Jack Nicklaus famously said of Merion—the course on which the 2013 U.S. Open will be contested—"Acre for acre, [Merion] may be the best test of golf in the world."
The East Course at Merion Golf Club is a brutal test, despite the fact that it measures in under 7,000 total yards from the championship tees.
The overall length of this course is delightfully (and, some might say, wickedly) deceptive, as there are some absolute monsters lurking underneath what may appear to be a benign layout.
Furthermore, as PGA Tour veteran Luke Donald pointed out on Twitter, "length isn't a pre-requisite for difficulty":
Here's a quick hole-by-hole look at what the world's top golfers will face at the 2013 U.S. Open:
|1||Par 4||350 Yards|
|2||Par 5||556 Yards|
|3||Par 3||256 Yards|
|4||Par 5||628 Yards|
|5||Par 4||504 Yards|
|6||Par 4||487 Yards|
|7||Par 4||360 Yards|
|8||Par 4||356 Yards|
|9||Par 3||236 Yards|
|10||Par 4||303 Yards|
|11||Par 4||367 Yards|
|12||Par 4||403 Yards|
|13||Par 3||115 Yards|
|14||Par 4||464 Yards|
|15||Par 4||411 Yards|
|16||Par 4||430 Yards|
|17||Par 3||246 Yards|
|18||Par 4||521 Yards|
Note: Course information courtesy of usopen.com.
From the outset, what we see from this design is a course that offers a nice balance of extremes.
Zach Johnson recently talked to reporters about the "short course," via Herb Gould of the Chicago Sun-Times:
We were all sitting around talking about it. [Woods] says it plays as long as any U.S. Open he’s ever played. [On the short par-4s], guys will be hitting 5‑irons and 4‑irons off some of those tees, and you’re still hitting a mid‑iron in. There’s one par-3 that’s 100 yards, and after that, Tiger said he hit a 4‑iron, 3‑iron and 5‑wood into the par 3s. So you have par-3s where you’re hitting lumber in, and then I think coming down the stretch, there’s not a par-4 under 500.
The reason the overall length is under 7,000 yards is due to the five par-fours that measure in well under 400 yards.
But this course if far from short.
In addition to those short par-fours, Merion features four par-fours that measure over 450 yards. The final hole on the course is just as challenging to reach in two as any par-five, and you can be sure the end-of-the-week totals for GIR on No. 18 will be staggeringly low.
The trio of long par-threes—two of which will require a fairway wood off the tee for some of the players—will be absolutely critical to winning this year's U.S. Open. Making par on these holes will be hailed as a victory, and those who can manage to shoot under par will have a big edge on the field.
Even the short par-three, which looks innocent enough at just 115 yards, will test the field in a major way. It features a tiny, sloping green that is fronted by a massive bunker that makes it difficult to visualize the hole.
Of the two par-fives, only one of them is reachable in two. No. 4 is a legitimate three-shot hole at 628 yards, though we might see a few players reach the green in two on a day when the tee is moved up.
Make no mistake about it: Making par at Merion under U.S. Open conditions will give golfers an excellent chance of winning.
This course is a bear, and it's going to put the world's best to the test.
Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78