Wicker Basket Flag Sticks at Merion Golf Club Make U.S. Open Course Unique, Challenging (Photos)

Tiger WoodsThings look a little different on the greens at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa.

That’s because instead of flags atop each pin, the East Course’s designer, Hugh Wilson, opted to use wicker baskets, making Merion one of a kind.

According to one story posted by USA Today’s Steve DiMeglio, while the origins of the baskets remain a mystery, many believe they came from Wilson. He noticed that some sheep herders in Scotland and England used staffs with wicker baskets at one end to keep their lunch away from animals.

Now, they seem to keep golf balls away from the holes, as some golfers have trouble judging wind gusts and directions without the use of flags.

“For me, the baskets give me targets to shoot at,” said Rickie Fowler, who played in the Walker Cup at Merion in 2009. “But coming down the stretch, if you’re in the thick of the tournament, it could be different. You’re so used to seeing a flag and getting that last amount of information, so it might be a challenge for some.”

Fans haven’t seen the baskets in a major since the U.S. Open was played at Merion in 1981, and they’ll certainly be the talk of the tourney this week.

“It’s obviously different. It will be fun. But as a caddie, I won’t say it’s more difficult, but we do use the flags to determine where the wind is up around the greens. It’s a hindrance, but I think it’s neat and cool,” said Tiger Woods‘ caddie, Joe LaCava. “We’ll have to use the trees a little bit more, the wind charts, throwing up a lot of grass. We’ll do a lot of things, but at the same time I like to think we’ll get it figured out.”

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