by Jeff Skinner
U.S. Open Countdown: 44 days
Today was Media Day for the 113th U.S. Open to be held at Merion Golf Club in June. USGA Executive Director Mike Davis spoke to the Morning Drive this morning and you could hear the excitement in his voice.
Returning The Open to Merion is one of “the highlights of my career” he said and he used the word “magical” many times when speaking of the iconic course which has an unparalleled history.
Merion’s layout only uses about 111 acres, even a “small course” measures 150 acres and many Open venues have 220 acres available. Putting the Open on such a small piece of property presents some logistical issues but Davis is certain the players and fans will have little inconvenience and it was important to bring the Open back to this “architectural gem” and Merion’s size is one of the attributes that “makes it so magical.”
Plenty of magic was made on the holes of Merion as the USGA has conducted 15 of its championships there starting in 1904. Bobby Jones, Chick Evans, Ben Hogan, Lee Trevino, Jack Nicklaus and David Graham all wrote chapters in the history books of Merion.
One of the key tenets in the USGA’s mission statement is to “Celebrate the history of the game.” And the cornerstone of that “celebration” is the USGA Museum on the campus of the USGA in Far Hills, New Jersey. I spent day there last month to feed my “golfing Jones” and am making plans to head back. It was that good.
Here’s the Museum’s mission statement: The USGA Museum is an educational institution dedicated to fostering an appreciation for the game of golf, its participants, and the association. It serves as a caretaker and steward for the game’s history, supporting the association’s role in ensuring the game’s future.
When I say I spent the day there I mean I spent the day, all day. The museum is packed with so much history and artifacts that a golf junkie needs hours just to try and take it all in. Even at that I am planning to get back to spend more time there and visit the Research Center and the Test Center.
Any golf fan will be mesmerized by the sheer volume of memorabilia that the USGA is able to display and there isn’t a golfer or a time in the history of golf that isn’t featured.
I started my tour in the Arnold Palmer Room which highlights The King in all phases of his life both on and off the course. It’s easy to get lost in the videos and interactive displays in addition to all the “Arnie Stuff” on display.
Next was a display on Mickey Wright, the LPGA pioneer and who Ben Hogan said had “The greatest golf swing I ever saw.”
The Hall of Champions houses many of the original trophies of all the USGA’s Championships and is its own Hall of Fame.
From the birth of golf in America to the present day, there isn’t a phase or a golfer that is not featured in the Museum.
There are exhibits entitled The Dawn of American Golf (features Francis Ouimet) The Golden Age, The Depression and World War II, The Comeback Age, The Age of The Super Powers and The Global Game. Click here to explore the USGA’s online history.
After spending hours in these exhibits I realized I needed to save some time for two of the most significant displays, The Bobby Jones Room and The Ben Hogan Room. These two icons of the game are rewarded with their own very detailed exhibits and any fan will marvel at the detail and quantity of the artifacts on display. They actually have Hogan’s locker among the dozens of trophies, clubs, balls and other pieces of history.
To say that The USGA honors the game of golf at the USGA Museum is an understatement. They actually worship the game and the USGA Museum felt like the “holy land” as I wandered from room to room.
For any regular golfer or fan of the game the USGA Museum is a day well spent. For a fan of the history of the game and the myriad of personalities that formed this crazy game of golf the USGA Museum is a must see.
The staff is helpful and eager to help any visitor and the quality of the displays is amazing. And the sheer quantity of everything golf can be overwhelming and that’s just why I am heading back. It’s a very special experience.