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Merion Golf Club

The Fascinating History of Merion Golf Club

Merion Golf Club, home of the 2013 US Open golf championship, not only carries a status as being one among the top courses around the world, but its history is really exceptional.  When the golf club membership in 1910 decided to build a brand new golf course, they selected  a member of the club who was 32 years of age and had not designed one golf course.  To think that a person who had been on his initial job would create such a stunning success that would be the home of five Opens within the next 100 years is really remarkable.


Located a little west out of Philadelphia, there is an East and West Course, but the one we are going to talk about here is the East Course.  This was the first of the two built and the one where the tournaments are held.

The Course Designer Brought a Scottish Flavor

Hugh Wilson is the course designer who had been from Scotland, a member as well as an excellent player.  The first thing he would do was tour Scotland and England for seven months studying and play the celebrated golf courses of the time that were there.  As you walk Merion during the Open or watch it on TV, you’ll likely distinguish some of the features that you’ll recognize from some of the old courses in Great Britain.  The most notable will be the bunkers; the 120 steep-faced bunkering is very reminiscent of just what you will see in the British Isles.

Another remarkable thing regarding this great course is how tight it is.  It was originally built on only 126 acres, in comparison to some which might be 300 acres and more.  The original course was about 6500 yards, and subsequent to the 1981 U.S. Open it had been believed the undersized space might make this excellent course obsolete for future Open tournaments.  Not only were nearly all pros capable of overpowering some of the shorter holes, but bigger galleries and corporate tents required additional space.  Concerns were alleviated when additional adjacent real estate was obtained, lengthening the golf course to its present almost 7000 yards.

Ben Hogan at the 1950 US Open

Merion Golf Club has had a significant impact on many of the golfing greats, but two of the all-time premier players stand out.  For Bobby Jones, the 1916 U.S. Amateur marked the first time he appeared at a national competition at 14 years old.  In 1924 he would be triumphant in his first U.S. Amateur victory, as well as in 1930 Jones completed the “Grand Slam” of golf on the Merion Golf Club’s East Course.  Seven weeks later Bobby Jones retired from golf competition at 28 years of age.


The other distinguished player who made golf history at Merion was Ben Hogan.  He won the 1950 U.S. Open in one among the impressive athletic achievements in history, playing 16 months after a head-on crash with a bus that almost killed him.  He somehow won in a playoff, playing with incredible pain while still recovering from the accident.  Really one of the impressive events in the history of sports.




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