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10 American Beauties

All golf clubs claim prestige, but these are the 10 american beauties. The clubhouses ooze tradition and the courses challenge anyone lucky enough to play them
Jeff Williams
From the Print Edition:
J.P. Morgan, Mar/Apr 00

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That historical tidbit notwithstanding, the tradition here is one of golf. The club fairly reeks of it, although its membership isn't a bunch of old fuddy-duddies. Women are given equal rights and the club looks to keep its membership young and vital.   Among its traditions is a Scottish golf day, when members are encouraged to dress the part of ancient linksmen--knickers and all.

Some of the furniture is creakingly old and the woodwork in the clubhouse seems well polished by the loving caresses of the members. The showers are a hoot, the huge heads providing a waterfall at the end of a round. San Francisco Golf Club is eternally precious and endlessly enjoyable. And Bobby Jones played here. Jones's son, Bobby Jones Jr., is a current member of San Francisco Golf Club, as well.    


Driving off the first tee of the East Course at Merion is one of the more interesting experiences in the game. When the dining terraces are full, you have a built-in gallery that provides a continuous murmur until you address the ball. Suddenly, there is a loud silence, an awkward moment when a first-time player realizes he is the focus of attention. By the time he finishes his follow-through, the lunch chatter resumes.  

Merion is a 36-hole complex west of downtown Philadelphia, a club for those well-connected in the Philadelphia social and business communities. It's a family club in which both the men and the women are very active and accomplished. It has a history of holding U.S. Opens, though its short length has rendered it obsolete. Bobby Jones (there's that name again) completed the old Grand Slam on the East Course at Merion in 1930 by winning the U.S. Amateur Championship.  

The East Course is a gem and the West Course is merely delightful, both courses tucked into a wealthy suburban setting. They were laid out by the little-known Hugh Wilson, who spent time in the British Isles. It was thought that the wicker baskets that sit atop the pins at Merion were a quirk that Wilson brought back from Great Britain, but he denied it and the history of the tradition has been lost.  

There is another tradition you would do well to follow. Don't wear your hat into the locker room or the dining room. In Old World style, it's frowned upon.    


To get another historical fact out of the way: Bobby Jones won the 1929 U.S. Open here.  

Now that the Jones Factor is established, Winged Foot Golf Club, in New York City's northern suburbs, is a terrific 36-hole complex with a delightful stone clubhouse and one of the friendliest locker rooms in the game. Winged Foot also has the strongest playing membership in the New York City area.  

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