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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 1928, Harry Colt and Tom Simpson were brought in to make alterations to the layout. Many golf historians believe that the course became truly great as a consequence of the changes made by Colt and Simpson.
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.”
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.
I would initially like to state the times I have played Muirfield I was with a member and thus my review does not take into account the visitors green fees price involved in the round.
On arriving at Muirfield I was happy to find out that there was a very ample practice area to hone my skills. This proved to be absolutely necessary for myself throughout the day. A small bonus but free tees are also given out for those like myself who like a memento of each course.
My immediate impression of the course was that my skills were going to be pushed to the max. I will keep my review concise. The course is tight, fast and testing. I found it very painful and at times incredibly frustrating. However, when a well executed shot was placed only a feeling of great accomplishment could be felt.
I think the other reviewers have described the technical aspects of the course well and would place it on any golfers bucket list.
My first ever 6 star rating and well deserved, Muirfield met everything and beyond my expectations. A stellar course, I happened to be the first visitor out on the allocated Tuesday tee time and was able to play at a good pace. But beware Muirfield is a demanding course with 30-40 mph winds on the day I played, yardages defiantly become tricky.
The course however is immaculate even in early December. Greens ran pure and fairways where lush. The rough was cut down but don't let this fool you, it's a tough track. Truly a once in a lifetime experience. I would recommend any serious golfer to come out and play a round at Muirfield.
I have been fortunate to play Muirfield several times, with three players, two players, and two somes. For years it was the golf course that I rated both the best as well as my favorite. Since my first couple of times playing it, I have played others that I consider to be slightly better and so on my personal rating scale I have it as 7th overall of the 706 different courses I have currently played.
It remains my favorite course to play in the UK and Ireland and is one of my top five favorite courses.
Everything about Muirfield is fantastic; the clubhouse, the driving range, the putting green, the lunch, looking at the sea, or looking back at the clubhouse and Greywalls.
I think it is the best routing I have played given the relative flatness of the land with the exception of a couple of rises. The clockwise, counter-clockwise is absolutely brilliant because certainly there were other options available to the architects.
I like every one of the holes whether they are difficult or easier (it depends on the direction and strength of the wind).
The starting three holes are relatively easy other than the green on the 2nd. The bunkers are both perfectly placed and appropriate in number on all three holes, particularly green side on the 2nd. I like how the 3rd has a partially hidden green given the mound on the right so hitting the tee shot left is important here.
The 4th is a very good if not great par 3 with the elevated tee and the plateau green which is deep and surrounded by three deep bunkers. You cannot be short on your tee shot nor be off line. It is a tremendous par 3.
The first several times I played the 5th I found the par five to be too easy. It requires a simple tee shot to stay left to avoid the high grass and numerous bunkers on the right. The second shot is a routine layup but there is so much pressure on the third shot due to all of the bunkers surrounding the green as well as trying to determine the appropriate landing spot due to the tilt of the green. A player has almost an equal chance of a birdie putt, a routine par, a bogey or even a double bogey on this hole. So much about the 5th is dependent on the wind. It might now be my favorite hole on the golf course.
The 6th is a longer par four dogleg left that you must avoid the bunkers left. The longer hitters easily drive it over these bunkers. It is another fine green.
The uphill par 3 7th hole of medium length is also well defended by bunkers. I found this green to be one of the easier ones to read, although pace is more important on this green than some others.
Besides the 17th, the players I have played with have typically said the 8th is the most memorable hole due to the dogleg right with all of the bunkers down the right side and then again well short of the green and behind it.
It is a clever hole, one that yields few birdies or pars as the green has run-offs both left and right. I have found if you miss the green short than you have a reasonable chance to save par.
The ninth is the hole that I feel is the trickiest. It seems simple - just don't hit left into the tall grass with your tee shot and don't hit left over the wall with your second shot. But there is tall grass right and five bunkers short of the green on the right. A well placed second shot will run either close to the front of the green or on it. It is cleverly designed.
Standing in front of Greywalls, the 10th goes back at that sea and is well bunkered down the right and in the middle. It is a long hole, impossible for most short hitters to reach in two. The green is essentially flat which is helpful for those having to pitch or chip on to try to save par.
The blind tee shot on 11 is a lot of fun. This short par four is perhaps the easiest hole on the golf course along with the 3rd, but you must find the green with a short iron as the green is surrounded by eight deep bunkers. This hole has you looking right at the sea once you cross over the rise. It is really beautiful on a sunny day.
Depending on the wind, the 12th can play difficult or fairly easy. Once again, there is more trouble right of the green with five deep pot bunkers. The left and back side of this green have run-offs so flags placed closed to these areas require a perfect second in order to get close.
The 13th is my favorite par 3 on the golf course, an uphill long par 3 that is surrounded by five pot bunkers that are very deep. If you find the sand, you are likely to make a double bogey such is the difficulty of the green. I have found that it is better to hit a truly poor tee shot that can be either to the sides of the bunkers as a better miss than landing in one of the bunkers. It is one of the finest par 3's in the world.
The 14th is another long par 4 and requires a longer second shot into the green. You must avoid the bunkers on the left. This is a demanding hole based on the wind.
There are multiple tee options on 15, another fairly long par 4 but generally with the wind and has arguably the toughest green on the golf course as it is large and has swales in all directions.
16 is the last par 3 on the golf course and its difficulty is based on the wind. It can play fairly easy or incredibly difficult. The green is extremely well protected due to a slope on the left side of the green where balls will run off. There are seven pot bunkers surrounding most of the green. A miss short of the green is the preferred miss. I tend to overlook this hole sometimes because I start thinking about the 17th. On most other golf courses, this would be the best par 3 on the course, but here it is likely the weakest; that is how good the par 3's are at Muirfield.
The 17th is so famous as a par five due to the four deep bunkers that one must clear on their second shot. If the wind is in your face, they can be difficult to clear for the shorter hitter. For the longer hitter they are not a problem. If you are in them, they are really deep and all you want to do is to try to get out, not necessarily try to advance the ball down the fairway. The long hitter will want to cut the left side of this dogleg on their tee shot but there are five bunkers there to force you right.
The green is set back in some small dunes and is receptive to either a second or third shot. It is a fun golf hole, both strategic and from an execution standpoint.
Standing on the 18th you are looking back at the clubhouse and it is a magnificent site. There are two bunkers left and one right for your tee shot. There are two bunkers short of the green in the front and two very large bunkers on either side. None of these bunkers nearer the green are as difficult as some bunkers that have come before on other holes, but due to the rise of the green and its slope, saving par from them is difficult. It is a very well designed green complex.
Muirfield is special, truly unique in its layout and what it asks of the golfer depending on the wind and climate conditions. Playing alternate shot there is a joy although it can be a "blind and you might miss it" as the round goes incredibly quickly and sometimes you might be so caught up in the match that you don't truly appreciate how special the golf course is.
Well, it's almost perfection and there are only a handful of golf courses in the world that are in its class.
What's your top 5?
Just back from a couple of days courtesy of the Honourable Company. Before I start, I need to explain that my 5.5 rating is the most I would give any course as "the perfect" golf course/Club is yet to be discovered at least in my admittedly curmudgeonly eyes.
It seems I am following on from a quite negative review and I must say I profoundly disagree with its contents. I have yet to play the altered Turnberry and for some strange reason have not yet played Kingsbairns but leaving aside the Old Course ( no American for example, should rate any president above Washington) Muirfield is now my favourite links course. In fact I would go further and say that I enjoyed equally with Cypress Point and Pine Valley. So these are now my top 3. I do not pretend to be authoritative and there are some gaping holes in my own top 100 journey (never been to Ireland, for example) so this is just my non expert opinion.
Parking was very easy and I got a good spot in one of the stone/brick garages . I had been warned that there was no pro-shop so stocked up at the other end of the village in the Gullane Pro shop. Just pausing here, God help you if you want a Kit Kat or a Mars bar to put in your bag - or indeed a bottle of water ! Muirfield does not sell such things although I was subsequently told that bottles can be obtained from behind the bar . I do not understand why a discrete shop can not be included in the new starters hut - this would be non demonstrative and would make things a little easier. I suggested this to a few members and they agreed 100% although -sue to still bruising recent events -they still have bigger battles on their minds. There are also a few water fountains scattered around the Course.
The smoke room allows golfing attire to be warn until 10.30 -thereafter jacket and tie. Food is magnificent and is served from 11,45 with the last sitting at 3.30. Crumpets and cakes are served in the dining room thereafter. The lunch menu is to die for - excellent starters and then three roasts and the usual extras found at the best club. The wine is of good quality.
The changing rooms are excellent -good showers etc....The practice ground is excellent and is found between the ninth green and the tenth tee. Excellent bunker practice area and a 300 yard driving range - balls are free and are of good quality (PV1s) are as trolleys.
THE COURSE - Now for the main event. You will probably all know much about the course so - from my non expert 8 handicap opinion - this was the fairest links course I have ever played. I played foursomes on the first day and medal stable ford on the second day. I was very fortunate with the weather and the breeze only got up a little over the last six holes or so on day 2.
But it is a beautiful course- with the exception of the 11th, there are no blind tee shots. You stand on the tee of each hole and you can see what's before you. The first and second holes give you a comparatively gentle intro (in the weather conditions I faced) but straight away you make common sense decisions to avoid the bunkers from the tees. If you do not - you WILL suffer- as indeed, you should.
The course really warms up from 3 onward and I enjoyed my self immensely. I repeat - this is a very fair golf course. The apparent simple nature of my last sentence should not be ignored. I feel I should answer the complaint below concerning the 11th. I think it excellent ! We played "off the boxes" so it was a three wood off the tee and then a short iron on to the green -pin short left near the bunker. Green slopes from back to front. It is a real test and should not be underestimated.
The famous par threes are a treat (I am ver conscious that this course is so well known that those who read this will forgive me I trust for my poor descriptions ) and to continue in my discursive way - the fourth is a nightmare with bunkers left and right and an evil run off are behind the left bunker - skinny green. The famous 13th and the 16th both run in the same direction and I could play them all day and find new things. Narrow greens -hidden slopes- deep bunkers -trouble at back........The par fives are birdie chances even for me except perhaps the ninth - a truly great hole where you need to beware the left of the 5 bunkers about 90 yards short of the green. You can't really see it from the driving area. You are supposed to go to the left of it but you then might run foul of the stone wall of the hotel ! Then there is the 17th - what a hole ! Remember Mickelson's two 3 woods to get on in 2013 ? Well for me fro a forward tee it was a decent drive and a hybrid lay-up and then a pitching wedge. This was my favourite hole.
I realise my review jumps around a bit but I trust the reader will at least get a flavour of my experience at one of the world's best golf courses. I loved it !
And lastly - I found the members of the Honourable Company to be very welcoming and made excellent dining companions.
This is the grand master of East Lothian oozing with challenge, class and a routing which is nothing short of genius. The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers is my favourite course in the UK, and my most recent trip just further confirmed my personal preference.
Depending on the wind, it has a long and penal opening hole that begins to turn you clockwise around the property boundary. The continual clockwise turn gently from left to right brings wind, topography and merciless bunkers constantly into play. The green site evolution from Old Tom to Harry Colt has only gotten better over time with contours and fall-offs which will reject balls into the awaiting deep traps with steep faces. As the back nine reverses you into a gradual anti-clockwise routing, the genius of the overall golf course comes to light as you navigate a variety of winds and frequent change in direction.
If I could play one course in the UK, it would be Muirfield, and no doubt the race for the top spot in the Scottish rankings is firmly only between Trump Turnberry and Muirfield, who are clearly in a league of their own in my humble opinion.
Went to Scotland for the first time this past year in mid March. Played North Berwick, Muirfield, Royal Aberdeen, Cruden Bay, and Royal Dornoch. Both Cruden Bay and Dornoch had winter conditions in play so it was hard to give it a fair evaluation. But even then I don’t think it would have mattered. Months after my trip, Muirfield is furthering itself from the pack. It’s not like North Berwick where you’re gonna get a lot of quirkiness or a Cruden Bay with it’s majestic views. Aside from the routing or the design of the holes, the course just exhales a certain element that is beyond explanation. I’m sure there are better reviews on this site about Muirfield so I won’t try to go through all the holes or try to explain the architectural merits of the place because I’m not too knowledgeable on the subject. To put it simply, play Muirfield.
In simple terms -- those who opine Muirfield is less than stellar - frankly need to examine the roster of champions the course has crowned over the years. There's no accident that such top tier players have been able to hold the Claret Jug. The reason is simple -- the design calls upon consummate skill in all phases of one's game. The Open has been contested 16 times here and the winners are as follow: Harold Hilton, Harry Vardon, James Braid (2), Ted Ray, Walter Hagen, Alf Perry, Henry Cotton, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Tom Watson, Nick Faldo (2), Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson.
The turf conditions for the '13 Open showed conclusively what the layout is like when firm and fast conditions are at their optimum best.
Unlike so many other links courses -- which can be fairly one dimensional with a straight line out and back routing -- Muirfield is always changing looks and, as a result, so does the wind directions one encounters when playing. Adjustments are the hallmark of a player's ultimate greatness -- and Muirfield excels in showcasing players who can do that over and over again.
The topography isn't going to wow many upon their first visit, however, Muirfield eschews the zany bounces that sometimes can derail a fine shot with randomness. Fairness can be often aborted when playing links golf but at Muirfield it is the player who holds the keys to one's success -- and failure.
The constant theme when playing the course is using your mind -- the puzzles are ongoing for players to decipher. One must be ever realistic on determining one's line of play. Failure to do so will mean repeated visits to the treacherous bunkers that almost always seem to pull one's ball towards them.
The bunkers demand total respect. They are well-positioned and their overall appearance is both alluring to the eye and paralyzing to the strokes needed to extricate oneself from upon entering. At Muirfield -- the application of the word "hazard" is most apt to define these fiendish creations.
My only detraction for the layout is the inane height of the rough. Penalizing a missed tee shot is appropriate but the degree of such punishment can easily be accomplished with the usage of a scalpel and not a hacksaw. The quality of Muirfield's routing and hole diversity need not be "protected" by hay-like rough that necessitates inordinate delays from prolonged searches. Muirfield is not alone in this desire to inflict unnecessary pain and I would hope that better sense would prevail for day-to-day play.
Spending time in the clubhouse is clearly a must and if time allows the lunch is clearly sumptuous. For those able to spend a few extra pounds it's a real plus to spend a night or two at resplendent Greywalls immediately adjacent to the club.
Overall, Muirfield doesn't need all the artifice that lies at the heart of so many highly touted but clearly overrated courses. The central theme when playing is realizing what Clint Eastwood was famous for saying in one of his Dirty Harry movies, "A man's got to know his limitations." At Muirfield, you will be constantly reminded of that and you will know no greater joy when executing a shot of excellence as the reward will be swiftly supplied. The word "must" play is used to the point of silliness but Muirfield is indeed one of the rare clubs I have played in my lifetime that merits that lofty tribute.
by M. James Ward
I played Muirfield for the first time 7/9/17. As you read my review know that I am comparing this course against others in its class and not your local average muni. I am also grading it against its price tag to play. I have played about 40 top 100 clubs on this list, all of the Open venues and roughly 40 top 100 from the USA. I am a student and a fanatic of great golf course architecture. I am giving the course a rating of "Good" because of the price and for the lack of variety in the course design.
Muirfield is an interesting review. There is nothing about the course that will blow you away, there is no pro shop, no golf pros on site, and yet it is still a special place from an experience standpoint.
From the moment you arrive you are greeted by a friendly staff member who will advise you where to park and will offer you a shuttle ride down the driveway to the club. The entrance gate to Muirfield has to be one of the best in all of golf albeit a very odd set up for a club. You park "off site", travel 40 yards down a neighborhood road to reach the club gate. There is no grand entrance as you drive up. From there I was greeted by one of the staters who again was very welcoming and friendly (as was the entire staff).
First off I want to say that Muirfield from an experience perspective should be on everyones must play list but only if you stay for lunch and play the foursomes in the afternoon. It is a rare experience and one that 99% of American won't find at home. The course isn't worth the money but the day long experience is worth it at least once in your lifetime. The clubhouse is worth a look around at all of the history and artifacts.
As for the course, it is relatively flat all the entire way around, don't expect sand dunes here or big undulation changes. It is probably the fairest of the links courses I have ever played because it is so flat, if you hit to the right area you will be rewarded for plotting your way around, no bad bounces. Because of this some might say the course is boring and uninteresting. Tremendous bunkering throughout the course, they're beautiful, deep, penal and they are everywhere! There is an old stone wall that encloses three side of the course and comes into play on about 4 holes. The rough at muirfield is among the worst you will find anywhere, off the fairway is dead or lost. The greens were the best I have encountered in all my times playing in this part of the world, they rolled about a 9+ and were "tour" smooth. I took a caddie and he was nice enough but would have been better had he been trained to be more like a pro caddie given they require top pay for their work. Not once did he clean my ball, not once in the rain did he wipe dry my grips or the shafts before placing them back into my bag, I think proper training is lacking. Other than that my caddie was a good guy to spend 4 hours with.
My overall impression of the course is that it is very nice but a bit mundane, lacks any real variety in hole design, doesn't have any heroic do or die shots, most holes do allow for an easy run up shot, the first three par 3's are basically all the same which is uneventful, hole 11 (being that it is the worst on the course) needs to be dug up and rebuilt. Some of my favorite holes are 6-9 and 12-16 and of course 18.
I'd have to give Mousehold Heath pitch & putt a 6-ball rating. It's great value at just £5 a round and holds up well compared to others in its class
I'm not quite sure how to respond to this review. Muirfield is a consensus top 10 course in the world and having played over 30 of the world top 100 I would agree with it's lofty ranking. I realize that people have differences of opinion and I don't want to be harsh, but this review betrays a serious lack of appreciation for what makes a great golf course. To call Muirfield "mundane" staggers the mind. In contrast to the statement that the course "lacks any real variety in hole design" I would contend that there are 18 unique and excellent holes at Muirfield and each shot is a demanding test of strategic golf. To play Muirfield is to engage in a chess match of the highest order, pitting your abilities against the strategy of the course and the elements.
It would seem the reviewer would prefer a cheaper option and some "heroic do or die shots", and in that case I would refer him to the Myrtle Beach area where such courses can be found in abundance.
To all those that appreciate this great game and are thinking of visiting Muirfield please ignore this review. Simply, he doesn't know what he is talking about! Muirfield is a golfing heaven of strategic brilliance! SR
There are some slightly sniffy responses to this review.
I think that the reviewer is clear that his rating is based on his enjoyment of the experience not strategic merit.
Some newer courses like Castle Stuart show that fairness is not incompatible with fun.
Also, the new sea holes at Renaissance show the thrills that Muirfield is eschewing on the same land.
Alister MacKenzie says in "The Spirit of St Andrews" that courses should on no account allow their Greens Committee to become dominated by low handicap golfers otherwise quirks (aka fun) will be ironed out In favour of uniformity (aka fairness) with excessive penalties for poor play. When you see flat fairways, high rough and a lot more front right bunkers than back left you know the course design has been influenced by humourless scratch golfers.
This review is not based on the course's world ranking, reputation, or strategic design, which all of the great courses in the UK are designed with strategy in mind so it is a moot point. The review is based on an honest object perspective of a day spent at Muirfield. There is nothing bold or diabolical about the course although the bunkering is superb (keeping in mind no course is highly ranked solely because of its bunkering). It is basically boring golf and a boring walk (when compared to other elite courses) other than the history aspect, and the tradition of the great lunch and foursomes experience. The review is from the perspective that a person that may get to spend one lucky day in their life at this club and not written for the member or the regular guest that plays matches at Muirfield constantly soaking in its strategic contemplation. It is clear the course design is not quirky, the land is relatively flat and most certainly not scenic, to the tourist paying enormous tariffs this course doesn't stack up to dozens of other clubs in GB&I and that isn't to take anything away from Muirfield or to say it is lousy. The course is brilliant. Muirfield is still amazing but it is time we put it in the correct perspective to the person playing it once or twice in their life and paying a premium to do so. If it didn't host the Open where would it actually be ranked and based on what?
It’s no surprise that every hole at Muirfield is a strong one, each relentlessly demanding but all accepting of good and well-thought-out shots. The position of the bunkers, on both drive and approach, is truly exceptional. I lost count of the number of times I stood on a tee and there was a hazard, or group of hazards, exactly where I wanted to drive my ball for the optimum line into the green. Add to that the wispy rough that flanks most of the holes and there is a real premium on accurate driving.
The course was slightly different to my expectations in that it wasn’t quite as flat as I had imagined and there were a few more blind and semi-blind shots than I thought there would be. I liked this aspect a lot as it gave the course some real character; a splendid mix of charm and challenge.
The charm is apparent on holes such as the second, third, sixth and 11th where respectively an interesting green complex, a funnel of duneland, an ancient stone wall and a stunning backdrop add to the charisma of the course.
The challenge is omnipresent at Muirfield but nothing is hidden, all the cards are on the table and it’s as honest a course as you will play.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
Playing at the Honourable Company is one of the great experiences in golf. The storied history of the club and their adherence to rules and traditions make it a club every golfer who loves the game should experience once in their life. Wear your jacket and tie, play the alternate shot format they suggest and have the lunch in the members dining room. There are few experiences as good in golf.
The golf course itself doesn’t bowl me over. Compared to other links courses, it seems flatter with most of the holes having less character. I liked the par fourth dog-leg 8th hole, which Jack Nicklaus called his favorite par four in the world. The uphill par three 13th is also very good. Stay at the Greywalls Hotel if you can, very cool.
John Sabino is the author of How to Play the World’s Most Exclusive Golf Clubs