Apr 30, 2013, 1:57 PM EDT
The face of a bunker mostly.
I stand about 6-foot-1 and found myself in three traps on Monday afternoon I couldn’t see out of. I looked straight forward, and saw a wall of sand.
Welcome to Merion Golf Club, site of the 2013 U.S. Open (June 13-16), where there’s a decent chance the caddies make more than you do.
Because I’m insanely lucky and practically begged my editor, I had the good fortune to attend Open media day on Monday and play the famed East Course.
Don’t know anything about Merion? It’s located in Ardmore, Pa., was built in 1912, has already hosted four U.S. Opens, 17 USGA events in total, and can put out a fierce lunch spread.
There are private golf clubs, like the one around the corner from your house that you can likely sneak onto on Monday afternoons (give it a try), and then there’s Merion (don’t give it a try).
So rather than have you get charged with trespassing, Enrico suggested I just walk you through my day.
Free stuff is nice
When Merion puts out coffee, there aren’t paper cups. You get a mug. And if you want to put your soda in some kind of plastic receptacle, you can bet the club’s logo is stamped right on there.
Lunch included hand-carved turkey and roast beef (which could or could not be used on a sandwich), some sort of soup I regretfully did not sample, Caesar salad, tuna salad, chicken salad, shrimp salad, and some assorted dessert options.
Not-free stuff is still nice (and expensive)
Forget golf shirts — which, should you attempt to purchase one in a merchandise tent during the week of tournament, will likely run you $75 to $125 dollars — two ball markers and a yardage book set me back $46 bucks.
This is what most of you are likely looking for. Merion, as unique as it is, is also a lot like any number of the GAP clubs built about a century ago. Tee boxes are just paces off greens and public roads run just yards off fairways.
Take the second and 15th holes. Ardmore Ave. runs the length of the second hole and is plainly in play off the tee (two of my playing partners put a ball on the road, and one of them just missed somebody’s windshield).
And then there’s the 15th, where the out-of-bounds markers are just one yard off the left side of the fairway. Apparently, 2010 U.S. Open Graeme McDowell and I have something in common: we’ve both sniped one right over the fence.
But what makes it unique? The thick rough (I hit any number of 8-iron gouges), the severely undulated greens, and the natural landscape. Holes 16-18 run back and forth across an old quarry that forces the player into some pretty demanding shots. It’s hard to appreciate it without seeing it, so here’s a view from the bottom (17 tee is up on top of the hill).
Finally, there’s the history. Like the plaque in the middle of the 18th fairway, commemorating the spot from which Ben Hogan hit his famed 1-iron to make par on the 72nd hole and force a three-way playoff (which he later won), and the plaque beside the 11th tee, honoring the hole on which Bobby Jones became the first man in golf history to win the Grand Slam.
If you want more, click on the links below to read and watch how the course is prepping for the Open:
Fell apart down the stretch (although that’s pretty common on the group of holes defending-champion Webb Simpson called “maybe the toughest we’ve ever faced in a U.S. Open”):
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