Let me start out by telling you that I love Merion Golf Club. I grew up a mile or so away from the course and worked there in 1980 and 1981 as Richie Valentine's Assistant. That was a special time for me as I had just finished school and we had the Open coming. Richie was the best. His love of Merion, where he had followed his father as Superintendent (his father, Joe Valentine had taken over from William Flynn), was pure.
Richie's philosophy about golf course maintenance was an eye opener for me. All he really cared about was how the game was played and maintenance was planned to accommodate and enhance the golf experience. Well, sadly, Richie is gone but his spirit lives on with Matt Shaffer, the present Superintendent at Merion. Matt is to say the least an odd and sometimes awe inspiring mix of the old and the new. Matt manages the golf course in a spartan, minimalist fashion in some regards and at the highest levels in other regards. It really is just so interesting to experience his concepts on the golf course and undoubtedly these ideas would be good for the game of golf if adopted by more courses. Matt's ideas and the club's resolve will produce an Open that may be more like an Open of the olden days but with many of the modern techniques. A Richie Valentine quote that Matt fully understands- "Everything Old wasn't Bad and Everything New isn't Good."
Check out this interview with him and you will see what I'm talking about:
Matt Shaffer/Merlon/Golfdom Video
Let's just pray that it doesn't rain on the 2013 US OPEN at Merion.
Good Luck Matt and Merion!