By Aidan Elder | U.S. Open betting
Short, easy on the eye, but surprisingly nasty. Nope, that’s not Sergio Garcia’s updated biography on the US PGA website, it’s the brief description of the East Course at Merion Golf Club.
The Pennsylvania course plays host to the latest edition of the US Open and its idiosyncrasies will provide us with four days of major drama. In recent years, the tournament has developed a reputation for being played on tough, unforgiving tracks. Only five of the last ten Opens have been won with under par scores and if the Merion course shows us its teeth, we could see lots more plus numbers over the next view days.
The East Course’s rather diminutive stature is the main talking point. Yes it’s shorter than the odds of Tiger Woods ever going around to Sergio’s for dinner, but don’t mistake ‘short’ for ‘easy’. It is designed to reward accurate approach play, shrewd course management and the occasional calculated risk. It’s the perfect venue for golf – as long as you’re watching from the comfort of your sofa and not actually playing it. Here’s the Paddy Power Blog’s run-down of Merion’s East Course.
Hole 1 | 350 Yards | Par 4
It’s a straightforward start for the pros. Straightforward once you avoid the bunkers either side of the fairway as it begins to dogleg to the right. In theory it’s driveable in one, but in theory Ian Poulter could eventually stumble upon some pants that are remotely fashionable. Going for broke on the opening hole probably isn’t the best idea, unless you fancy the weekend off.
Hole 2 | 556 Yards | Par 5
In a theme that runs throughout the 18, the second is trickier than first appearances might suggest. A wayward drive will be punished either by going out of bounds to the right or with thick-ish rough to the left. The green is gettable in two, but is guarded by five bunkers, including one nasty looking fecker to the front.
Hole 3 | 256 Yards | Par 3
Despite being a long-ish par three, there’s nowt too intimidating about the third. That is until you look at the elevated green, which is large and a slopped in the direction of a deep bunker to the front right. Pin position will dictate just how tricky this one plays over the four days, but if you’re not on the dancefloor in one, you’ll struggle to make par.
Hole 4 | 628 Yards | Par 5
The good news is, four holes in and you’ve already got the longest hole on the course behind you. The bad news is, it’s a bit of a bitch. The second of the course’s Par 5s gives players the chance of hitting a wide fairway, but one that is slopped heavily to the left. Then it’s a blind lay up over a bunker and the crest of a hill to hopefully leave a short iron approach shot. Even if you manage that successfully, the creek and seven bunkers and one creek that surround the green are there to snaffle any overconfident, wayward shooting.
Hole 5 | 504 Yards | Par 4
Again, golfing karma strikes as what appears to be an easy enough approach comes back to bite you in the ass with a very tough green. Your approach shot will need to be pretty good to give you a shot at birdie on this sloping green. The chances are if you come away with a par, you’ll be feeling pretty damn smug for someone wearing ridiculous coloured pants.
Hole 6 | 487 Yards | Par 4
If you’re a pro – and at this point I’m assuming you’re not because the Paddy Power Blog description of the East Course probably isn’t up to the standards you probably require – this is another straightforward drive followed by potentially nasty approach shot which will be uphill, towards a sloped green with a false front for added sneaky trickiness. See there is a trend emerging.
Hole 7 | 360 Yards | Par 4
Most of the first third of the course is about survival, but the seventh is a genuine birdie opportunity. Trees down the right hand side are a minor concern, but as these guys aren’t 18 handicappers, they should avoid trouble. Pin position will be crucial as this three tiered green could leave you with a nasty putt.
Hole 8 | 359 Yards | Par 4
There’s another chance for birdie on the eighth. Bunkers on either side of the fairway will punish wayward drives, but a decent landing area means most players should steer clear of trouble. The approach shot should be short and simple enough, but the green is small and anything short will likely end up in the cavernous bunker that guards the front of the dance-floor.
Hole 9 | 236 Yards | Par 3
Like so many of the holes on this course, a straightforward looking hole is complicated by the green. A water hazard to the front and five bunkers surrounding the putting surface mean anything not quite right will land you in trouble. If you adopt the cautious approach in the hope of landing it safely on the dance floor, there’s every chance you’ll be left with a monster putt across a large and rolling green.
Hole 10 | 303 Yards | Par 4
The back nine starts with players deciding to indulge their ‘grip it and rip it’ side or their more timid side. The short par four is drivable from the tee, but such a shot will need to carry the rough and large bunkers to the left of a hole that doglegs sharply from right to left. A long bunker behind the green will punish anyone who over-hits their ‘go for broke’ drive.
Hole 11 | 367 Yards | Par 4
Players should have little trouble finding the fairway on 11, but it’s only then the fun and games start. A short-ish iron will get you onto the green in two, but the fact that water borders the putting surface to the front, right and rear means there’s little margin for error. A bunker to the left completes the fortifications on a hole that could prove trickier than it looks from the tee.
Hole 12 | 403 Yards | Par 4
Unless you’re proving to be as accurate as a Wikipedia profile, there’s not much to worry about when driving down the 12th. Just where your ball ends up on the sloping fairway however will dictate your chances of negotiating the sharp left to right dogleg successfully. The green is guarded by bunkers left and right and there’s a high possibility of seeing some three putts on this long, narrow and sloping green.
Hole 13 | 115 Yards | Par 3
It’s a hole so short it wouldn’t look out of place on a pitch and putt course. The green is guarded by about four and a half bunkers, but it’s a decent size considering you’ll be going at it with a wedge so you’d be disappointed to need the rake. The putt won’t be straightforward however thanks to the contours of the putting surface.
Hole 14 | 464 Yards | Par 4
It’s not really been a picnic so far, but the party is well and truly over now that we’re at the 14th and heading down one of the toughest closing stretches in the US. Players will drive uphill to a tricky fairway guarded by bunkers and rough. The green is large, but miss it to the left and there’s a chance your ball will run downhill and out of bounds. This one looks more dangerous than leaving your phone unattended shortly after you’ve sent text messages to your various mistresses.
Hole 15 | 411 Yards | Par 4
It’s not the longest hole, but it’s arguably the toughest tee shot on the course. The fairway is narrow, with bunkers and thick rough to the right and out of bounds markers looming stalkerishly to the left. The green is large-ish, but severely slopped in the direction of a nasty bunker to the front left.
Hole 16 | 430 Yards | Par 4
Any hole with its own nickname is always a bit of a worry and the ‘Quarry Hole’ lives up to that reputation. Good course management is required as players may sacrifice distance for the sake of a better position for their approach shot. That approach shot will most likely be over the aforementioned quarry to a green which lacks major hazards, but makes up for it with a large slope to the front right.
Hole 17 | 246 Yards | Par 3
You’re nearly back in the clubhouse and you can almost smell the cigar Miguel Angel Jimenez is smugly smoking on the balcony. The bunkers are a bit of a concern, the main challenge of this hole is the large ridge to the front of the green which will need to be passed in order to stay on the putting surface rather than rolling agonisingly (and amusingly) down past the fringe.
Hole 18 | 521 Yards | Par 4
If you haven’t yet dumped the clubs into the quarry yet, the closing hole might just seal the deal. There is no margin for error off the tee to a small enough landing area. From there, it’s uphill across some undulating terrain to a dome-shaped green that will try it’s best to send your ball anywhere but the putting surface.
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