Merion Golf Club

Merion Golf Club is located northwest of Downtown Philadelphia, just outside the Philadelphia city limits. Merion has two golf courses: the West Course, a shorter, easier "sporty" (to use the club's own word) layout; and the very difficult, very storied East Course.

Merion's East Course has been the site of more USGA championships than any other golf course, and is considered among the handful of best courses in the United States. Golf Digest - which once described Merion East as that "little old course with knee-deep rough, wicker-basket flags and bunkers that stare back at golfers" - consistently ranks Merion East around sixth or seventh in its Top 100 golf course ratings.

Merion is a club committed to tradition: It has a strict dress code that even specifies that men must remove their caps indoors; it is walking-only; rangefinders and GPS units are not allowed (there aren't even any yardage markers around the course); and the club even outlaws mulligans off the first tee.

Contact Info
• Address: 450 Ardmore Avenue, Ardmore, PA 19003
• Phone: (610) 642-5600
• Website:

Can I Play Merion?

Merion Golf Club is a private club. If you want to play it, you'll need an invitation from a member.

Origins of Merion Golf Club

There are 36 holes of golf at Merion; the two tracks are commonly referred to as Merion East and Merion West. Merion West is popular with members, but, really, Merion is all about the historic East Course.

Merion Golf Club grew out of the Merion Cricket Club, which was founded in 1865 in Haverford, Pennsylvania. The Cricket Club opened a golf course in Haverford in 1896, which is considered the birth of Merion Golf Club. But after the Haskell ball replaced gutta-percha golf balls in the early 1900s, the Haverford course proved too short for the new ball technology (sound familiar?).

So Merion assigned member Hugh Wilson to lead the effort at creating a new, longer golf course.

Wilson studied British links and consulted prominent early architects such as C.B. Macdonald. A 126-acre piece of land in Ardmore, Pa., was selected as the site.

Wilson was assisted in building the new course by William Flynn (who later designed Cherry Hills and redesigned The Country Club at Brookline and Shinnecock Hills, among many other important jobs).

The East Course opened on Sept. 14, 1912 (the original course in Haverford, Pa., was closed a couple days before the new course opened.) The West Course was added in May 1914.

Merion Golf Club fully separated from Merion Cricket Club (which still exists) to become its own entity in 1941.

The East Course at Merion

These are the yardages for the East Course that were in play for the 2013 U.S. Open:

No. 1 - Par 4 - 350 yards
No. 2 - Par 5 - 556 yards
No. 3 - Par 3 - 256 yards
No. 4 - Par 5 - 628 yards
No. 5 - Par 4 - 504 yards
No. 6 - Par 4 - 487 yards
No. 7 - Par 4 - 360 yards
No. 8 - Par 4 - 359 yards
No. 9 - Par 3 - 236 yards
Out - Par 36 - 3,736 yards
No. 10 - Par 4 - 303 yards
No. 11 - Par 4 - 367 yards
No. 12 - Par 4 - 403 yards
No. 13 - Par 3 - 115 yards
No. 14 - Par 4 - 464 yards
No. 15 - Par 4 - 411 yards
No. 16 - Par 4 - 430 yards
No. 17 - Par 3 - 246 yards
No. 18 - Par 4 - 521 yards
In - Par 34 - 3,260 yards
Total - Par 70 - 6,996 yards

The USGA course ratings and slope ratings for the members' tees on the East Course are:

• Back Tees: 73.5 course rating/149 slope rating
• Middle Tees: 71.6/144 for men; 77.7/155 for women
• Forward Tees: 69.9/140 for men; 75.8/152 for women

According to the GCSAA, the greens at Merion East average 6,000 square feet and run from 12 to 13.5 on the Stimpmeter for tournaments. There are four water hazards and 131 sand bunkers. Fairways and greens are bentgrass, with bentgrass and poa annua mixed on teeing grounds. The Merion East rough is a mix of many different grasses, including bentgrass, Kentucky bluegrass, ryegrass, zoysiagrass and fescue.

The West Course has the following ratings:

• Back Tees: 69.2 course rating/122 slope
• Middle Tees: 68.1/122 for men; 73.4/131 for women
• Foward Tees: 66.7/118 for men; 72.2/128 for women

The East Course at Merion is a tight track built over just 126 acres - very small by modern standards. Merion East is famous for many things, one being its bunkers - often referred to as "the white faces of Merion" because they "stare back" at the golfers. That is, the bunkers' white sand, often running up sloping faces, is visible across the line of play. The Merion bunkers also sport "eyebrows," thick, bushy, tall grass around their edges (although the eyebrows are usually trimmed on the edge that is open to the line of play, allowing golf balls to roll in).

Another famous touch: wicker baskets top the flagsticks, instead of flags. (Why? See our FAQ, "Why does Merion use baskets on its pins instead of flags?")

Uphill, downhill and sidehill lies are the rule at Merion, where there are few flat landing areas in the fairways. Misaligned teeing grounds (tee boxes that point the golfer toward trouble) and false-front greens are also hallmarks of a golf course that forces the golfer to analyze every shot, seeking the proper playing lines. There are only two par-5 holes on Merion East, both within the first four holes played.

Significant Tournaments Hosted

All but the first two on this list were played at the East Course (the first two were played at Merion's original location in Haverford, Pa.):

  • 1904 U.S. Women's Amateur: Georgianna Bishop
  • 1909 U.S. Women's Amateur: Dorothy Campbell
  • 1916 U.S. Amateur: Chick Evans
  • 1924 U.S. Amateur: Bobby Jones
  • 1926 U.S. Women's Amateur: Helen Stetson
  • 1930 U.S. Amateur: Bobby Jones
  • 1934 U.S. Open: Olin Dutra
  • 1949 U.S. Women's Amateur: Dorothy Porter
  • 1950 U.S. Open: Ben Hogan
  • 1954 Curtis Cup: United States
  • 1966 U.S. Amateur: Gary Cowan
  • 1971 U.S. Open: Lee Trevino
  • 1981 U.S. Open: David Graham
  • 1989 U.S. Amateur: Chris Patton
  • 2005 U.S. Amateur: Edoardo Molinari
  • 2009 Walker Cup: United States
  • 2013 U.S. Open: Justin Rose

More About Merion Golf Club

• Merion Golf Club does not allow riding carts (except in the case of medical necessity - a doctor's note is required), and provides caddies to those who want them. Caddies are trained to know exact yardages, which is a good thing since there are no yardage markers at Merion, and distance-measuring devices are prohibited.

• Even for member play, Merion East is set up for championship conditions; for example, there is always an intermediate cut of rough.

• The club also has strict pace-of-play rules. Members and their guests are expected to play 18 holes in four hours or less.

• There is a strong affiliation between the Merion and Bobby Jones names. Jones' first national exposure was as a 14-year-old playing the 1916 U.S. Amateur at Merion. He won his first U.S. Amateur title in the 1924 Amateur, at Merion. And he completed his Grand Slam in 1930 by winning another U.S. Amateur at Merion. A plaque on the 11th hole commemorates Jones' Grand Slam achievement.

Merion's wicker baskets have topped the flagsticks for all USGA championships except one. In 1950, the USGA replaced the baskets with flags for the U.S. Open.

• At that 1950 U.S. Open, Ben Hogan won for the first time since his near-fatal car crash early in 1949. A plaque in the 18th fairway of Merion East acknowledges the famous 1-iron Hogan played from that position in the final round.

• Jack Nicklaus lost a playoff to Lee Trevino at the 1971 U.S. Open at Merion, and finished tied for sixth at the 1981 U.S. Open at Merion. But he did win at Merion: Nicklaus led the USA to victory in the 1960 World Amateur Team Championship with scores of 66, 67, 68 and 68.

• As per usual, Trevino was ready with a quip after winning that 1971 playoff over Nicklaus. Said Trevino: "I love Merion, and I don't even know her last name."

• Merion's junior boys championship is called the Stewart Cup, and its junior girls championship the Baruch Cup.

• In addition to the adult Amateur and Open majors listed above, Merion East was also the site of the 1998 U.S. Girls Junior Amateur won by Leigh Anne Hardin. The winner of the Girls Am receives the Glenna Collett Vare Trophy from the USGA. Collett was a member at Merion.