Merion uses mats to save course for U.S. Open

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Hitting approach shots at Merion isn’t unlike hitting balls at your local driving range.

They’re using artificial mats, too.

In preparations for the 2013 U.S. Open, the venerable Pennsylvania club has been using mats in some fairways since October for “divot control,” according to Bob Rex, Merion’s Green Chairman.

Each caddie carries the mat – about 5 inches wide by 15 inches long – in the pouch of his caddie bib. However, the mats are used only on the approach shots for the short par 4s (Nos. 1, 7, 8 and 10) because most players are hitting wedge into the green.

Interestingly, each of the past two U.S. Open venues (Congressional near Washington D.C. and Olympic Club in San Francisco) has adopted a similar practice. And so, too, has Atlanta Athletic Club, site of the 2011 PGA. 

“It’s not the least bit controversial,” said one Merion member, via Joe Logan of MyPhillyGolf.com. “You have to understand that Merion has a culture that we are a club that hosts major championships and in doing so, you have to make some sacrifices.”

The East Course at Merion, near Philadelphia, closed Dec. 3 for winter and will reopen sometime in April. In June, it will host the U.S. Open for the first time since 1981.