What the USGA announcement of future U.S. Opens means for Merion and Oakmont

Golf course news and notes: August, 2021.
Merion Golf Club's East Course will host the 2030 and 2050 U.S. Opens.

Pennsylvania was the big winner in a press conference held Wednesday during the 2021 U.S. Amateur at Oakmont Country Club.

The United States Golf Association announced the assignment of multiple U.S. Opens to Oakmont and Merion Golf Club's East Course, the legendary course in suburban Philadelphia that last held the USGA's most prestigious event in 2013, won by Justin Rose.

The return to Merion for the 2030 U.S. Open will mark a historical milestone: a century on from 1930, when Bobby Jones completed his legendary single-year Grand Slam by winning the U.S. Amateur there. That event will also return to Merion soon, in 2026.

"Starting with its formation, the desire to host significant championships has been at Merion’s core. It is no wonder Merion has hosted more USGA championships than any other club in America,” said Buddy Marucci, a great amateur player and Merion Golf Club's championship chair. "Merion is a key, longstanding partner of the USGA."

Merion's East Course is one of America's best, currently rated 6th on Golf Digest's current "America's 100 Greatest" list and 8th on GOLF Magazine's "Top 100 Courses in the U.S." list. Designed by Hugh Wilson with input over the years from great Golden Age architects like William Flynn and Perry Maxwell, the course underwent a seven-figure restoration project in 2014 by Gil Hanse with the goal of not only improving all aspects of the course's design and conditioning for the membership, but also being able to host future championships like the upcoming U.S. Amateur and U.S. Open.

Despite its historic and architectural bona fides, though, Merion is at a slight disadvantage relative to other long-established favorite USGA hosts, like Oakmont or Winged Foot. Its relatively small footprint of just 126 acres makes it significantly undersized for the typical amound of infrastructure that accompanies a U.S. Open. In 2013, the USGA throttled ticket sales back significantly for the event. And seeing as the U.S. Open is the organization's most lucrative event, it is hard to bring it to such a limited site so often.

Another factor at play with Merion is the course's length: just 6,996 yards when all back tees are used, making it 680 yards shorter than 2021 host Torrey Pines played in the final round of this year's championship. Yes, Merion does boast three par 3s that can play more than 250 yards, but with a half-dozen par 4s that top out below 400 yards, it primarily used fearsome greens and slimmed-down fairways to defend par in 2013 when pre-tournament rains caused soggy conditions.

With its next turn hosting the U.S. Open nine years away, it is possible that the equipment the field uses could be a little less potent. With the USGA looking at its equipment regulations, it could turn out that the East Course will have a bit more teeth in 2030, much to the delight of those in favor of equipment rollbacks.

RELATED: Future U.S. Open venues

Other golf course news and notes

Oakmont Country Club has been named an "anchor site" for the U.S. Open by the USGA. It will host the event in 2025, 2034, 2042 and 2049.

OAKMONT NAMED ANCHOR SITE - Teeing up the Merion U.S. Open announcement, the USGA also named this week's U.S. Amateur host Oakmont Country Club its second "anchor site," joining Pinehurst No. 2. Oakmont will host the 2025, 2034, 2042 and 2049 U.S. Opens, as well as the 2033 Walker Cup and the U.S. Women's Open in 2028 and 2038 and the U.S. Women's Amateur in 2046. [LINK: USGA.org]

NEW HEAD GRASS MAN AT BIG CEDAR LODGE - The Ozarks resort owned by Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris hired Jeff Steen, who before a recent stint at Missouri's Loch Lloyd Country Club had spent 13 years as the superintendent at Pebble Beach Resorts' The Links at Spanish Bay. Steen takes over for Todd Bohn, who became the director of agronomy at Desert Mountain Club in Arizona earlier this summer. [LINK: The Golf Wire]

PHIL EXITS GOLF COURSE OWNERSHIP BUSINESS - Arcis Golf, a Texas-based course ownership and management company, recently grew its portfolio to 66 courses when it acquired the half-dozen courses of Mickelson Golf Properties owned by the 2021 PGA Champion and business partner Steve Loy. Among the haul is The Stone Canyon Club, which hosted the third edition of Capital One's The Match last November. [LINK: The Golf Wire]

THE 'MUNAISSANCE' REACHES SCOTLAND - The R&A has officially secured permission to redevelop Glasgow's Lethamhill facility into a 21st-century community golf asset for the Scottish capital city. The current 18-hole course will be scaled down to nine holes, while a lighted driving range, mini-golf and short-game facilities are also in the plan. [LINK: Golf Course Industry] | 2021 'Munaissance' update

GOLF-ADJACENT - The topic of global climate change can be explored in myriad ways, including a new 18-hole mini-golf course called Putting Green in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg. Holes, each designed by different individuals and organizations, include obstacles like polar bears and incorporate materials like recycled plastic, all with the goal of raising awareness for green initiatives. Rounds cost $10 for adults and $5 for kids. [LINK: Reuters]

Tim Gavrich is a Senior Writer for GolfPass. Follow him on Twitter @TimGavrich and on Instagram @TimGavrich.
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What the USGA announcement of future U.S. Opens means for Merion and Oakmont