Exploring National Historic Landmark Golf Courses

By Ryan Watson

The Secretary of the Interior is tasked with designating "nationally significant historic places" as National Historic Landmarks. The point is to help preserve important parts of American history. While many historic buildings, homes and cemeteries make the list, golfers might be surprised to learn that four of America's golf courses have also earned that designation. These four courses remain notable for their role in American sporting and cultural history, and include Pinehurst No. 2, Oakmont Country Club, Merion Golf Club East Course and Baltusrol Golf Club.

Pinehurst No. 2

80 Carolina Vista Drive
Pinehurst, NC 28374
(855) 235-8507

Opened in 1907, Pinehurst Resort's No. 2 was designed by early great Donald Ross, who maintained the upkeep on the course into the 1940s. No. 2 makes use of the unique sandy terrain of central North Carolina, and golfer's who strike the ball off the fairway are greeted with a difficult shot from the sandy rough. In addition, Pinehurst No. 2 is also well known for its raised and uneven greens. These greens, known as "crowned" greens, demand an exact shot or else golfers will likely see their ball roll off the edge of the green. The course has hosted numerous major championships on the pine tree lined holes, and golfers will enjoy the challenge and immense history of Pinehurst No. 2.

Oakmont Country Club

1233 Hulton Road
Oakmont, PA 15139
(412) 828-8000

Oakmont Country Club opened in 1903 as an open treeless track and has long had a reputation as one of game's most difficult courses. The incredible amount of bunkers (originally around 300, now a more "reasonable" 175), slim fairways and incredibly fast and undulating greens have been the bane of many golfers at the over ten major championships that have been held in the course's long history. Henry C. Fownes, founder and designer of Oakmont's course, purposefully tried to design the most difficult course in the world. It was also the site of Jack Nicklaus' playoff U.S. Open win against Arnold Palmer in 1962, a win which announced the 22 year old "Golden Bear's" ability at the beginning of his storied career.

Merion Golf Club East Course

450 Ardmore Avenue
Ardmore, PA 19003
(610) 642-5600

Though the club has roots back to 1896, the famous East Course was opened in 1912 to be a longer, more up to date course. Designers were beginning the process of adapting with the new long driving "Haskell" balls of the era. It was designed by amateur Hugh Wilson, and was his first design. It remains a notable course not only for its amazing and challenging layout, but also for its odd quirks. Most famously, Merion does not use flags to mark the location of the hole. Instead, it uses red wicker baskets and continues to keep secret the supplier of these famous baskets. In addition, the sand bunkers have islands and peninsulas of grass, as well as lines of thin grass known locally as "eyebrows". This course, like the others on the list, have hosted numerous major championships and remained a favorite of golfers like Jack Nicklaus and Lee Trevino.

Baltusrol Golf Club

201 Shunpike Road
Springfield, NJ 07081
(973) 376-1900

Baltusrol Golf Club was founded in 1895 and has long enjoyed its status as one of the preeminent golf clubs in America. After hosting two U.S. Opens, it was decided that the "Old Course" would be ploughed up and two new courses, designed by A.W. Tillinghast, were built in 1922. The redesigned courses have had mild facelifts in their history, but have remained true to the original Tillinghast design of greenside bunkering and angled approaches. It is also known for its signature long fourth hole featuring a rock wall around the raised green. The courses have played host to multiple major championships, and remains a historic but exclusive course. It is now available to be played only by members and their guests, and any golfer would love the chance to play this historic course.

About the Author

Ryan Watson is a freelance sportswriter and history professor. He has been an avid fan of golf since his father signed him up for golf camp as a young child. Ryan enjoys following the professional game and learning about new equipment and gadgets.