2013 US Open: What’s with the wicker basket “flagsticks”?

The story behind those strange-looking wicker basket pins at Merion Golf Club.

One of the most notable things about this week’s US Open golf course arte the wicker basket “flagsticks”.

Since it opened on its current site in 1912, Merion Golf Club has always used wicker baskets placed on top of the pins rather than flags to denote the hole location.

The flagstick is one of the most recognisable parts of a golf course and to see something so strange as a wicker basket in its place is odd to say the least. The wicker baskets at Merion are red on the front nine and orange on the back.

The wicker baskets don’t just make a visual impact on the golf course either. Without a flag, golfers are often confused about which direction the wind is going on the green. Something the original course designer Hugh Wilson may have had in mind.

But how did the wicker basket idea come about exactly?

Well the answer is no one really knows for sure.

The most common story was that on a scouting mission to Scotland before designing the course, Wilson saw the baskets and liked the look of them. Some have suggested he saw shepherds resting their lunch baskets on their walking sticks to denote the hole location – but this is often dismissed as nothing more than a myth.

Presumably the baskets probably survived the links golf conditions a little better than flags in Scotland, but it is not known on which golf course he saw them exactly.

Either way it makes for an interesting looking golf course and specifically an interesting looking US Open.

Whoever wins at Merion this week is presented with a wicker basket pin. Wouldn’t that look great in the pool room?

And if you were wondering, here are the rules on the wicker basket pins.

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