Merion Golf Club (East) – Played 2016
- Rankings: Golf Digest #6, Golf Magazine #7
- Location: 450 Ardmore Avenue, Ardmore, Pennsylvania
- Year: 1912
- Architect: Hugh I. Wilson
- Course Access: Private
- Walking Rules: Walking Only, Caddies Available
Score Card Information:
- Back: 6,541 yards, Par 70 , 73.4 Rating/146 Slope
- Middle: 6,126 yards, Par 70 (Men’s), 74 (Women’s), 71.3 Rating/144 Slope (Men’s), 77.4 Rating/151 Slope (Women’s)
- Forward: 5,746 yards, Par 70 (Men’s), 74 (Women’s), 69.5 Rating/136 Slope (Men’s), 75.2 Rating/147 Slope (Women’s)
“Acre for acre, it may be the best test of golf in the world.” That is the quote from none other than Jack Nicklaus. To say I was giddy to play this course would be a monumental understatement.
Luckily, I was able to connect with a member as Merion is not keen on unaccompanied guest play. I am not aware of a way to play it without a member. In addition to my luck in finding a member, my host was a wealth of knowledge on the club and it’s history. I will sprinkle as much of his wisdom throughout this post as I can. I wish I could’ve taken notes.
The club was known as Merion Cricket Club until 1941. It was originally founded in 1896 at the original golf course in nearby Haverford. In 1910, the members decided to build a new course and the East was completed in 1912. The West was finished two years later. It was quite a feat to build two courses in that time frame with no modern machinery. Amazingly, the East course is routed over just 126 acres. For comparison, Augusta National is 365 acres.
Merion is quirky is a good way. One of the things that makes it different is the wicker basket used on each hole. Each pin on the East only is topped with a wicker basket. Though never verified, the story goes that Hugh Wilson saw English sheep herders stored their lunch in wicker baskets at the top of their staffs. While visible when playing the course, they do not give the golfer any idea of wind direction. Until 1980, the baskets were made on site. Apparently, now a woman in my home state of South Carolina makes the baskets. Her name and location are purposely kept anonymous. The golf course assistant superintendents collect the wickers every night, so they will not be stolen.
The championship history at Merion is astounding. It has hosted 18 USGA events including five U.S. Opens. Bobby Jones played his first major here and closed out his Grand Slam here in 1930 (more on that later). Ben Hogan won a year after almost dying on that lonesome road in a horrific car crash. Lee Trevino beat none other than Jack Nicklaus here in an 18 hole playoff where he scared him with the rubber snake on the first tee! In the 2013 US Open, my host relayed that only three players played as many as five practice rounds. Those three were Justin Rose, Jason Day, and Phil Mickelson. Yeah they all finished in the top three! In addition to a trophy, anyone winning a USGA event supposedly receives a wicker basket. Continue reading “Merion Golf Club (East)”