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Feature on quirks of merion golf course

The 113th US Open kicks off Thurday at the Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, a course celebrating its 117th birthday which is highly regarded as one of the best in America, despite also being one of the smallest - just 126 acres.

It has tons of character, including wicker baskets atop the pins rather than flags, made anonymously by a woman in South Carolina.

This is just the fifth time the US Open has been held at Merion, and the sport has changed amazingly in that timeframe. The 1934 Open featured a winning prize of $1,000 for Olin Dutra. The next two times the course hosted the major, Ben Hogan (1950) and Lee Trevino (1971) took the crowns. In 1981, the last year Merion hosted, David Graham won $55,000 for taking the title.

With the course so small, the crowds and even some of the buildings are close to the action, which can be somewhat disconcerting, particularly for first-timers.
Here are a few of the highlights of this remarkable course:
No. 1 - This par-4, 350-yard hole has its tee box side by side with the patio of the clubhouse. Lunch patrons, who will surely be paying top dollar this weekend, are silences along with the regular fans when a player tees off. A well-placed sycamore means there'll be no driving to the green. Just a little taste of the course for the faint of heart.
No. 4 - At 628 yards, this par-5 is easily the longest hole on the course, but its designers didn't just make length an issue. The tee box has been repositioned to make fairway bunkers a tough obstacle to avoid, including one that runs parallel to the tee box which renders the green out of view on a second shot. Not tough enough? A creek lies just in front of the green for those willing to risk a blind gamble.
No. 9 - No it's not a misprint, this par-3 is just 236 yards, but it might as well be on an island surrounded by lava for all the obstacles along the way. Not only does the hole slope downhill to the green, but there's water both to the right and in front of it.
No. 14 - At 464 yards, it's one of the longer holes, but the real difficulty lies in bunkers where most drives will touch down, not to mention the tall grass off to the left. Missing here will almost certainly lead to out-of-bound penalty strokes.
No. 17 - All the world's a stage on the par-3, 246-yarder thanks to built-in amphitheater seating. The slope is so steep here that there's a built-in set of stairs with hand rails. The slopes mean anything in front of the hole can lead to a late-round meltdown.

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