Comprised of two 18-hole courses, the East and West courses, the Merion Golf Club has hosted 18 United States Golf Association (USGA) championships, more than any other. The first course built on the site was created by the Merion Cricket Club in 1896. That course was replaced by the Hugh Wilson designed East Course in 1912 and the West course was added to the club in 1914. The East course is the more challenging of the two, has hosted all USGA championships, to include five U.S. Opens, and is thus, better known. The club is private and only open to members and their guests. The Merion Golf Club was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1992.
Cricket Club, founded in 1865, decided to add a nine-hole golf course in 1896
as the popularity of golf in the United States began to increase. The course was expanded to 18 holes in
1900. Shortly after, golf ball technology
changed as the gutta percha ball was replaced with the rubber core Haskell
ball. This new golf ball, which consistently
travelled farther, made the cricket club’s course obsolete. As a result, the club formed a committee to
look into the feasibility of building a new, longer course in 1910. They hired 32-year old Hugh Wilson who, while
an accomplished golfer, had no experience designing courses. Wilson then proceeded to design one of the
best courses in the United States.
course was designed, sculpted and seeded, Wilson travelled to England and Scotland
to learn about designing, building, and maintaining courses sometime in late
1911 or early 1912. He was scheduled to
travel back to America aboard the HMS
Titanic in 1912, but decided to extend his stay several more days. Upon his return, he incorporated much he
learned into his East Course. Wilson’s course
was built on only 126 acres and was relatively short at only 6,500 yards. However, he increased its difficulty by
incorporating numerous (131) Scottish-style bunkers that featured peninsulas
and islands of grass as well as eyebrows which are comprised of thick, tall
grass around the edges of the bunkers.
hosted its first USGA championship in 1916 in the form of the U.S. Amateur
which featured a 14-year old Bobby Jones.
Jones would return to win the U.S. Amateur in 1924 and again in
1930. His 1930 win completed golf’s first
Grand Slam as he had previously won the British Amateur, British Open, and U.S.
Open Championships. A plaque along the
11th hole commemorates this event.
The East Course also hosted the 1950 U.S. Open in which Ben Hogan made
his triumphant return from a near-fatal auto accident. His famous 1-iron on the championship’s final
hole helped secure his spot in a playoff round which he won the next day. Merion also witnessed Lee Travino’s playoff
win over Jack Nicklaus in the 1971 U.S. Open and Justin Rose’s first major
championship in the 2013 U.S. Open.
course is also known for its wicker baskets atop its pins rather than flags. It is believed Wilson developed this idea
while in Scotland, but its true origin remains clouded in mystery. Merion is almost exclusively a walking course
as carts are prohibited except for the physically disabled and the use of
caddies is highly recommended as there are no yard markers on the course. Merion has since lengthened the East Course to
almost 7,000 yards and acquired more land to ensure it will continue to host