Skip to main content

The Island Golfer: A ‘Master of Disaster’ performs magic at CCC

May 9, 2024
By Guest Columnist


It is a well-accepted premise among golf course superintendents that continued employment means preserving grounds and greens from the vagaries of weather, infestation, course mismanagement and inflated member expectations.

None of these seem to have fazed Erin Stevens, Director of Agronomy at nearby Coral Creek Club. He knows the pressure that comes with member expectations to present the perfect product. And he has the pedigree to deliver, having earned peer recognition from domestic and international course superintendent associations. None more prestigious than from the British and International Golf Green-keeper Association (BIGGA).

Stevens, certificate holder #70, is one of only eighty-nine members of his profession, living or deceased, to ever hold the Master Greenkeeper designation from BIGGA since the honor scheme commenced in 1990. To earn this distinction, he subjected himself to a two-day written examination. Just the man, his pencil and portfolio, all scrutinized extensively by his peers.

According to BIGGA, the Master Greenkeeper Certificate is a professional designation awarded to experienced golf course professionals. Certificate holders have achieved the highest level of professional expertise with a commitment to maintaining the lofty standards of golf course management.

Stevens’ mentor was Paul Latshaw, whom he worked under at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland. It was from Latshaw that Stevens learned about elevated performance standards and expectations, as Congressional hosted numerous professional golf events including majors.

It was from his experience at Congressional that Stevens learned a valuable lesson, “One of the biggest sayings in our industry is that a superintendent is his own worst critic,” Stevens claimed. “So, whereas everybody’s praising you, sometimes you’re like, I can still do better.“

That’s the attitude of a true bar-raising professional.

Stevens has seen it all, having worked around the world learning his craft from people and organizations with exceedingly high standards. That included golfing legends Greg Norman and Jack Nicklaus, and destinations as far flung as Scotland, Spain, Mexico, the Bahamas, Anguilla and Laguna Beach. He has managed course renovations for the Four Seasons, Fairmont and Montage hotel and resort chains. Prior to joining Coral Creek, Stevens spent seven years at Emerald Dunes Club in West Palm Beach where he toiled under demanding member expectations.

Stevens encountered a challenging situation at Coral Creek in 2019. The club’s greens were in horrible shape from years of turf mismanagement, the members joking there was more sand on the greens than in the bunkers. Approach shots exploded in a plume of rising sand, golf balls landing with a thud on what were once pristine putting surfaces, regarded as the best in the tri-county area.

“I got called by a headhunter like at ten o’clock at night on a Wednesday and they asked if I could drive over there as soon as possible. I was living in Palm Beach at the time,” Stevens recalled. “I showed up there on Saturday morning. It was June the first.”

Stevens had never heard of Coral Creek before that call, but he learned there was a private airport close to Boca Grande, which he knew was an elite area of Florida. Still, he had to ask himself if he wanted to deal with the aggravation of restoring the course to its former glory. The club had been perennially ranked among Golf Digest’s top 30 Florida golf courses.

“I looked at it as a challenge because I really knew that I could turn this place around and that’s why I went after it, I knew what it could be,” beamed Stevens.

Stevens was sold when club ownership told him they would make the necessary investment to restore the course. Soon thereafter, he oversaw the full renovation of Coral Creek in 2020 in partnership with Fazio Design and Leibold Irrigation.

Coral Creek members are proud of their golf course. In survey after survey, club members cite the golf course as the most important asset contributing to their golfing experience. They bring high expectations for a superior on-course experience when entering through the club gates. And they are highly appreciative of Stevens’ contributions to that on-course experience.

“Erin came to Coral Creek at a very challenging time and was able to return the course to playability,” explained Ted Devnew, president of the club and long-time member of its Greens Committee. “Since then, he has built a world class team that has managed a complete course renovation, restored the course after hurricane Ian and is currently overseeing the complete replacement of our irrigation system. He is a valued member of the club management team, and his expertise is relied on weekly to keep the course in first class condition.”

Stevens’ current challenge is helping to educate club members about proper course care and engage them with maintenance in fun ways. The club recently sponsored its bimonthly Beer & Divots outing, where club members walk the course with buckets of sand mixed with organic growth material for optimal recovery of divots left by member play. Lagers and ales are a welcome accompaniment.

“The best part of my job is definitely working outdoors, especially when you get to a property like this at Coral Creek,” Stevens said. “I’m out here every day. This is my office. The wildlife is phenomenal. The support from members has been awesome, and I continue to see it go that way.”

Stevens deserves to have the sun shining on his face and the wind behind his back. An agronomy professional who excels at handling difficult situations, he presents a calm, self-assured demeanor to peers, club members and staff.

Scott Cotherman writes about all things golf-related in and around the Cape Haze Peninsula. He is a retired marketing communications professional, member of Coral Creek Club and an avid golfer. Contact him at

■ At top, Erin Stevens, Director of Agronomy at Coral Creek Club. Photos submitted