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Merion Has Gone To The Mats

Joe Logan on the decidedly #FirstWorldProblem of Merion members who have been asked to hit fairway shots off of mats for "divot control" in advance of next year's U.S. Open.

He quotes Merion green chairman Bob Rex.

Are members fuming over the inconvenience?  "There has been zero push back," said Rex.

"It’s not the least bit controversial," confirmed the other Merion member. "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."

This surprised me...

Merion is not the first club to use the fairway mats in preparation for a U.S. Open – they were used prior to the two most recent Opens, at The Olympic Club in San Francisco in June and before that at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md.

It's always funny how members don't want players to torch their courses with low scores, yet go to these maintenance lengths to ensure that low scores are possible!

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Reader Comments (25)

Same at The Lakes before Australian Open--but only on one hole: the short fourth, where all drives funnell into one area.
12.16.2012 | Unregistered CommenterGeoff Slattery
If this strategy were followed everywhere, all the time, we wouldn't need 100 acres of manicured fairways.
How much fertilizer, herbicide, mowing equipment and labour would that save? And how much money? The percentage of fairways "used" each year is tiny- less than 2%. Perfect fairways are a luxury.
Being forced to play off mats is almost a resigning matter!
12.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterIvan Morris
It's not like members at a club such as Merion don't play preferred lies during their weekly dogfights. If it's anything like most other private clubs...they'll all agree to play by the same "local" rules.

Anyways...mats ON grass...At the local range here, we HAD a policy for the grass driving range that 24hdcps or less were allowed to hit off the grass, the rest had to use small was eventually disregarded as everyone realized that learning the game is easier/more effective off turf. Tip: Grip down on whatever club by at least an inch and try to pinch it off the mat...fatted shots are significantly magnified. "Thin to Win" is the way to go.

The pseudo greenkeeper at my club whines like a baby when I leave a divot patch that's maybe a square foot, way off to the side in the rough long's as though he's mad that he has to grow turf on a high impact area.
12.17.2012 | Unregistered Commenterjohnnnycz
Just like the mats some of us use on the sand courses in the Middle East (yes, there are still some around ...). Played a tournament at Sharjah Wanderers a few weeks ago and in a perverse way it's quite enjoyable, and still golf - same for everybody, fewest shots wins !
12.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterDubai Pete
Mr. Rex must be pretty isolated if he thinks it is the least bit controversial, I have heard bitching from a few of the members I know.

Really at what private club is any decision the least bit controversial? I have seen fights over 0% dues increases....
12.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterPABoy
IIRC the dreaded mat was in play at TOC as well before a championship. I don't remember what year it was or if the policy was in place because of poor turf conditions. What say you, chico?

After the bashing he received yesterday, the NY Post has a puff piece today about Trump as the superhero of golf. Those in Jupiter that received their last meal might think otherwise.
12.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterD. maculata
I hate mats and would bitch if I was a member. But do agree with cz, my kids learned quicker off mats.
Most Scottish Links clubs protect their fairways in winter. The usual options are hit off a mat or move to the semi rough. It's an accepted practice, without too many complaints.
12.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Norrie
its winter and the grass is not growing. who cares if i have to hit off mats for the first and 18th holes until i get out of sight of the clubhouse.
12.17.2012 | Unregistered Commentersmails
And it only took destroying the course to produce this US Open!
12.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterDr. Strangelove
I played in middle Aug without a mat. But a friend of mine played in Sept and he said he hit about 9 shots off of the mat and that they were used only around the greens in collection areas where they expect a lot of traffic, not on every fway shot. Maybe the mat policy was changed in Oct? Glad I dont have to carry bags and mats but caddies in the Philly area make good coin anyways.
12.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterArdmoreari
D. maculata: I was in St Andrews 1994 through 1995, and I know they had mats in use then, albeit only through the winter (when they also have those 'interesting' modifications to holes eleven and twelve, and, erm, four hours of daylight -- but that last matter can't easily be remedied, I'll admit); I think that might've been the first year they were employed, with the Open coming up that summer. By the spring, though, play was on turf, and they only shut the course two or three weeks before the Championship proper. (Though, during that period, certain fairway areas were frequently roped-off and declared G.U.R., like that infamous 'hollow' on the seventh fairway. R.I.P.)
12.17.2012 | Unregistered Commenterj-mack
I've played TOC using mats. The green fee wasn't reduced. I'm a compressor not a picker - did not enjoy the mats at all, at all but they didn't stop me from shooting 5 birdies.
12.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterIvan Morris
Mats suck.

Sounds like lazy greenskeeping to me. Grass grows. They play the US Open during grass growing season.

Shut the course two week before to dress and prep the fairways.

Look at Torrey Pines - they play a PGA Tour event after about 10 days of closure during the low growing season with the low angle of the sun and I don't recall players bitching much about divot problems.

12.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterAbu Dhabi Golfer
Played Carnoustie off of mats two weeks before The Open in 2007, and it was very strange, as it was a gorgeous, sunny, calm day. All the anticipation of finally getting to see what I could do at "Carnasty," and I end up playing off of mats in shirt sleeves on a hot, sunny, wind-less day... <g>

One guy in our foursome did hit without his mat out of what he thought was "rough," and a Marshall popped up out of nowhere and said "one more and I'll have to ask your group to leave."

Weirdest shot of the day was chipping off a mat in from of the second byrne on 18. Ball actually spun and checked up quickly. Got chills walking on the green surrounded by the tall bleachers that were already set up, even if they were empty.
12.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterRLL
They've been using mats at The Old for some time now-it is fairly common practice in the winter in Scotland.General view is that the courses are much better in the spring for it.
Not sure about the run up to the Open though-normally they would just close it for a few weeks beforehand.
On my last walk about on the Old there were thousands of hole plugs on the fairways where they had repaired old divots with new turf-that must have been quite a task!
And what Johnnycz says-grip down a bit when using mats and they are much easier.
Dr. Strangelove makes an interesting point. I know from playing there in August that they have moved and significantly narrowed some fairways by mowing them differently (2, 5, 7, 10) and flattened out the front section of 12 green. Also new tee boxes installed for length and a new fway bunker on left side of 16.

I never played it before Mike Davis touched it but how much has it exactly been destroyed by the USGA?
12.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmen Coroner
The mats at Olympic were only used on holes 7 and 17 for the approach shots in the yardage ranges where lots of players were expected to layup.

I don't think these maintenance practices are intended to encourage low scoring, I think they're intended to prevent complaints about the course's maintenance practices from the players in the event. The only thing members hate more than seeing low scores is hearing players complain about course conditioning. And we know players love to complain when their shots end up in divots.
12.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew
People have used these at the Old Course in the winter for a while.
12.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterStreaky Putter
No mats on any hole at Olympic in April, two months before the tournament.
12.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterKevin part deux
D Mc- can't add any more to the answers you've already had!
12.17.2012 | Unregistered Commenterchico
Played Merion East in October with mats. I hit maybe 5 shots off them. Virtually no impact on my round except that I could spin it like crazy off them. Not that I'd want to do it every day, mind you.
12.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterGinGHIN
I use a full size mat.
12.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterLudell Hogwaller
It's not golf off mats
12.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterChicago pt

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