US Open golf: Why do Merion pins have wicker baskets?

Golf News

Ever wondered why Merion uses wicker baskets instead of flags?

One of the most frequently-asked questions you will hear this week is: ‘why are Merion’s pins topped with baskets instead of flags?’

The short answer? Nobody knows. There are some theories, though.

One of the most widely believed is that designer Hugh Irvine Wilson, a Scottish immigrant, liked the look of the baskets on the staffs of shepherds, used for keeping lunch out of reach of wildlife.

Another is that baskets were used on many UK courses in the early 1900s and that Merion is merely the last one upholding the tradition.

Some even say that Wilson had nothing to do with the inclusion of them as they were first spotted in 1915 – three years after the course opened.

Whatever the origin, the baskets on Merion’s East Course, which are red on the front nine and orange on the back, present a unique problem: they are clearly visible from all angles, but give no indication of wind strength or direction.

Joe LaCava – caddy for Tiger Woods – was quizzed by USA Today on the difficulty this could present: “It’s obviously different. It will be fun. But as a caddie, I won’t say it’s more difficult but we do use the flags to determine where the wind is up around the greens. It’s a hindrance but I think it’s neat and cool.

“We’ll have to use the trees a little bit more, the wind charts, throwing up a lot of grass. We’ll do a lot of things, but at the same time I like to think we’ll get it figured out.”

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