I love this question. One of the wonderful benefits of being a PGA Professional is the opportunity to play some of the best courses in the country. I was fortunate to play two of the very best courses in the US on the same day and then play another 36 on one of them the following day, so it was a trip of a lifetime. I was invited to play Pine Valley and Merion and because they are only 45 minutes to an hour apart we played both the first day and then played the East and West course at Merion the next day.
It is really hard to choose between the two, but because I am passionate about golf history I have to give the nod to Merion. Not to diminish the round at Pine Valley which was memorable, but the total experience at Merion was truly unforgettable. It starts with the first tee shot which is nerve-wracking because the veranda of the clubhouse is literally 10 paces from the tee box. You are just praying to get the ball airborne. Somehow I split the fairway with a 3 wood and once you get to the ball the caddy announces, “sir you have 136 to the wicker.” Meaning Merion is famous for not having flags on top of the stick they have red wicker baskets. The course just oozes tradition and history and it really hit me on the walk between the 10th green and 11th tee. I was only 1 over walking to the 11th tee and then you walk past a plaque that reads, Bobby Jones completed the Grand Slam on the 11th hole on Sept 27, 1930. Immediately I got caught up in the history and promptly doubled the 11th.
As memorable and challenging as every hole is at Merion you look forward all day to playing the 18th hole where Hogan hit his famous 1 iron in the US Open in 1950. If you are a first time guest your caddy will go right to the spot where Hogan stood and drop a ball and say, “have at it.” This was back in the 80s and I carried a Ping 1 iron. Just to show how different the equipment was even in the 80s I screamed the 1 iron 30 yards over the green. It was July when I played so it was hot and humid, probably in the mid 90s. My host suggested I go take a shower. While I was showering a waiter taps me on the shoulder and asked if I would like a drink. I said, “that would be great, I would love a beer,” and I mentioned the name of my host so he could deliver it to our table. He said, no sir, I will serve it to you right here in the shower. That was such a fitting end to a golf trip I shall never forget.