Photo Gallery: Merion Golf Club (East Course)

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The First Tee at Merion East

A view of the first tee and the clubhouse on the East Course at Merion Golf Club
Nothing fancy about the first teeing ground at Merion. The course starts just outside the clubhouse. Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

Merion Golf Club in Pennsylvania has two 18-hole tracks: the East Course and West Course. The East Course is the one featured in the photos below: Merion East has been the site of many USGA championships, including multiple U.S. Opens. Merion East is considered among the top handful of golf courses in the USA.

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Where the Course Begins ...

This is where Merion Golf Club's East Course begins, at this simple-looking teeing ground of the No. 1 hole. The tee box is right next to the clubhouse patio, with Merion's dining room on the second floor looking down on the action.

The first hole plays up to 350 yards and to a par of 4. It doglegs to the right, but a stand of large trees at the corner makes trying to drive the green unlikely. Instead, most pro golfers play a long iron, hybrid or fairway wood from this tee, then wedge it to the green.

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Hole 4 at Merion Golf Club

Merion Golf Club Hole 4
East Course A view of the greens complex of the fourth hole at Merion. Drew Hallowell / Getty Images

There are two par-5 holes on Merion East: the second, and this one, No. 4. (That's right: after the fourth hole, golfers don't see another par-5 the rest of the round.)

The fourth hole is the longest on the course at 628 yards. The landing area is strongly canted from right to left, making the drive a tricky one. The drive is also partially blind, but should be played down the right side, with the second shot playing up the fairway to the left side in order to provide the best angle into the green. A large cross bunker also complicates the second shot, not because it's in the way of the shot but because it obstructs the view of the golfer playing over it.

The No. 4 green slopes from back to front and is fronted by a creek.

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Hole No. 5 at Merion East

Merion Golf Club Hole 5
The No. 5 hole at Merion Golf Club. Drew Hallowell / Getty Images

The fifth hole on Merion's East Course is a par-4 that tops out at just over 500 yards, but it might play even longer than that: it's uphill and into the prevailing wind. There is water down the left side all the way, and the fairway both doglegs and slopes right-to-left. The green is the most sloping on the golf course.

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Merion Hole No. 7

Merion Golf Club Hole 7
East Course The 7th hole at Merion Golf Club. Drew Hallowell / Getty Images

Holes 7 through 13 on the East Course at Merion are a series of shorter holes - they collectively average just over 300 yards, and only one is longer than 400 yards - that demand precise shot location and belie the idea that length is everything.

Hole No. 7 is a 360-yard par-4 with a row of trees and out-of-bounds down the right-hand side. The elevated green shouldn't be missed left, because the golfer will be way below the level of the green. The green itself has three tiers.

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Hole No. 8 at Merion East

Merion Golf Club Hole 8
Merion Golf Club's 8th hole. Drew Hallowell / Getty Images

The green on the 8th hole of the East Course at Merion Golf Club slopes from back left to front right, and the front is guarded by a deep bunker with a high lip. That means most players (pros will probably be hitting wedges into the green) will play to the back of the green and try to bring the ball down to the hole. But over the green is a very bad place to wind up.

The 8th hole is a par-4 that plays to 359 yards. It's possible for long hitter to take aim at this green on their drive if the tees are played up.

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9th Hole at Merion

Merion Golf Club Hole 9
East Course A view of the No. 9 hole at Merion Golf Club. Drew Hallowell / Getty Images

The front nine at Merion East closes with a challenging par-3, and a par-3 hole that - unlike most American golf layouts - does not return to the golfer to the clubhouse.

Hole No. 9 plays to 236 yards, but what club you hit from the tee can vary widely from day to day. The hole plays downhill, for one; wind direction and strength has a large effect; and the kidney-shaped green is nearly 40 yards deep, so there is a lot of leeway in distance to the pin when the course is being set up.

Merion's 9th hole is fronted by a pond and there is water on the right side, too.

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Merion East: Hole No. 10

Merion Golf Club Hole 10
Merion's 10th hole and one of its signature wicker baskets atop the flagstick. Drew Hallowell / Getty Images

The back nine on the East Course at Merion Golf Club has no par-5 holes, so it's a par-34 (as opposed to the par of 36 for the front nine).

And that back nine opens here, with a par-4 that tops out at only 303 yards. The fairway is narrow and curves hard left near the green, and there are bunkers left and right of the green. Those who try to drive the green - and many do - must not miss left or they face trying to hack their ball out of deep fescue.

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The Bobby Jones Plaque at Merion Golf Club

Bobby Jones Plaque at Merion Golf Club
A plaque honoring Bobby Jones' 1930 US Amateur victory at Merion is affixed to this boulder by the No. 11 tee. Drew Hallowell / Getty Images

A plaque honoring Bobby Jones is part of the teeing area on the 11th hole at Merion East. If you can't make out the words on the plaque in the photo above, here is the simple message contained on the plaque:

On September 27, 1930
and on this hole
Robert Tyre Jones Jr.
completed his "Grand Slam"
by winning
the U.S. Amateur Championship

Jones' 1930 season is one of the magical years in golf history. Jones first won the British Open and British Amateur - his third Open Championship win, but his first and only British Am victory.

Then he returned to the USA and won the U.S. Open by two strokes over Macdonald Smith. That left only the U.S. Amateur to become the first (and still only) golfer to win a "Grand Slam." (The current notion of the Grand Slam - winning all four professional majors - didn't take hold until decades later. The Masters didn't yet exist in 1930, and Jones, as an amateur, wasn't eligible to play the PGA Championship.)

The 1930 U.S. Amateur at Merion Golf Club's East Course was won by Jones over Eugene Homans, 8 and 7, in the championship match. Which means that the 11th hole at Merion East is where Jones completed the Grand Slam.

Merion was a special place for Jones, and there is still a strong association between the Jones and Merion names. Jones' first appearance on the national golf scene was as a 14-year-old, playing the 1916 U.S. Amateur at Merion. Jones reached the quarterfinals before losing.

Then, he won the 1924 U.S. Amateut at Merion, his first win in that tournament. Then his final win in that tournament - his final major victory and completion of the Grand Slam - happened at Merion in 1930.

Yes, that deserves a plaque!

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Merion East's 11th Hole

Merion Golf Club Hole 11
A view of Merion's 11th hole. Drew Hallowell / Getty Images

The 11th hole at Merion East is famous in golf history as the final hole played by Bobby Jones in his Grand Slam year - and, in fact, in his match-play tournament career, since he retired from competitive golf (save for some Masters appearances) shortly after winning the 1930 U.S. Amateur on this hole.

Hole No. 11 is a par-4 that plays 367 yards from the tournament tees. It's a fairly straight hole by Merion's standards, but a water hazard named Baffling Brook runs cuts across the fairway, then up the right side of the green, and wraps around behind the green. The shot from the teeing ground to the narrow fairway is blind, but hitting the fairway is the key. Approaches out of the rough to the green are perilous.

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Hole 14 at Merion Golf Club

Merion Golf Club Hole 14
East Course Hole No. 14 at Merion Golf Club. Drew Hallowell / Getty Images

The 14th hole at Merion East is a par-4 that plays as long as 464 yards. The hole plays uphill, too, with fescue rough to the left of the landing area and several bunkers down the right. The hole doglegs gently right to left, so a running draw is a great shot if you have it off the tee. There is out-of-bounds left of the green.

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Hole No. 15 at Merion (East Course)

Merion Golf Club Hole 15
The 15th hole at Merion Golf Club. Drew Hallowell / Getty Images

There are multiple tee shots at Merion where the teeing ground misaligns the golfer; that is, if the golfer drives the ball in the direction the teeing ground points, he will be driving into trouble. The 15th hole of the East Course is one of those, with the tee box pointing toward out-of-bounds left of the fairway.

The 15th hole is a par-4 that tips out at 411 yards. Out of bounds is close on the left, but to the right of the dogleg (left to right) fairway is thick rough plus multiple of those deep, eyebrowed Merion bunkers.

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17th Hole, Merion Golf Club

Merion Golf Club Hole 17
East Course The rustic-looking path from the tee to the green on Hole No. 17 of the East Course at Merion. Drew Hallowell / Getty Images

The 17th hole on the East Course is a par-3 that plays to an amphitheater green and tips out at 246 yards in length, the longest par-3 at Merion. But it can be played 50 yards shorter than that, too, depending on which teeing ground is used; it is also slightly downhill from the tee to the green. The 17th green has one of the more pronounced false fronts on the East Course.

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The Ben Hogan Plaque at Merion

Ben Hogan Plaque at Merion Golf Club
Commemorating Hogan's Famous 1-Iron in the 1950 US Open The Ben Hogan Plaque in the No. 18 fairway at Merion, next to the US Open trophy. Drew Hallowell / Getty Images

On the 18th hole at Merion East, there is a small plaque embedded in the fairway, with this simple inscription:

June 10, 1950
U.S. Open
Fourth Round
Ben Hogan
One Iron

The plaque commemorates one of the most famous shots in golf history - a stroke famous both because of the circumstances but also because it was captured in what some consider the greatest golf photograph. Hogan's 1-iron at Merion in the 1950 U.S. Open. It - the shot and the photo and the legend - are iconic.

Sixteen months before the 1950 U.S. Open, Ben Hogan was nearly killed in a car crash. Following months in the hospital and more months of rehabilitation, Hogan began practicing again, and resumed his tournament career one year later at the Los Angeles Open. (Hogan would suffer from circulatory problems and severe leg pain the rest of his life, the result of blood clotting because of the injuries suffered in the wreck.)

And Hogan nearly pulled off the perfect comeback: He made it into a playoff at the 1950 Los Angeles Open, but Sam Snead beat him over the 18-hole playoff.

So Hogan's comeback victory had to wait. Then he arrived at Merion. And playing in obvious pain - especially on the 36-hole final day - Hogan put himself in position again. Hogan needed to par Merion's par-4 18th hole - then playing 458 yards - to force another playoff.

The very tired Hogan, in pain, still had more than 200 yards left, uphill, into the wind, after his tee shot. He pulled 1-iron and struck it true, the ball finding the green. And after a 2-putt par, Hogan found himself in another playoff, this time against Lloyd Mangrum and George Fazio.

And this time, Hogan won the playoff - his first victory since the horrific car crash that nearly took his life. And in the playoff, Hogan - feeling better since he was playing only his 18th hole of the day rather than his 36th - needed only a 5-iron to reach Merion's 18th green.

And today, on Merion East's 18th fairway, a simple, small plaque marks the spot from which Hogan hit that 1-iron in 1950.

(The 1-iron itself, after being lost for decades and then rediscovered, is in the USGA Museum today.)

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Hole No. 18, Merion Golf Club (East)

Merion Golf Club Hole 18
A view up the 18th fairway of the East Course at Merion Golf Club. Drew Hallowell / Getty Images

And Merion comes to an end with the 521-yard, par-4 18th hole. The landing area around 300 yards off the tee runs downhill and right-to-left, and the semi-blind tee shot must carry the quarry that Merion East's final three holes traverse. The choice off the tee is to try to catch the downhill run, thus getting yourself possibly a short iron into the green; or to lay back short of the canted portion of the fairway but need a mid- to long iron into the green. The short-iron option means the golfer has to play from a hanging downhill lie, but the green runs front to back and is much harder to hold with the longer approach option.