Merion GC – East
1. Routing: 9
Unusual “L-shaped” routing because of the 150-acre parcel’s shape and the need to cross a road for holes 2-12. Non-returning nines. Newly lengthened tees threaten to create a crossfire effect on some holes that marginally weakens the intimate routing. Course starts and ends at the clubhouse like no other.
2. Quality of shaping: 8
Tall fescue atop and around the rolled-down faces of these bunkers is a cleaner, more modern finish than the previous craggy edges. Tees – especially the newer, elongated ones – are a bit unwieldy and inconsistent in shape.
3. Overall land plan: 9
The whole place feels like an old heathlands park surrounded by small manor houses, with a creaky, circa 1824 farmstead that serves as the clubhouse and a scruffy, sepia-toned quality to the grounds. Locker room looks like it’s part of an elegant high school gym, with the best showerheads in golf.
4. Greens and surrounds: 10
Greens average 5,500 square feet, with good variance and ideal subtlety – without heavy decking. No monoculture stand here; six varieties of bent ensure healthy conditions in a climate that’s hard to manage. Greens at Nos. 5, 12 and 15 are overly steep and lack adequate hole locations.
5. Variety and memorability of par 3s: 10
Perhaps the finest collection of varied par 3s in the country, with holes ranging from a wedge to a fairway wood.
6. Variety and memorability of par 4s: 10
Even with five that are driver-wedge, a stern test throughout.
7. Variety and memorability of par 5s: 8
Second shots are crucial.
8. Tree and landscape management: 9
Course has plenty of “air underneath” for playability and interior views, with the bulk of trees concentrated on the exterior. A bit of odd variety in some of the ornamental plantings (clumpy dunes grass at No. 13; broom plants at No. 14), but overall it’s pleasantly informal.
9. Conditioning: 10
Superintendent Matt Shaffer has cultivated a wonderfully varied texture of firm bentgrasses down the middle, framed by roughs of tall fescue/rye/bents and hard fescues.
10. “Walk in the park” test: 10
Every hole has a distinct character, each a lovely stopping-off point on a perfect stroll through golf history.
Storied, inspiring, frumpy throughout and deserving of its ranking as No. 4 on the Golfweek’s Best Classic list.