US Open Preview: Merion Golf Club

The cream of the world’s golfing talent are descending on a wet Merion golf course in Pennsylvania for the 113rd US Open. We take a look at the course in our US Open Preview to highlight a few of the unique characteristics that separate this historic golf course from recent US Open tracks.

Only a handful of golfers in the field for the 113th Us Open will have played a Major tournament at Merion Golf Club as the last was the 1981 US Open won by Australian David Graham. Many thought this great course would never hold another and indeed it says a lot about the USGA that they have chosen the first sub 7,000 yard course since Shinnacock Hills in 2004 – fully nine years ago.

So what is it like?

Merion plays a par 70 with two early par 5s followed by a run of seven holes where the longest hole is a paltry 403 yards or a 3 wood and a flick for the 2013 vintage pros. The course is undulating and requires accuracy off the tee and from the fairway. With the heavy rain experienced over the last week balls are unlikely to run out off the fairway but those who do find the rough will be hugely disadvantaged.

White Faces of Merion

The Scottish style of bunkers at Merion will be a significant change for golfers who are used to beach-like soft sand and with the weather will ruin some players’ sand save stats. They were gradually introduced by course designer Hugh Wilson over a period of years to make sure they were in the right place. Accuracy off the tee and approaching the green will be paramount to success for all the players and simply bombing the greens could potentially backfire.

Wet Wet Wet

The decision to play the US Open at such a short golf course may prove to be a mistake given the weather that has swept through Merion in the last week and has made the course infinitely easier than if it had been dry. There could be  adifference of something like 15-20 strokes between winning targets in the dry and the wet with a few experts predicting the first 62 in a major championship. Soft greens and soft fairways will make it easier to hit both and could bring the big hitters into it whilst allowing those with wonderful short games to really show their talent.

The Rough

Oooh it is going to be thick and lush and a long way from the Ryder Cup last year where the wildest of drives fell on pines that allowed almost any shot to be played. With staggered thickness and length those driving wildly will be punished in these tough conditions.

Conclusion:

A short course with some fairly long par 5s Merion may have survived had the ground been hard and running but given the weather the course is vulnerable. Big hitters that can keep it straight enough and those that are brilliant from within 100 yards will probably be the most confident. Merion is still a thinking man’s golf course and no doubt a few wily old campaigners will be in the mix come the weekend.

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