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Sun shines on the righteous

We lucked out massively yesterday at the Merion Golf Club. The forecasters were predicting all kinds of doomsday scenarios – thunder, lightning, tornadoes, flash flooding, 75 mph winds – neither of which happened in the leafy Philadelphia suburb of Haverford, named incidentally from the Welsh town of Haverfordwest after this little corner of Pennsylvania was founded by the Welsh Quakers in 1681.

Early morning the sun beamed through my Philly hotel room window, but by the time we boarded our mini-bus around 9am, the sky was as dark as the night and the rain fell heavily for the whole 40-minute journey. Play had already been stopped before we left the hotel, and others in the lobby looked at us foolhardily as they clearly decided to hang tight in the sanctuary of the hotel.

However by the time we reached the Merion the rain had turned to a drizzle and after getting ourselves settled in the Grand Slam Village, the scoreboards flashed up that play would restart in an hour.

Players started from the 1st and the 10th tee, and we took advantage of the scant crowds and hung out on the 14th fairway with a view of the hole and watched a number of groups play through at close range after the restart. We also gave an interview to a lady from the Philadelphia Inquirer, probably drawn to us by the range of different accents and the fact that all 12 of us were wearing identical pink golf shirts.

After lunch and a little retail therapy we then spent the rest of the afternoon sat in the grandstand by the 17th hole which gave us magnificent views from the tee-box to the hole of the 17th and the 18th, which stretches 521-yards and is a par four!

Admittedly I had to throw my trainers away ruined by the mud, but I was glad I took my sunglasses especially later as the sun shone brightly over a stroppy Tiger Woods, who we watched bogey the 1st hole before we made our way back to downtown Philly.

The Merion Golf Club is beautiful, began by members of a cricket club in 1896, the greens are small and the fairways narrow with either stunning homes or challenging hazards lining them. It is a boutique course, as opposed to many of the prodigious PGA tour venues in the U.S.

Wicker baskets sit on top of the pins instead of flags. No one seems to know why but it is a glorious show of individuality and a tradition first started in 1915. It does however give a new perspective to hitting the pin as this clip of my tip Lee Westwood shows. It was just a shame that the U.S. PGA had taken over all of the merchandising and I couldn’t buy myself a mini wicker basket as a souvenir.

The Merion complete with it’s wicker baskets, is a gem of a golf course, that uses all of it’s natural beauty to provide a extremely challenging test for the world’s best golfers. I’m very glad I saw it, especially in the sunshine.

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