Merion’s Wicker Baskets Explained

A quick history on how the funny-looking red baskets came to be.

Why are there wicker baskets on the flagsticks at Merion?

With the eyes of the golf world turning to Ardmore Pennsylvania and the Merion Golf Club for the 2013 U.S. Open, the one question that I get asked over and over again is…

‘What’s up with those wicker baskets on the flagsticks are Merion?’

The 2013 U.S. Open Logo

The club’s logo (seen above within the U.S. Open logo)
features the wicker basket as well.

While the exact origin of the wicker baskets has never been verified, there is an accepted history behind them, and it’s very interesting. Let me explain.

On the East Course at Merion (where the U.S. Open will be played), all flagsticks are topped by wicker baskets. It looks a tad funny to most, but for me, I think it’s unique, a quirky feature, and in the end an extra challenge for golfers. You see, players can not gauge the wind by looking at the flagstick, wicker baskets don’t tend to flap in the breeze.

When the club decided to build a new course in 1910, they chose a 32-year-old member by the name of Hugh Wilson. He was a Scottish immigrant and a darn good player (Wilson also designed The West Course, which was opened in 1914).

As the story goes, Wilson was over in England studying the courses there, when he noticed a group of sheep herders with their flocks. All of the shepherds had staffs with them that they used to herd their animals, and atop the end of these staffs were wicker baskets. They used these to keep their lunch for the day. You see, the basket would protect the food from hungry animals, and it would also keep the food nearby should they grow hungry.

Wilson liked this idea. So much so that he used the idea at Merion, topping the flagsticks (on The East Course) with similarly designed baskets. Interesting, right?

Practice putting green at Merion

Even Merion’s practice putting green has wicker baskets on top of the shortened flag sticks!
Image courtesy: Peter Jacobsen Sports

Interesting Wicker Basket Facts

  • Until 1980, the baskets were made at Merion by a member of the grounds crew.
  • These days the baskets are made by an anonymous woman.
  • Anyone that wins a USGA event at Merion receives a wicker basket.
  • If a basket is damaged in some way, it is destroyed, and replaced with a new basket.
  • The course collects all baskets at night to protect from theft and vandalism.
  • Even the practice putting green has mini flagsticks with mini wicker baskets on top!
  • The club logo features the wicker basket.
  • The wicker baskets will be used in the 2013 U.S. Open.

So there you have it. Now you know a whole lot more about the wicker baskets at Merion!

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J.R. Falconer

@JRFalconer Email

Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Fan of the great game of golf, and everything that comes along with it!

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