Golf Digest recently released its annual list of top 100 courses in America and Merion Golf Club’s historic East Course and Aronimink Golf Club, the Donald Ross gem in Newtown Square, continue to hold down places in the prestigious rankings.
Merion’s East Course, a Hugh Wilson design (with a few tweaks from his first superintendent William Flynn, I’m fairly certain), stands at No. 5. The 2013 U.S. Open, won by Justin Rose with a 1-over 281 total, did nothing to damage the esteem with which the layout in the Ardmore section of Haverford Township is held.
Just when it was starting to look like the U.S. Open would never return to Merion, where it had been staged four times, but not since 1981, USGA executive director Mike Davis took a chance and decided to try to overcome some seemingly staggering logistical odds and bring the 2013 Open back to the East Course. It was, in so many ways, a rousing success, so much so that the Daily Times sports staff named the golf course our 2013 Sports Figure of the Year.
Merion East remains one notch ahead of Pennsylvania’s other most popular U.S. Open site, the sixth-rated Oakmont Country Club, which straddles the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Allegheny County. Golf Digest also gives Merion the nod over Oakmont as the best course in Pennsylvania, but it’s really just 1 and 1A in the minds of most golfers in our fair state.
Aronimink sits at 90 on the top 100. The course, which hosted the 1962 PGA Championship won by Gary Player, gained quite a bit of notoriety with its two-year run hosting the AT&T National in 2010 and 2011 as the event took a hiatus from Congressional Country Club in suburban Washington D.C. while it played host to the 2011 U.S. Open.
Justin Rose won the 2010 AT&T National at Aronimink, giving him two of the biggest wins of his career within the county lines of Delaware County. Great golf courses identify great players.
If you dig a little deeper, Golf Digest also lists the top courses in each state and one more Delco course makes that list with Rolling Green Golf Club, site of the 1976 U.S. Women’s Open and preparing to host the U.S. Women’s Amateur in 2016, ranked 18th in Pennsylvania.
Rolling Green, like No. 13 Philadelphia Country Club and No. 14 Huntingdon Valley Country Club, is a William Flynn design.
Pennsylvania will be well-represented on the USGA championship schedule in 2016. In addition to the Women’s Amateur at Rolling Green, the Open will be staged at Oakmont for the ninth time and the U.S. Men’s Mid-Amateur championship will be coming to the northwest corner of Chester County when Stonewell hosts that championship.
Stonewall’s Old Course is the 10th-ranked course in Pennsylvania by Golf Digest.
And speaking of USGA championships, it was announced this week that Philadelphia Cricket Club will play host to the USGA’s newest event, the Four-Ball Championship in 2020. The Four-Ball championships for men and women take the place of the Public Links championships on the USGA calendar beginning this year.
The men will be at the Cricket Club in 2020. The 1907 and 1910 U.S. Opens were staged at the Cricket Club’s original St. Martins Course . But the Wissahickon Course, a classic design by A.W. Tillinghast, opened for play in 1922. The Wissahickon Course is ranked as the 12th best course in Pennsylvania by Golf Digest.
The Cricket Club will play host to the PGA Professional National Championship -- it will always be the National Club Pro to me – this summer. Part of the Cricket Club’s appeal as a tournament site is the addition of the Militia Hill Course, a Dr. Michael Hurzdan and Dana Fry production that opened in 2002. With two championship courses, the Cricket Club can handle the kind of large field that the National Club Pro will have before it is cut as well as qualifying rounds for match play in the Four-Ball Championship.
The inaugural U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship will be held May 2 to 6 of this year at The Olympic Club in San Francisco. A week later the inaugural U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship will be held at the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Bandon, Ore. Brynn Walker, the Radnor junior who won the PIAA championship last fall, teamed up with Council Rock North junior Madelein Herr to qualify for the event.
Almost forgot, so which is the No. 1 course in America, according to Golf Digest? That would be Augusta National, that course you can’t wait to see on TV when the Masters gets under way in April. Augusta National overtook Pine Valley Golf Club, the rugged gem in the New Jersey Pine Barrens near Clementon.
Both courses have their passionate defenders, but that’s the point of making up this kind of list, to fuel a few arguments at the 19th hole. Let’s face it, to be a top-100 course in America, you have to be pretty darn good and Delaware County is fortunate to have two such layouts inside its county lines.