Why the PGA’s Best Golfers Love Merion Golf Club

One Jack Nicklaus can’t be wrong: Acre for acre, there’s no course more beautiful than Merion.


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 “I love Merion—and I don’t even know her last name.” —Lee Trevino, after winning the 1971 U.S. Open

For all the reasons the U.S. Open wasn’t likely to be held at Merion again, the most compelling reason that it will be held there is simple: the course itself.

Jack Nicklaus has given Merion the highest accolade, proclaiming, “Acre for acre, it may be the best test of golf in the world.” That’s some praise from a man who not only played on the finest courses during his Hall of Fame career, but built quite a few good ones, as well.

The historic East layout—Hugh Wilson’s homage to golf shot-making—is ready to defend itself against the world’s best. A course created long before titanium and graphite promises to be a worthy adversary for all the modern world can throw at it.

At just under 7,000 yards, Merion will play a lot “shorter” than other courses on the PGA Tour. (Augusta and the Memorial, for example, play closer to 7,500 yards.) But what Merion lacks in length it makes up for in “bite.”

Bunkers have been strategically added—on No. 2, for instance. Similar scoring impediments have been installed on holes 15 and 16. Four of the par 4s will play more than 500 yards long, while

No. 3 is a monstrous par 3 at 265 yards uphill The 17th hole is another whopper of a par 3 at 250 yards.

There will be lots of holes where the pros won’t have to hit a driver, but they will need to be accurate, with fairways narrowed to 22-24 yards wide and the rough a jail sentence height of 3.5-4 inches. The final five holes will be as tough as any they face on tour—an “amen corner” stretch where the championship will no doubt be decided. And we all know what lurks on 18, where the famous Hogan plaque in the fairway will stare today’s golf studs squarely in the face, daring them to create their own historic shot.

Rick Ill, chairman of the U.S. Open Committee at Merion, thinks players will enjoy coming back to an older, traditional course. “It will be different for them to play a course that’s not just long, long and long,” he says.

To hear Ill speak of his beloved home course is reminiscent of a proud father boasting about one of his children. (He  was a past club president at Merion for six years and is a longtime member.) “You may see a player go low one day,” he says. “Or, if we get wet conditions, they can fire at the pins. But, all in all, I think the course will defend itself.”

Merion’s 16th holePerhaps the best quote on the subtle scoring intricacies at Merion was by 1971 U.S. Open winner Lee Trevino (who beat Jack Nicklaus in a playoff that year). “It’s got 16 birdie holes and 18 bogey holes,” Trevino said, grinning.

Though the course itself may have stood the test of time, the club planners couldn’t possibly have envisioned the tremendous growth the game would enjoy over the past three decades. They certainly couldn’t have conceived of a small city setting up on their site, with trailer loads of food, equipment, merchandise, fencing, generators, tents and the like.

The last Open at Merion Golf Club in 1981 required 500 volunteers to conduct the operation of the event—this year’s event will need closer to 5,000. How could a course that was built on just 126 acres hope to accommodate the modern crush of officials, media and spectators?

First, the United States Golf Associa-tion limited the amount of spectator tickets to just 25,000—a sizable reduction from other host-site venues in years past (with media and volunteers, that number is closer to 32,000). Then the USGA had to come up with a creative way to manage all the modern logistics, and their thinking outside the box led to “thinking outside the property,” as they looked for off-site space to accommodate the things Merion couldn’t handle inside its immediate property perimeter.

That task fell squarely on the shoulders of Hank Thompson, the USGA championship director, and his team. “The biggest challenge we have experienced thus far is making certain that we have the space to accommodate all of the facilities required for the championship,” Thompson says. “We’ve taken steps to enlarge the footprint by renting space at Haverford College and local residents’ yards for additional facilities. In utilizing smaller areas for facilities—like resident properties—we’ve had to take additional time to
be certain support facilities like power generators, HVAC, restrooms and  prep tents fit within the borders of the yards. On the East Course itself, we’ve attempted to maximize grandstand seating throughout the course to help mitigate narrow spectator walkways and to provide for quality views of championship golf.”

Thompson’s task of ensuring an opti-mal spectator experience has not been an easy one. But from all accounts, it looks like the Merion on- and off-site facilities are in line and ready to go. (Having been to several U.S. Opens through the years, I’ve found that the USGA’s flagship event has always been first-rate.)

“I knew this process would be a lot of work, but maybe not this much,” says Ill. “The USGA has done an amazing job with these logistical issues, and all of the hard work of all our various committees has paid off—and I know the membership is excited to see the event here.”

The culmination of close to eight years of all these great efforts is now finally coming together. The course where Bobby Jones and Ben Hogan left their footprints is waiting for a whole new era of legends to make their mark. Will we see an epic battle à la the Golden Bear and the Merry Mex with Tiger and Rory? Or will someone else stamp his passport to golf history?

By dusk on Father’s Day, we’ll know.

Transportation, security and viewing details were not finalized at press time. Visit usga.org and usopen.com for updates.


For more from the 2013 Golf Guide, click here

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The Station Gallery
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Where:
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Cost: free

Where:
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Telephone: 302-654-8638
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Telephone: 302-656-6466
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Cost: Included with general admission ($5-20)

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Sponsor: Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
Telephone: 800.448.3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
Website »

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A newly acquired cabinet at Winterthur and related objects in the collection emerge as tools in the lucrative business of transatlantic trade in the 18th and 19th centuries. Curated by graduate...

Cost: free with admission

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
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Telephone: 800-448-3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
Website »

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Story Time Thursdays 10:30 - 11 a.m. Enjoy fun animal stories read by our own zoo story-telling team! Story time takes place in the otter circle, in the main zoo, and may include a craft,...

Cost: $7 - $0

Where:
Brandywine Zoo
1001 North Park Drive
Wilmington, DE  19802
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Telephone: 302-571-7747
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Charity Golf Event to benefit Children's Beach House A great way to start your Memorial Day weekend a day early! Make sure to register as a single golfer or register your foursome ahead of...

Cost: $225 Single Golfer / $900 Foursome

Where:
Peninsula on Indian River Bay
26937 Bay Farm Rd.
Millsboro, DE  19966
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Sponsor: The Ocean Atlantic Companies
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Crooked Hammock Brewery is celebrating the unofficial start of summer all Memorial Day weekend! The festivities kick off on Thursday, May 24th with the release of their two summer seasonal beers,...

Cost: Free to attend

Where:
Crooked Hammock Brewery
36707 Crooked Hammock Way
Lewes, DE  19958
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Sponsor: Crooked Hammock Brewery
Telephone: 302-644-7837
Contact Name: Jon
Website »

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Join us on The Patio, voted Best Outdoor Dining by Delaware Today readers! Happy hour 4PM - 6:30PM, live entertainment 6PM - 9PM, local craft beer, handcrafted cocktails, creative gastropub menu,...

Cost: menu items vary

Where:
Hilton Christiana
100 Continental Dr.
Newark, DE  19713
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Relax and unwind after a long day with the Museum’s popular Happy Hour series. Enjoy live music on the terrace with friends or tour the galleries indoors. Special themed nights will be scheduled...

Cost: Museum galleries are open with free admission every Thursday from 4–8 pm

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
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  Join Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant as they open their doors to the public on May 24, 2018!  

Cost: Free

Where:
Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant
19815 Coastal Hwy
Rehoboth Beach, DE  19971
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Sponsor: Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant

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Alexi Natchev: Prints and Drawings will be on view in the Mezzanine Gallery from May 4-25, 2018. A free opening reception to meet the artist will be held on Friday, May 4 from 5-7 p.m. Alexi...

Cost: Free

Where:
Mezzanine Gallery
2nd Floor, Carvel State Office Building
820 N. French St.
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Sponsor: Delaware Division of the Arts
Telephone: 302-577-8283
Contact Name: Roxanne Stanulis
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Mary Pritchard is an award winning pastel artist from Chestertown, Maryland. Following a career in education administration at the University of Delaware, Mary returned to painting full-time....

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
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Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

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Mary Pritchard is an award winning pastel artist from Chestertown, Maryland. Following a career in education administration at the University of Delaware, Mary returned to painting full-time....

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
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Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

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Mary Pritchard is an award winning pastel artist from Chestertown, Maryland. Following a career in education administration at the University of Delaware, Mary returned to painting full-time....

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
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Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

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GUARDIANS OF THE IMAGE MAKER Group Exhibition & Programs Commemorating The 1968 Riots April 6 - June 29, 2018 Opening reception: Friday, April 6, 2018                      5 - 9 PM...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 302-656-6466
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THE FIGURE: THE INDICATIVE AND THE ALLUSIVE Group Exhibition  April 1 - August 26, 2018 Opening Reception: Friday, April 6, 2018 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop with Panel Discussion: 6 - 7 PM...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

A newly acquired cabinet at Winterthur and related objects in the collection emerge as tools in the lucrative business of transatlantic trade in the 18th and 19th centuries. Curated by graduate...

Cost: free with admission

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 800-448-3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
Website »

More information

A needle's eye in a pond, a Greek temple in the garden, an Ottoman tent sitting on a hill—these are just a few of the inspirations for our upcoming, first-ever outdoor exhibition Follies:...

Cost: Included with general admission ($5-20)

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
Telephone: 800.448.3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
Website »

More information

Glory of Stories introduces young visitors to art and the Museum through a story reading followed by an interactive tour of relevant works of art and a studio art project. This program encourages...

Cost: Free to Members, $5 per child and one adult free for Non-Members

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
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Crooked Hammock Brewery is celebrating the unofficial start of summer all Memorial Day weekend! The festivities kick off on Thursday, May 24th with the release of their two summer seasonal beers,...

Cost: Free to attend

Where:
Crooked Hammock Brewery
36707 Crooked Hammock Way
Lewes, DE  19958
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Sponsor: Crooked Hammock Brewery
Telephone: 302-644-7837
Contact Name: Jon
Website »

More information

  Join Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant as they open their doors to the public on May 24, 2018!  

Cost: Free

Where:
Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant
19815 Coastal Hwy
Rehoboth Beach, DE  19971
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Sponsor: Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant

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Meeting every Friday, Bayhealth Kent General Hospital, 640 s. State Street, Dover, 7:30 pm., Private Dining Room #3 in the basement. For those who have, or think they may have a gambling problem....

Cost: 0.00

Where:
Bayhealth Kent General Hospital
640 S. State Street
Private Dining Room #3
Dover, DE  19901
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Telephone: 800-855-2CALLGA
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Sixth annual St. Catherine of Siena Community Garage Sale held in Church parking lot. One-stop shopping! Approximately 25 homes gather in one location to make your garage sale shopping...

Cost: $25/Consignors ONLY

Where:
St. Catherine of Siena Parish Parking Lot
2503 Centerville Road
Wilmington, DE  19808
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Sponsor: St. Catherine of Siena
Telephone: 302-239-1699
Contact Name: Mary Gispert
Website »

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The 11th annual Artisans Fair, featuring unique handcrafted art objects, will be from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, May 26, at Lord Baltimore Elementary School on Route 26 in Ocean View, DE. ...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lord Baltimore Elementary School
Route 26
Ocean View, DE  19970
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Sponsor: South Coastal DE AARP Chapter
Telephone: 302-732-6336
Contact Name: Ida Crist
Website »

More information

A needle's eye in a pond, a Greek temple in the garden, an Ottoman tent sitting on a hill—these are just a few of the inspirations for our upcoming, first-ever outdoor exhibition Follies:...

Cost: Included with general admission ($5-20)

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
Telephone: 800.448.3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
Website »

More information

GUARDIANS OF THE IMAGE MAKER Group Exhibition & Programs Commemorating The 1968 Riots April 6 - June 29, 2018 Opening reception: Friday, April 6, 2018                      5 - 9 PM...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

THE FIGURE: THE INDICATIVE AND THE ALLUSIVE Group Exhibition  April 1 - August 26, 2018 Opening Reception: Friday, April 6, 2018 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop with Panel Discussion: 6 - 7 PM...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

A newly acquired cabinet at Winterthur and related objects in the collection emerge as tools in the lucrative business of transatlantic trade in the 18th and 19th centuries. Curated by graduate...

Cost: free with admission

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 800-448-3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
Website »

More information

Crooked Hammock Brewery is celebrating the unofficial start of summer all Memorial Day weekend! The festivities kick off on Thursday, May 24th with the release of their two summer seasonal beers,...

Cost: Free to attend

Where:
Crooked Hammock Brewery
36707 Crooked Hammock Way
Lewes, DE  19958
View map »


Sponsor: Crooked Hammock Brewery
Telephone: 302-644-7837
Contact Name: Jon
Website »

More information

Science Saturday – River Rangers River Rangers learn how to gauge the health of our local waterways by observing the variety of critters living in it. Visitors of all ages are invited to...

Cost: Activities are included in regular admission and free for members.

Where:
Hagley Museum
201 Hagley Creek Road
Wilmington, DE
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Sponsor: Hagley Museum & Library
Telephone: (302) 65802400 x 238
Contact Name: Jessica Eisenbrey
Website »

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