Muirfield - Lothians - Scotland

Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers,
Muirfield,
Duncur Road,
Gullane,
East Lothian,
EH31 2EG,
Scotland


  • +44 (0)1620 842123


Muirfield was the fourth course to stage the Open Championship and is the third most used Open venue (host to 16 Opens) after St Andrews and Prestwick.

Date Winner Country
1892 Harold Hilton England
1896 Harry Vardon England
1901 James Braid Scotland
1906 James Braid Scotland
1912 Ted Ray England
1929 Walter Hagen USA
1935 Alf Perry England
1948 Henry Cotton England
1959 Gary Player S Africa
1966 Jack Nicklaus USA
1972 Lee Trevino USA
1980 Tom Watson USA
1987 Nick Faldo England
1992 Nick Faldo England
2002 Ernie Els S Africa
2013 Phil Mickelson USA


Muirfield is the course of “The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers” (HCEG), the world’s oldest golf club—according to direct written evidence—formed in 1744. In those days, the members played over Leith Links, originally a five-hole course. In March 1744, the first official rules of golf were drawn up by the “Gentlemen Golfers of Leith” in readiness for a tournament which was due to be played over Leith Links the following month. These original 13 rules became the basis for the game of golf and shortly afterwards, the HCEG was formed.

Almost 150 years later, in 1891, the course at Muirfield opened for play. Old Tom Morris designed it, originally as a 16-holer. A further two holes were added a few months later. In 1923, another 50 acres were purchased to the north of the course. Harry Colt was engaged to redesign the layout and he introduced fourteen new holes, forming the course that remains in place today. Apart from Tom Simpson's re-modelling of the 13th hole in 1935, the only major changes since then have been the addition of new tees.

The design layout is a masterpiece and highly unusual for links courses of this era. Most courses were laid out simply, nine out and nine back. Muirfield is different; it was the first to be designed with two concentric rings of nine holes. The outward nine holes run clockwise around the edge and the inward nine run anti-clockwise, sitting inside the outward nine. The layout ensures that the wind hits you from all directions, but Muirfield is as difficult to play downwind as it is upwind.

Host to fifteen Opens, most recently in 2013, Muirfield is considered by many top professionals to be one of the fairest Open Championship golf courses. Bernard Darwin loved Muirfield, and in his 1910 book, The Golf Courses of the British Isles, he wrote: “There is a fine view of the sea and a delightful sea wood, with the trees all bent and twisted by the wind; then, too, it is a solitary and peaceful spot, and a great haunt of the curlews, whom one may see hovering over a championship crowd and crying eerily amid a religious silence.”

The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers (Muirfield) played host to the 1973 Ryder Cup matches between the USA and Great Britain & Ireland. Team Captains were Jack Burke (US) and Bernard Hunt (GB & I). This was the first Ryder Cup to be played in Scotland and players from the Republic of Ireland were eligible to join the British Team for the first time. It was a close match which may have been closer had Bernard Gallacher not gone down with food poisoning, which resulted in a last minute call for Peter Butler. In the foursomes, Butler became the first player in Ryder Cup history to hole-in-one, but his ace was not enough to win the match against Jack Nicklaus and Tom Weiskopf. USA 19 - GB & I 13. The Ryder Cup was played at Old Warson in 1971 and Laurel Valley in 1975.

Muirfield is blessed with a collection of superb golf holes and we'll mention a couple of them: The 554-yard par five 9th hole is a tough driving hole, two bunkers lurk on the left-hand side and beyond them is a grey stone boundary wall with out-of-bounds threatening the hooked tee shot; the fairway cruelly starts to narrow at the landing area of a good solid drive, the tangly rough waiting hopefully to catch anything struck off-line. The second shot must avoid a waiting line of five cleverly placed bunkers situated short and right of the green. The 13th is one of best short holes on the open circuit, an uphill 191-yarder; five abysmal bunkers, three on the right and two on the left ferociously protect the deep and narrow green that slopes from back to front. Whatever we do, we mustn’t leave a scary downhill putt.

Muirfield is an eccentric but traditional golf links of the highest calibre. The fairways have that lovely spongy seaside turf, there’s some unbelievable bunkering (many of which are small and deep) and there’s that thick, thick rough to contend with. The greens are relatively small too, which makes you think carefully about your approach shots and once you are safely on the putting surface, you’ll need to interpret them well because the borrows are subtle and tricky to read.

In readiness for the 2013 Open Championship, following a land swap with next-door neighbour the Renaissance Club, Muirfield was lengthened, with new tees added on seven holes. Now measuring 7,192 yards from the tips, with par set at 71, Muirfield has become a stern 21st century challenge, especially when the wind blows.

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Reviews for Muirfield

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Description: Muirfield is the course of “The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers” (HCEG), the world’s oldest golf club – according to direct written evidence – formed in 1744. Rating: 8.9 out of 10 Reviews: 86
TaylorMade
Alex Frolish

The task of completing a review of a course like Muirfield is a mildly intimidating proposition, as this is quite clearly one of the best golf courses in the world. There is also no doubt that a visit to an Open championship venue for the first time is a special occasion and Muirfield is no different. This was the 6th course I have played on the Open rota and for me, it was particularly poignant, as one of the earliest golfing memories I have is of sitting on the sofa with my now long since departed Dad, watching Open Championship Sundays play out. Apparently, Nick Faldo’s win at Muirfield in 1987 was my first exposure to that ritual at the age of just 2 years old and to walk those same fairways some 35 years later, having finally travelled to the place that could be considered the genesis of it all for me, seemed wholly surreal.

The first iconic sight you will encounter, is the famous club gate emblazoned with ‘The Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers’ which is as foreboding (and heavy) as photographs of it suggest. Once we passed through it, we arrived to a swirling fog that enveloped the unmistakeable clubhouse as if on the set of a Hollywood blockbuster. The 18th green was barely visible just a few yards away from us, and after a brief period discussing possible rearrangements, thankfully, the fog began to lift. The retreating blanket pulled back the metaphorical curtains to reveal a sweeping view of this piece of land that is quite frankly, one of the most all encompassing links vistas in world golf.

Muirfield doesn’t tiptoe between dramatic dunes as Royal Birkdale does, have an opening run of waterside holes like Royal Troon, nor is it quite as brutal on the eye as Carnoustie. It is a colosseum of subtle brilliance and exudes a knowing aura that suggests that the most deserving player will win out on any given day. It is notoriously fair and that fairness comes in part, from the fact that the land is quite open and laid out before you in plain sight from most of the tees. It is a golf strategist’s dream and having now played the course, Nick Faldo’s final round of 18 pars in 1987 seems all the more remarkable and understandable in equal measure. The tactic here is quite simple; hit the correct half of the fairways and employ defensive tactics to stay out of the bunkers at all costs. These traps are varied in shape and size but united in their ability to ruin a promising round of golf.

The routing of the course is quite brilliant in that the wind direction is of much less a consequence than it is on most links courses. The two halves run in circular fashion, the second half inside the first rotating in the opposite direction, which means the wind will both help and hinder you throughout your round and no period of the latter will last for too long, which helps to keep morale high.

On a course that is so memorable and has so much character, to pick a standout hole is a tall order. After much reflection, holes 2, 6, 8, 16 and 18 make the final heat. The 2nd is a visually wholesome hole where the boundary wall on the left of the green gently pushes you toward the battalion of bunkering short right, which is the kind of subtle jeopardy that Muirfield tends to employ. Hole 8 is probably the strongest test on the course and it is a beauty to look over from the tee. It was no surprise to see it quite rightly ranking as the hardest hole on the course. However, the magnificent bunkering on 18 just sways my allegiance in its favour. In a lot of ways, Muirfield reminds me of Royal Lytham & St Anne’s and one of it’s most startling likenesses is the walks up the respective 18th fairways framed by their world renowned clubhouses with a foreground punctuated by characterful sand traps. The two by the green at Muirfield though are some of the most smile inducing you will see anywhere. The doughnut bunker right of this green is world famous and the long narrow slice into the earth front left compliments it beautifully. You almost want to hit it in there so you can say you played out of one of them.

The whole experience here is quite frankly bucket list stuff and despite the past reputation of it being one of the stuffier venues in world golf, we couldn’t have had a warmer welcome. This is a testing golf course and the bunkers will have their way with you if you let them, so I would advise buying a course guide and harnessing your inner Faldo, playing in such a way so as to avoid as many as you can. My final bit of advice is don’t skip the lunch! It really is quite something.

April 15, 2022
10 / 10
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Hendrik

I was fortunate enough to play Muirfield last summer and now have a good understanding of what "Championship Links Golf" might mean or entail. The home of the HCEG is a friendly and wonderful place. The routing and architecture of the holes is incredible with so many different looks and changes in direction. The rough is quite penal, yes. Other people are more skilled to write about the intricacies of this layout but let me just say that a day at Muirfield is truly a special experience. Lastly, the members are very welcoming and friendly, and we were treated extremely well. Make sure you get the lunch + some kummel if they still have some stock. It makes the tee shot after lunch a bit more steady.

December 15, 2021
8 / 10
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Phil Reid

Muirfield offers a unique and amazing experience that should be sampled at some stage on your golfing journey. Everything about it is of a consistently very high standard, but never quite tops the list in any area compared to other top end courses.

The conditioning is superb, but that is the case with most courses of this standard and reputation. The greens are ingenious and challenging. The bunkering constantly gets you thinking and can ask some serious questions depending on your proximity to the face. The second cut is penal and to be avoided at all costs. The routing is interesting and offers 18 very good holes, but you struggle to pick an obvious favourite.

Post golf the clubhouse is spectacular and the lunch amazing, both making a huge contribution to the overall experience.

If you ever get the opportunity to play Muirfield you must grab it with both hands. You won’t be disappointed.

November 13, 2021
8 / 10
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Phil Ree

Muirfield has that intangible quality that won’t have you taking constant photos but will hold your interest at a high level throughout. It’s a bit more like an understated, long song that only afterwards you realise how good it was, rather than something catchy, fun but more hollow.

It is set on a gradual, gentle slope down to the sea (there are indeed sea views) that provides flat lies and only one truly blind shot, that being the tee shot on 11. The greens are tricky by links standards, and the bunkering is thoughtful rather than penal.

However – of the Open venues I’ve played it does sit behind a few on my list of favourites. Given how ‘fair’ it is, I can see why it’s popular with professionals, even if I think Carnoustie Village would be a better site for The Memorial each year. Maybe it needs more plays, or maybe I listen to too much dodgy music.

The clubhouse is the best I’ve been in, and the staff couldn’t have been nicer – no need to tread on egg shells. With the meal afterwards, Muirfield certainly is one of the best experiences in golf.

November 10, 2021
8 / 10
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Gavin Hale

My son and I have just finished a 7 day tour of Angus, Fife and Lothian.

The courses we played in order were: Old Course St. Andrews, Elie, Carnoustie, Dumbarnie, Kingsbarns, North Berwick and Muirfield.

I'll use the same preface and tour summary within each respective course review. Hopefully, our informal ranking(s) might provide some comparative context and help in deciding where to play.

Muirfield was the last day of our tour, and having walked around the course for 7 days straight in the horrendous weather of the 1987 Open, I was curious to see what, if anything, I could remember from back then.

The welcome was genial, the practice ground nicely located for a quick warm up, and the putting green representative of what we found out on the course.

As a 2-ball, we were paired up to make a fourball.

Sometimes this can impact the experience (see St. Andrews review).

On this occasion, Rob and Dave were fellow links enthusiasts also playing for the first time and we all got on well.

The fairways were a lot wider than I recall for the setup of the '87 Open..

Which was a good job because the rough was punishing.

As you'd expect from a Championship course, the fairways were super to play from. The greens were good, firm and consistent, but a little slower than we'd experienced on our tour. Granted this was November, but Carnoustie's greens and run-offs were fantastic 4 days earlier and we'd hoped Muirfield would be comparable - sadly not.

I won't go hole by hole, but suffice to say all of the par 3's were well framed and enjoyable holes.

To make a score here, you must stay out of the rough and out of the fairway bunkers.

The 6th (420 yds dog leg left) has a blind tee shot that does not warrant a driver (from the red boxes we were off) and was the only disappointing hole of the day (3 of the 4 of us hit good straight driver that ended up in jungle - 2 of which were lost).

The 11th is also blind - but a straight drive works there!!

The 8th, 9th and 10th are a super run of quality holes.

And the 16th, 17th and 18th is a fine finishing stretch.

In fact most holes feel very similar and it's hard to pick out stand out holes.

Most courses have their signature (or talked about) hole.

You'd be hard pressed to find one that all would agree on at Muirfield.

Perhaps that's to its credit.

Visually (and I want to be visually inspired by holes) - maybe the 8th was my standout hole as I stood on the tee.

As you can probably tell, we weren't "blown away" by Muirfield.

It's a quality 5 star layout - no doubt.

The fairway bunkering is thoughtful (I didn't get out of the 18th fairway bunker after a good drive!). And, apart from the 7th, it is a very honest course and a good test of ball striking.

But in my humble opinion, it's missing the wow factor.

It's not awe inspiring to look at.

Yes you can see the water, but it's not stunning craggy shoreline stuff a la Turnberry or North Berwick or Elie (see other reviews).

And to counter a previous reviewer's comment that anybody who claims you can't see the sea should have their reviews removed - I didn't recall seeing the sea in 1987 - perhaps there are misty or poor weather conditions that sometimes hide the sea views.

To summarise, I'd suggest Muirfield is a must play Championship course. And similar in terms of examination of your golf game to Carnoustie.

However, unlike Carnoustie, I probably won't return to Muirfield.

But glad we've been lucky enough to play it once.

I said I'd provide a ranking from our 7 day tour as a comparison guide. My son and I had a lot of fun talking about various criteria for what "best" was.

In the end, I have settled on 2 rankings: "most fun & visually inspiring" and "most keen to make a score on". These probably equate to those who are playing the game as a game and want to take time to smell the roses, and those who take it a bit more seriously where it's the satisfaction of attaining a score on a quality course.

My "most fun & visually inspiring" ranking from our little 7 day tour was:

1. North Berwick (1st, 2nd, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th ...you get the idea)

2. Elie (10th, 11th, 12th, 13th)

3. Dumbarnie (stunning panaromic views across the course and to the shore)

4. St. Andrews Old Course (just the atmosphere and the courses hsitory and locale within the town)

5. Carnoustie (6th, 10th, 13th, 16th, 17th, 18th)

6. Muirfield (solid golf hole after golf hole)

7. Kingsbarns (hampered by atrocious weather)

The courses I'd "most like to make a score on" ranking was:

1. Carnoustie

2. Muirfield

3. North Berwick

4. Old course, St Andrews

5. Kingsbarns

6. Dumbarnie

7. Elie

If I had just one course to play - North Berwick - it's just a great walk.

If I had just 3 courses to play - North Berwick, Carnoustie, St. Andrews (looks, quality, history)

I hope my totally subjective reviews give others some insight.

It was a memorable tour, and the list of quality courses in the area we didn't play (Leven, Lundin, Crail, Scottscraig, Castle, New, Jubilee, Panmure, Montrose, Gullane etc etc) serve to show what a fantastic region of Scotland this is to play golf.

Enjoy.

November 03, 2021
7 / 10
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Ralph Wardlaw

I wrote a previous review for Muirfield having played it in the Scottish Amateur but having recently visited it again as a full fee paying visitor I thought I would describe my very different experience!

First of all the staff were friendly. I think it’s natural to feel slightly jittery when arriving at Muirfield given its reputation but everyone we came into contact with from Claire who dealt with my emails, the starter, to the shop staff and the folk working lunch was excellent. Members tended to keep themselves to themselves but I never felt unwelcome in any way at all.

The lunch itself was exceptional and I you would be mad to miss it.

The new pro shop that has been built since my last visit was well stocked. The changing rooms historic and modern at the same time.

One slight niggle was there was no one on the first tee to see us off like you get at other courses.

I’ve seen some reviews say the course has no sea views which is one of the most perplexing things I’ve ever read. They should automatically have any ratings disqualified for clearly not being able to use their eye balls properly.

The course itself is a funny one for me. Every time I’ve played it the wind has been the opposite from the prevailing one. I don’t think I’m being harsh either when I say I don’t think there are any signature holes like a 17 at the Old Course, 14 at Cruden Bay etc. but what you do get are 18, very, very good holes.

Is it the fairest links course? I’ve seen some people say it is but for me I’ve had a few too many shots land in the middle of the fairway, only for the camber to then kick it into the rough. 14 in particular has been bad for that in the past for me. 9 as well. I would argue Carnoustie is a fairer course but then I’m basing that on playing both courses a very different amount of times.

Muirfield is just a really, really good golf course. And I would argue the best experience in Scottish golf when you include the lunch as well

August 30, 2021
9 / 10
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Neil White

Understated brilliance and one of the heartiest welcomes we have received so far on the top100 quest.

Indeed, Muirfield’s team were as delightful as its course, from the moment we arrived at the iron gate, denoting the home of The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers to the moment we departed.

So, why does it have such a bad rap?

“I have been here 15 years and there is a lot of rubbish written. When Americans come, they even stand to attention!”

The starter was only half-joking. Clearly, it grates that Muirfield is falsely known for being anti-women and not laying the mat out to visitors.

I have to say this combination of prestige and infamy had prompted my pre-round nerves – a feeling comparable to arriving for a job interview. I shouldn’t have been apprehensive. As the starter said: “This is just a golf club, like any other golf club.”

Well, yes but no. It is a club with members but Muirfield is also one of the most revered names in the game because it has a history only rivalled by St.Andrew’s and, arguably, Prestwick.

However, we were astonished at how it was hidden away – so much so, that I took three wrong turns before I alighted upon a nondescript side road leading to one of the most famous sporting arenas in the world.

Also, I had not foreseen the low-key presentation of history. For example, if there is any record of its 13 Open championships, I didn’t spot it.

Don’t expect giant photos of Nicklaus, Watson, Faldo, Mickelson and co.

Muirfield is where the original rules of golf were written and yet there was more trumpeting about that document at Royal Lytham St. Anne’s where I played last week.

Instead, the clubhouse is adorned with giant paintings of golfers of the long distant past, wielding clubs which looked more like walking sticks.

Anyway, we were greeted with a wave of enthusiasm by the lady at the registration desk, the folk in the souvenir shop, the staff serving drinks and food and the aforementioned starter.

And, after our complimentary coffees and range balls, it was time to take on the beast.

Muirfield’s course has a reputation for being very tough and it lived up to it – the rough is high and dense and there is many a nasty surprise with hidden fairway and greenside bunkers.

But it is in superb condition and the views on a clear day (the clouds parted as we arrived!) were outstanding.

The starter suggested Mrs W and I both play off the navy tees so we could enjoy ourselves (there are no ladies' tees or scorecard because Muirfield is ‘gender neutral’).

So, I felt a pang of shame as we hit off together on the first and second and I am blaming that for two duff tee shots.

I reverted to the box tees for the remainder of my round and hit straight for the following 16 holes but that wasn’t enough to secure glory.

Let me be clear. If you cannot his straight at Muirfield, there is absolutely no hope of scoring because the rough is so penalising. We struggled to find balls and play recoveries on a fine summer’s day – I tried to imagine the fall-out if it were wet and blowing a hoolie.

I am a fan of quirky holes, so the second next to the boundary wall appealed as did the third with its green nestled behind opposite dunes. It also stuck in the memory because I nailed a putt off the green for my par.

The others on the front nine which stood out for me were the eighth, a curving par four which demands an approach over a cluster of bunkers and the par-five ninth which requires careful guiding between out-of-bounds on the left and thick rough and traps on the right.

The blindest tee shot is over a hill on the 10th which I nailed only to be caught out when a gust of wind helped my approach into sand at the back of the green.

This was one of three occasions when I found myself watching what I thought was a cracking second shot bound through the putting surface because the breeze was at my back.

Mastery of the wind direction is crucial at Muirfield but the course routing means that there is barely a consecutive hole where it is the same.

Anyway, other stand-outs were the par-three 14th which is a small target carved in a hill between dunes and bunkers and, of course, the 18th.

This home hole towards Muirfield’s historic clubhouse triggers memories of Opens won and lost.

It is followed by being treated like a lord and lady in the clubhouse with its fabled lunch which we devoured with the same hunger that the rough had gobbled our golf balls.

It was about the only element of Muirfield which brought truth to a rumour. Otherwise, this was a day which was full of surprises.

June 30, 2021
9 / 10
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BB
June 30, 2021

Another very good review Neil where my main takeaways were the phrases "falsely known for being anti-women" & "gender neutral". Perhaps the batteries in my irony radar are running low (have not changed them for 270 odd years).

What is clear is that the golf course is from the very top drawer - if Muirfield was a females rights activist, we'd be talking Emmeline Pankhurst or Susan B Anthony levels

Greg Watson

Catching up on reviews I realised. I hadn't posted my Mirfield experience albeit pre lock down. I had a wonderful days golf 36 holes around this magnificent links. As always it was in excellent condition and yes it can be tough especially when the wind blows as I found out but played to enjoy rather than worry about score made for a great round. The dining half way around was splendid although harder to swing after all that great fayre

June 24, 2021
7 / 10
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Doug Roberts

Muirfield is standardly spoken of as the most difficult place to play. And yet, I can go online at the appropriate far in advance timeframe and push a button and procure a teetime. I have done this 3 times. Usually the season prior to an Open as knowing the conditions would be growing in for that. Each time I was presented with a back nine first in the am and a rush around alternate shot in the afternoon. In between a lunch with all with many very welcoming members present. What a day to behold. Unlike so many links courses of out and back, Muirfield plays in circles which require astute confirmation of the wind. A must play for any golfer.

January 21, 2021
10 / 10
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BB
January 21, 2021

Hi Doug, I’ve also seen it written that Muirfield is one of the toughest tee times to get in golf. Usually this is referenced in US golf publications.

Muirfield offers public tee times on Tuesdays & Thursdays, and I think they were going to extend it to one other day. Perhaps this is relatively private by UK standards, but there’s a lot of lazy journalism out there...

steve chard

Played this course two weeks ago and it was stunning. I am a resident of North Berwick and had always heard how stuffy and pompous the club and its members were. This could not be further from the truth. Everyone from the man at the gate, the starter, the lady in the pro shop, the other golfers on the course and the staff in the clubhouse couldn't have been more accommodating and as for the course itself, just amazing. We played in November and the greens were phenomenal and the fairways were reacting like it was the Summer. Definitely in my top 3 golf courses, ever! If you get a chance to play Muirfield you won't be disappointed.

December 14, 2020
9 / 10
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