Scottish prudent approach to the design. Ross's greens at least 6,000 to 8,000 square feet, they were big. And he always had three greens inside a green where the water could go off front right, front left, sometimes a little false front in the front.
And then, if the hole is big enough, you could run a little something off the back if the green was deep enough, so you could hit a shot in the front and feed it back. You'd never tried to hit it to the back, you'd be recovering all the lawn coming back. So, at any rate, the other great designers also adapted that philosophy, and that's the philosophy that I chose.
So, three greens inside a green is the best way to go. So, all you got to do is look for the perimeter. So, when you go out today, or if you start looking at things, just look where's the water going? If you really want to know, study the golf course right after a thunderstorm. You can just go watch, see for yourself where the water is running, if you really want to know, you know where the subtleties are.
And there's a lot of other architects that don't have that philosophy. They just say this, once you're on the putting surface, some guys think it should be very flat, very mundane, because they're bad putters.
Meredith: Yeah. You know what's going to happen every time I play a course, it's a really flat putting green, I'm going to say, the guy who designed this. He's a good putter.
Craig: That's right. They're the hardest to read, though. They really are. And when you get to great courses like Cypress, and some of those others where there are some great, what I'll call the golden era of golf course architecture, where they're big, beautiful rolling greens, you'll see that there's these three pinning areas inside the pinning areas. McKenzie was nuts about huge bunker are greens with lots of rolls, so was Tillinghast.
He was not afraid to really make it move and make it happen. The players that I like that are in the design business core, Crenshaw, great putter, he's always had several greens, nothing overdone, or overbaked, and he's one of the best putters there ever was. And I'm glad that you know that's the case. I get a little torn, a little mixed emotion sometimes on some courses where the greens are too, it gets a little guessing. But I actually think those are easier because the brakes are too obvious. You know where they're breaking. On mine, I want you to be-
Meredith: Scratching your head.
Craig: If you're on the perimeters, and you know where the water is going off. You're safe, but then it's the hogbacks. It's those breakpoints in the green where it's hard to determine which way is it going. That's the subtlety I love. If you want to score on one of my golf courses, always be below the hole. Because if you're below the hole, based on gravity, the ball is gravitated to that position. From that point, it's usually a straight in pot from where I am.
Meredith: We just got a golf tip from Pine Lakes Country Club.
Craig: That's right, that's right.
Meredith: I love it.
Craig: That's exact, or members club, or anything other-
Meredith: And of your other courses.
Craig: Because the ball will gravitate to a natural resting area. And if you happen to be inside one of those three or four greens inside the green in your book, there's a chance that... well, Woods had the most amazing ability to do that. On 16 when he hits his third shot in, that's the monster. I'm watching Patrick, who's right there with him, has a stroke lead.
Patrick gets too aggressive on his third shot into the green and he goes over. Worst mistake you could have made at the front right pin placement right in front of the water. That green sits right on the water. Woods hits it below the hole in that pin placement. Patrick has got a two-shot lead, he bogeys, Tiger birdies, two-shot swing, we're even going into 17th. He wins his seventh at the, because he put it below the hole.
And Patrick got too... and then he couldn't recover from there. And I was telling my friends, I said, watch this because this is what's going to happen right now. And it happened. It seemed like I was the smartest guy in the room that day for a couple of minutes.
Chris: So, how gratifying is that?
Craig: There's nothing better. Nothing better. I did some work for Allen Terrell down at Dustin's golf foundation. We built a new tee and a target green at 100 yards from his new building. And I did this target green exactly at one buck where his cameras are and everything. I designed to three clubs in depth so that if he got out onto the grass in front of his things, you still had 100 yards to the middle.
So, that target green out there had 100 yards from inside, and then from outside. And it's really gratifying to see someone say that is really a good idea. And I said, yeah, it is a good. I said, "Listen, if Dustin needs any advice at Firestone just let me know." I can really, since Tiger is out of the game now, I said I can really help him out on some of those tricky reeds.
Meredith: Oh, my goodness. I think, Craig, I could talk to you all day. You're just fascinating. What an amazing journey you've been on. I know I cannot wait to play Pine Lakes Country Club. I know you're excited too, Chris and Nate. It's going to be a lot of fun. Thank you so much just for taking the time out. I know you're busy. So, we're so grateful for your time, and looking forward to this. And Chris, thanks for coming on the podcast as well. It's always nice to have you. So, looking forward to this, Craig, thank you so much.
Craig: Well, for you to take the time to do this, I get a little enthusiastic about what I do at times. But this is really a tribute to what you're doing. A lot of people don't take the time to sit down, and find out about really, what's going on. And I appreciate that very, very much. And the more that this is done, especially in this room, in this place. And I love the fact that the Founders Group International has taken the time to reinvest in this place, because it's going to go a long way. And I appreciate it. Let's just hope that you make a birdie or two out there your first time around back.
Meredith: Well, I'm going to keep it below the hole. It's all good, thanks.
Craig: That's right.
Meredith: All right. Everyone, thanks for listening, and tune in to our podcast next week.
LPGA Instructor Meredith Kirk and golf writer Chris King is joined by golf course architect Craig Schreiner who is overseeing the renovations at Pine Lakes Country Club. Exciting changes include restoring the greens to their original size with Sunday Bermudagrass, renovating every bunker on the course with an eye on improving drainage, playability and returning Pine Lakes to a more natural look. Craig also shares what it’s like to publicly debate with Pete Dye, renovate greens designed by Jack Nicklaus, and how to never miss a 3-foot putt on greens he designed
Show Notes/Time Stamp
to :46 Introduction
:47 Overview of the renovations at Pine Lakes Country Club. Restoring not changing the course
2:16 Research into Robert White’s original plans & drawings
3:44 Type of grass being used for the greens and remaking the bunkers to modern standards
4:56 What can golfers expect when they play Pine Lakes after the renovations? Green Speed
6:26 What does it mean that 90% of the greens will be “pinnable”?
6:44 Craig’s work at Oak Hill for the Ryder Cup
7:41 Original drawing of the 18th green and how it shrunk (photo right)
7:54 How long will the renovations take and when can golfers expect to play Pine Lakes?
9:04 How will the changes affect the golf course? How the bunkers will look & two new tees
10:33 Why Pine Lakes Country Club is a par 70
11:06 Rebuilding the bunkers to modern standards but still an original feel?
13:26 The type of bunker sand that will be used, where it is from and “walk-in” bunkers
14:06 Craig’s conversation(s) with Alice & Pete Dye (Hilarious!)
15:42 How designing golf courses has changed. Craig’s belief on designing “playable” golf courses
15:55 Craig’s argument with Pete Dye
17:08 Number of bunkers that will be at Pine Lakes. How it compares to other Grand Strand Courses.
17:41 Craig’s history as a golf course architect, background. (Starting as a shoe shiner!)
21:32 Craig’s work with Wadsworth Golf Construction and his work at Val Halla
21:57 Working for other golf course architects as an apprentice
22:17 Turning down an offer to work for Jack Nicklaus as a senior designer
23:25 Craig’s passion for his work
23:41 Trying to convince SI to shoot the 50th swimsuit issue at Pine Lakes
24:22 Craig’s brother working for ESPN, Golf Channel and winning Club Championship at Firestone
25:13 A hands on approach
25:44 What are the original holes at Pine Lakes Country Club? Establishing a cohesiveness throughout
26:51 Craig’s excitement to be working on this project. The love of Pine Lakes Country Club
27:21 Restore vs. Renovation, how does an architect decide what to suggest?
31:09 Working with Nick Price at Grande Dunes Members Club
32:20 Craig’s thoughts on considering pace of pace of play in his design work, not penalizing bad shots
34:29 What is it like to argue with Pete Dye?
35:17 Learning that gravity is the one force that no one can resist. How it impacts a golf course
35:49 Adequately placed bunkers vs. a lot of bunkers, strategic architecture
38:10 What does putting gravity mean and the secret to making putts.
39:33 The Donald Ross philosophy “Three greens inside a green” & Craig’s favorite designers
42:04 The secret to scoring on a Craig Schreiner designed golf course
42:49 Watching Tiger Woods with his friends and predicting the outcome
43:53 Building a target green at the Dustin Johnson Golf School
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