My Days at Merion
by Jeff Skinner
Since the weather report was horrible for opening day we were resigned to having Thursday washed out and as we drove down towards Philly the rain got worse and worse. But as we cruised into Ardmore, PA the weather turned. By the time we walked onto the course about noon, the players were just returning from an early morning rain delay.
It was perfect timing and we saw a solid afternoon of golf. We spent a good portion of time at the long, torturous par three third hole. And the players were having difficulty hitting the green then at 250 yards. So when Phil Mickelson bitched at Mike Davis on Sunday about the 274 yard, into the wind setup he had already been frustrated for a few days. That hole was brutal.
We took some time to see some of the rest of the course that day but headed out during the second weather delay about 6:30pm.
On Friday we took some time for a little golf of our own at another “old school” course near Philly. Jeffersonville Golf Club is an old Donald Ross design that opened in 1931. It was restored in 2001 and is probably one of the best buys on the east coast. Now, Matt Ginella of The Morning Drive had mentioned Jeffersonville as a good choice for golf for those attending the Open but my astute brother had booked our tee time long before Matty G’s recommendation.
The course was simply amazing. For $40, with cart, each hole was better than the last. Old Mr. Ross got the better of me as I found his “hidden bunkers” with regularity. The clubhouse looks like it has seen better days but the starters warned us to not judge Jeffersonville until we get a few holes under our belt. They were right. It was as an enjoyable round of golf as you could have. There were challenges on each hole and the greens were very interesting. You really had to think your way to the green and then try and figure out Ross’ intricately, subtle green complexes. I only wish it wasn’t three hours away because I would be a regular there for sure.
Saturday we were back at the Open and had staked out some good viewing spots that fit our strict requirements. There has to be a good view of a good hole and we needed some shade. That’s not an easy task at Merion.
Many of the holes had restricted access and fans could only get to one side of the holes. And as you could see there weren’t many trees to offer shade on many of the holes.
But we found a great spot near the green at the famous eleventh were we could see the approach and the entire green in the cool comfort of some huge shade trees. It was Bobby Jones’ hole and watching the golfers come through there gave us a sense of how it was when Jones walked these links.
The majority of our afternoon was spent alongside the par three ninth hole. With views of the third, the fourth, and some of the second, fifth and tenth holes it was one of the premier viewing spots on the course. And of course it had our requisite shade.
From that perch we watched all the players come through and saw plenty of great golf and a lot of tough breaks. No one could make a putt on that green.
This Open was a bit different from the bunch of other Opens that I’ve been to. There were less fans on the course but also less viewing areas. Because of the holes being so close to get anywhere you had to deal with crossing the holes at designated crossings and that always took quite awhile.
But the compactness of Merion also allowed us to see plenty of golf from the right spot and the history of Merion seemed to seep through our shoes.
We tried a few new things at Merion like forsaking the free U.S. Open parking lots which require a long bus ride back to the course. Instead we choose to try some “local” parking. One day we paid to park in a driveway close to the course and on Saturday we paid to park in an office building’s lot that was even closer to the course. From there it was a short walk to the gate and the course. That’s one of the perks of having the Open at a venue that is surrounded by a community.
Instead of a few frustrating hours dealing with lines and the bus rides we had more time on the course and that’s what it was all about. Oh yea, and that weather… it turned out great for us.
Phase two of my “June of Golf” expedition is in the books and it was a great one indeed. I clocked 470 miles, 27 holes of golf, two sore feet and quite a few beverages. And it was one hell of an Open.
Next up, the Travelers Championship.