Merion Golf Club

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Merion Golf Club
Club information
Location Haverford Township, near Ardmore, Pennsylvania
Established 1912 - East Course
1914 - West Course
Type Private
Total holes 36
Website Merion Golf Club
East Course
Designed by Hugh Irvine Wilson
Par 70
Length 6,846 yards (6,260 m)
Course rating 73.5
Slope rating 149 [1]
West Course
Designed by Hugh Irvine Wilson
Par 70
Length 5,989 yards (5,476 m)
Course rating 69.2
Slope rating 122 [2]
Merion Golf Club, East and West Courses
Merion Golf Club is located in Pennsylvania
Merion Golf Club
Location Ardmore, Pennsylvania
Coordinates 40°00′04″N 75°18′43″W / 40.001°N 75.312°W / 40.001; -75.312Coordinates: 40°00′04″N 75°18′43″W / 40.001°N 75.312°W / 40.001; -75.312
Built 1912
Architect Hugh Irvine Wilson
Architectural style Colonial Revival
NRHP Reference # 89002085[3]
Significant dates
Added to NRHP December 21, 1989
Designated NHLD April 27, 1992[4]

Merion Golf Club is a private golf club located in Haverford Township, Delaware County, Pennsylvania, a suburb northwest of Philadelphia. The club has two courses: the East Course, and the West Course. The East Course has been consistently rated in the top 10, #5 in 2015, by Golf Digest in the annual "America's 100 Greatest Golf Courses", and it has hosted five U.S. Opens, most recently in 2013.


Original course[edit]

Looking down the first fairway towards the clubhouse from Ardmore Avenue.

The Merion Golf Club dates from 1896, when members of the Merion Cricket Club (founded in 1865) opened a golf course in Haverford Township, Pennsylvania.

Two new courses[edit]

In 1910, the membership decided to build a new course and chose 32-year-old club member Hugh Wilson, a Princeton University graduate, and fine player, to design it. Merion East opened in September 1912, and the original course was closed. The West Course, also designed by Wilson, opened in May 1914. The Merion Golf Club did not officially separate from the Merion Cricket Club until 1941.

Wilson's research pays off[edit]

Hugh Wilson had never designed a golf course, so he went on a seven-month trip to Scotland and England to study British courses. Several features of Merion East are derived from famous British courses, not the least of which are Merion's distinctive Scottish-style bunkers, which are now known as the "white faces of Merion" (named by top amateur player Chick Evans). Wilson's layout covers only 126 acres (0.51 km2) of land, a very small area for a golf course. It was ranked 5th in Golf Digest's "America's 100 Greatest Golf Courses" in 2015, and Jack Nicklaus has said of Merion East, "Acre for acre, it may be the best test of golf in the world."

Merion has held 18 United States Golf Association (USGA) championship tournaments, more than any other course. The first two, the 1904 and 1909 U.S. Women's Amateurs, were held at the original Haverford course. The first USGA men's tournament held at the East Course was the 1916 U.S. Amateur, won by Chick Evans. This was also the first time Bobby Jones appeared in a national championship; he was 14 years old. Jones would win his first U.S. Amateur in 1924, also held at Merion.

Bobby Jones completes Grand Slam[edit]

In 1930, the U.S. Amateur returned to Merion in late September. Earlier that year, Bobby Jones had won the British Amateur, British Open, and U.S. Open, so anticipation was high to see if he could complete the sweep of all four major championships of the time,[5] the "impregnable quadrilateral."[6] Jones won the medal in the stroke play qualifier and cruised through the first four rounds of match play, to the final 36-hole match against Eugene Homans on Saturday. A gallery of 9,000 was on hand for the start of the match; this swelled to 18,000 by the afternoon round, forcing the competitors to be escorted to the tees and greens. After the morning round, Jones was comfortably ahead by seven holes, and when both players parred the 11th hole Jones had an 8 & 7 victory (eight holes ahead with seven to play).[7] Searching for words to describe the unprecedented feat, Atlanta newsman O.B. Keeler used the term "Grand Slam", which has stuck ever since. Seven weeks after the tournament, Bobby Jones retired from competitive golf at age 28.

Hogan's comeback from accident[edit]

Merion's 1950 U.S. Open was the site of Ben Hogan's comeback, 16 months after a head-on collision with a bus which shattered his pelvis and nearly killed him.[8] On the 72nd hole (and 36th of the day), in extreme pain[9] and facing an uphill shot of over 200 yards (180 m) into the wind, Hogan needed a par to force a playoff, as he had just bogeyed the long par-3 17th (and the par-4 15th). From the fairway, Hogan used a 1-iron to hit a superb shot which stopped on the distant green and two-putted from 40 feet (12 m) for par. Hogan then defeated Lloyd Mangrum and George Fazio in an 18-hole playoff on Sunday to win the tournament.[10] Hy Peskin's photograph of Hogan's 1-iron shot, taken from behind during Hogan's follow-through, is among the most famous pictures in golf.[8][11] [Editor's note: this article states the consensus of golf experts and historians that Hogan used a 1-iron. The statement is confirmed by many sources, including Hogan himself in later letters and interviews. There has been some controversy through the years, as some sources – including Hogan's own book, Five Lessons – state that he used a 2-iron for the shot.] Lost for over three decades, the club resurfaced in the early 1980s, and now resides in the USGA Museum.[12][13] The point on the 18th fairway where Hogan hit the famous shot is commemorated with a plaque.[14][15]

Trevino defeats Nicklaus[edit]

The U.S. Open in 1971 at Merion resulted in another playoff, this time between Jack Nicklaus and Lee Trevino, arguably the top two players in the world at the time. Both had missed putts on the 72nd hole to win on Sunday, Trevino for par and Nicklaus for birdie. In the Monday playoff, Nicklaus had trouble early in the bunkers and was behind the rest of the round. Trevino, the 1968 champion, won by three strokes for his second U.S. Open title. It was the second of four times that Nicklaus was a runner-up to Trevino at a major championship.

Strengthened course tests new generation[edit]

The 18th green and clubhouse. Note the wicker basket on top of the pin.

Following David Graham's win at the U.S. Open at Merion in 1981, it was felt by many that the relatively short course of about 6,500 yards (5,940 m), small course area of 111 acres (45 ha) (which limits gallery size), and lack of grounds to hold corporate tents and other infrastructure would preclude Merion from holding a major again.[16] However, following some land acquisition nearby and lengthening of the East Course to nearly 7,000 yards (6,400 m), many of these concerns appeared to be addressed. After successfully hosting the U.S. Amateur in 2005, the USGA awarded a fifth U.S. Open to Merion, held in 2013, 32 years after its last hosting of the national championship.[16] Justin Rose captured his first major by posting a score of one-over-par 281 for 72 holes, good for a two-stroke victory over Phil Mickelson and Jason Day. Most of the players who competed in the 2013 Open had very high praise for the course, which featured long, difficult rough following a wet spring. The lowest 18-hole score for the tournament was three-under-par 67, posted by several players, including Mickelson. The course held up very well as a premium test of golf, in spite of pre-tournament worries from some golf media people that many low scores would be posted by the modern generation of players.[17]

Merion Golf Club was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1992.

Wicker baskets[edit]

On the East Course, all pins are topped with wicker baskets instead of the usual flags. As one story goes, when Hugh Wilson was in England studying their golf courses, he happened upon local sheep herders and their flocks. These shepherds held staffs that they used for herding, and the staffs all had wicker baskets at the top. In those baskets, they kept their lunch for the day so that no animals could get into it. Wilson decided to use the idea at Merion, though the exact origin has never been fully verified.[18] One effect is that the baskets are visible even if the wind is not blowing – but they do not give the golfer any indication of wind direction at the green. They have been used since at least 1916,[18] and are featured in the club's logo.[19]

Up until around 1980, the wicker baskets were made on site by a member of the grounds crew staff. Since then, a woman, whose name and location in South Carolina are purposely kept anonymous, creates the current baskets.[20] Anyone who wins a USGA event at Merion receives a wicker basket top. Wickers are destroyed if the wicker baskets are broken. The golf course assistant superintendents collect the wickers every night, so they will not be stolen.[20]

Tournaments at Merion[edit]

Major championships[edit]

  Year   Tournament Winner Winner's
share ($)
1934 U.S. Open United States Olin Dutra 1,000
1950 U.S. Open United States Ben Hogan ^ 4,000
1971 U.S. Open United States Lee Trevino ^ 30,000
1981 U.S. Open Australia David Graham 55,000
2013 U.S. Open England Justin Rose 1,440,000

^ 18 hole playoffs: 1950, 1971

Amateur championships[edit]

  Year   Tournament Winner
1904 U.S. Women's Amateur United States Georgianna Bishop
1909 U.S. Women's Amateur Scotland Dorothy Campbell
1916 U.S. Amateur United States Chick Evans
1924 U.S. Amateur United States Bobby Jones
1926 U.S. Women's Amateur United States Helen Stetson
1930 U.S. Amateur United States Bobby Jones
1949 U.S. Women's Amateur United States Dorothy Porter
1966 U.S. Amateur Canada Gary Cowan
1989 U.S. Amateur United States Chris Patton
1998 U.S. Girls' Junior United States Leigh Anne Hardin
2005 U.S. Amateur Italy Edoardo Molinari
  • East Course opened in 1912, first used in 1916 U.S. Amateur

International team competitions[edit]

  Year   Tournament Winner
1954 Curtis Cup United States United States
1960 Eisenhower Trophy United States United States
2009 Walker Cup United States United States

Merion Golf Club in popular culture[edit]

Merion Golf Club plays a prominent part in the novel "Back Spin" by Harlan Coben. The novel features a U.S. Open championship taking place at Merion Golf Club, during which the son of Jack Coldren, the golfer leading the pack, is kidnapped.


  1. ^ "National Course Rating Database: Merion GC, East Course". United States Golf Association. Retrieved January 25, 2013. 
  2. ^ "National Course Rating Database: Merion GC, West Course". United States Golf Association. Retrieved January 25, 2013. 
  3. ^ Staff (2007-01-23). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  4. ^ "Merion Golf Club". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2008-07-02. 
  5. ^ Alvarez, Robert (May 22, 2013). "Looking Back...1930 U.S. Amateur at Merion". United States Golf Association. Retrieved May 29, 2013. 
  6. ^ Hack, Damon (May 15, 2008). "Setting a new standard: Bobby Jones wins the Grand Slam in 1930". Retrieved May 13, 2013. 
  7. ^ Gould, Alan (September 28, 1930). "Jones captures golf title". Reading Eagle. Associated Press. p. 13. 
  8. ^ a b Trostel, Michael (May 28, 2013). "Looking Back...1950 U.S. Open at Merion". United States Golf Association. Retrieved May 29, 2013. 
  9. ^ Talbot, Gayle (June 11, 1950). "Hogan, Mangrum, Fazio tie; Ben's legs give out". Milwaukee Sentinel. Associated Press. p. 1-B. 
  10. ^ Hack, Damon (October 20, 2008). "Hogan's return: back from tragedy to win the 1950 U.S. Open". Retrieved May 13, 2013. 
  11. ^ "Ben Hogan's 100th Birthday". 2012. Retrieved May 13, 2013. 
  12. ^ Shefter, David (April 29, 2010). "Museum Moment - Hogan’s Famous 1-Iron". United States Golf Association. Retrieved May 13, 2013. 
  13. ^ Sens, Josh (June 2013). "Steal of the Century". GOLF: 106. Retrieved June 13, 2013. 
  14. ^ Ferguson, Doug (June 12, 2013). "From Hogan to Daly, five great 1-iron shots". PGA of America. Associated Press. Retrieved June 13, 2013. 
  15. ^ "Merion Golf Club: Host of 2013 U.S. Open: Hogan plaque". Photo. Retrieved June 13, 2013. 
  16. ^ a b Shefter, David (April 30, 2013). "Merion set for U.S. Open return". United States Golf Association. Retrieved May 13, 2013. 
  17. ^ Evans, Farrell (June 16, 2013). "Merion proves tough a test as hoped". ESPN. Retrieved June 26, 2013. 
  18. ^ a b Fitzpatrick, Frank (May 6, 2013). "Merion Golf Club steeped in history, tradition". Retrieved May 13, 2013. 
  19. ^ Sheppard, Bob (May 17, 2012). "On golf: Merion's wicker baskets". Retrieved May 13, 2013. 
  20. ^ a b Miceli, Alex (2005). "Basket catch: part of Merion's lore is the club's unique flagsticks". USGA. Retrieved May 13, 2013. 

External links[edit]