It’s been way too long since we’ve seen the U.S. Open at the quaint, quirky Merion Golf Club. The last time our nation’s championship was played at Merion was in 1981. Tiger Woods was 5.
The course distance and lack of room for large galleries are the announced drawbacks, but the history should outweigh all of that. Merion has the history and odd subtleties that can only be found at baseball’s historic Wrigley Field.
Merion was opened more than 100 years ago and was site of one of the most memorable shots in golf, Ben Hogan’s 1-iron at the 1950 U.S. Open. This week during practice rounds, some of the top players were posing for photos near the embedded plaque where Hogan made the famous shot. 18 years before Hogan won that U.S. Open, Babe Ruth called his shot at Wrigley. Hundreds of fans and major leaguers have posed at home plate pointing out to center field, just like all those golfers on the 18th at Merion.
Along with the history, are the subtle differences from other golf courses. Instead of flags on each hole, the pins are topped with red wicker baskets on the front nine and orange wicker baskets on the back nine. Baskets were used at the top of pins in the early 1900’s at British courses, but there are other theories behind the baskets and Merion’s website says the reason course designer Hugh Wilson put baskets at the top of the pins is a “mystery to this day.”
The ivy that lines the outfield wall at Wrigley Field doesn’t have the same mystery behind it that the wicker baskets do, but it gives the historic ballpark a unique look and unique set of rules. No other stadium has the possibility of a ground-rule double due to vegetation.
Wrigley is guaranteed 81 games every baseball season. Hopefully, we get to see the U.S. Open at Merion and those wicker baskets more than once every 30 years.