5750 Memorial Drive,
Ohio (OH) 43017,
- +1 614 889 6740
2 miles S of Dublin
Members and their guests only
Jack Nicklaus, Desmond Muirhead
Muirfield in Scotland is the course of “The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers”, the world’s oldest golf club. It’s an architectural masterpiece and a layout that Jack Nicklaus thoroughly admires. His admiration turned into a love affair when he won the 1966 Open at Muirfield and he decided to realize his dream by designing and naming his hometown course after the historic Open championship venue.
Jack commented: "I set out to build not only an outstanding golf course for every level of player, but a magnificent course for watching a tournament... I thought the Masters was a great thing for golf and that I'd like to do the same thing in Columbus." Muirfield Village Golf Club officially opened for play on Memorial Day (27th May 1974) with an exhibition match between big Jack and Tom Weiskopf. Needless to say Jack won with an impressive six-under par 66, a course record that stood until 1979.
Muirfield Village played host to the 1987 Ryder Cup matches between the USA and Europe. Team Captains were Jack Nicklaus (US) and Tony Jacklin (Europe). Having never yet lost on home soil, the US Team, under the stewardship of Jack Nicklaus playing at his home club, seemed unlikely to falter. However, the “Spanish Armada” pairing of Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal had other ideas. The European lead after two days was an impressive five points, which the US Team tried to claw back in the singles, but came up short, allowing Europe’s first ever Ryder Cup victory on American soil. Europe 15 - USA 13. The Ryder Cup was played at The Belfry in 1985 and again in 1989.
No expense was spared in the construction of Muirfield Village with bold bunkering, water hazards and narrow fairways that require pinpoint accurate tee shots. The plan was for Muirfield Village to become Ohio’s equivalent to Georgia’s Augusta National and, in some ways, that objective has been achieved. The design is at once thrilling and thoughtful and the conditioning is normally immaculate.
In 1976, Jack inaugurated the Memorial Tournament which he hoped would develop into a fifth major and the event would be held annually at Muirfield Village. The tournament has not yet developed into a major, but it’s certainly a tremendous event that celebrates human golfing contributions and achievements. Bobby Jones was the first person to be honored and Betsy Rawls and Cary Middlecoff were awarded honors in 2005.
As most of us know, events do not always go to plan. The Ryder Cup was held here at Muirfield Village in 1987 and big Jack was the captain of team USA. Surely it would be apt and fitting for Jack to hold the Ryder Cup aloft on home soil and at his home club? Unfortunately for big Jack, Tony Jacklin had other ideas and Jacklin successfully marshalled team Europe to a narrow 15 points to 13 victory.
An extensive course renovation began immediately after the final round of the Memorial Tournament in 2020. Greens were reconstructed with bentgrass putting surfaces, new irrigation and Precision Air systems. Most of the green complexes were re-contoured with significant bunker modifications. All tee boxes were resurfaced and new tees added on five holes. Fairways were resurfaced and additional drainage installed on many of the holes. The 15th was completely re-built with new fairway bunkers and extensive grade changes.
I have been fortunate enough to play MVGC well over 50 times, both before and after renovation. The renovation did nothing but improve the golf course, most notably the green complexes. The greens were made more challenging in some parts i.e. 5th green, and slightly easier in others, i.e. 16th green. By making these changes, the course truly rewards good shots and punishes bad. I have never noticed a single blade of grass out of place, the course is always in pristine condition. I have played many other top 50 courses including Camargo, Cypress, National Golf Links, Oakmont, and Bandon, and Muirfield Village has consistently been in the best overall condition. The golf course is challenging, particularly the rough and green complexes, but it is well balanced by design and relatively wide fairways. While it is most definitely tailored for the tournament and tour players, it is easily enjoyed by all.
There was an early comment on whether the merits of MVGC should be listed among the top 50 courses in the world. I don't see the course as being among that upper pantheon but I still view what's presented as being very good on a number of fronts. It's important to point out that like Pete Dye was constantly fiddling with Crooked Stick in the Indianapolis area -- Jack Nicklaus has been doing similarly with MVGC.
David's comments are spot on - the nature of the golf is point-to-point precision. There are massive bunkers and the greens are both large at times and have a myriad of movements that require patience and precision with one's stroke.
MVGC represents the brawny style of modern architecture. Since The Memorial is played annually, Nicklaus has always wanted to make sure the course is up to whatever challenge comes its way. This can be seen by the various improvements made to the 18th preventing very long players from cutting the corner off at-will and thereby reducing the hole to a flip wedge approach. Now the back tee goes back to 484 yards.
Nicklaus has seen fit that every speck of turf is always at its best. There are few courses where one would swear, they cut the grass with tweezers -- MVGC is a strong candidate for consideration to be in the same rarified air as Augusta National in that regard.
If any course epitomizes the Golden Bear's design philosophy - look no further than MVGC. Hitting the ball high -- a Nicklaus trademark -- is rewarded for those who can do it again and again. The same can be said in working the ball left-to-right on a number of holes there.
To be fair -- the listing of winners of The Memorial has been a stellar listing -- with just a few notable exceptions of those who caught fire at the right moment. It's also important to stress how much television exposure has helped MVGC, and others that receive annual global viewership.
In conclusion -- I view MVGC as one of the top 100 courses in the USA but just into the second tier of 50 -- and not the lower half. The competition and range of courses vying for such inclusion has without question greatly intensified over the last 25 or so years and it's really a joy to see other courses of distinction be rightly recognized -- for example Camargo, to name just one -- that do not get any time on television and are rightly celebrated.
M. James Ward
M. James, curious if your review reflects the most recent round of changes at Muirfield Village (allegedly Jack's last)? Absolutely no ill-will if it doesn't, but my follow-up question would be if you had played it before and after?
The short answer is -- yes -- I have played MVGC -- both before and after.
The issue I have with Jack's desire to constantly update matters is that the
course is more and more about the tournament itself -- first and foremost.
Jack has always wanted to keep the layout relevant for the world's finest players and there's little question he will do whatever it takes to do just that. Witness the 18th as one clear example.
The main question mark I have with MVGC is Jack's over usage of water in a number of key instances. Water is a definitive inclusion -- it's a black and white end game. Once you're in there's little other recourse. I'd have preferred to see a bit more "gray" architecture where outcomes have a bit more mystery to them.
The par-3 16th is a great example of water being overly used as a deterrent. It's not unusual for wind to be a major factor when played. The water is literally parked on the left side and therefore most players opt to hitting it to the far-right side.
Consider the qualities of the preceding hole - the par-5 15th. There's no water involved for the best players and yet the hole still provides real theater with the demands on the tee shot and the way the green is contoured.
Jack's penchant for getting things 1000% right can often mean an overplaying of "corrections" when either few or none are needed. The Buckeye State has quite a few outstanding courses that really are invisible to many -- I mentioned Camargo and how sensational it is.
I thoroughly enjoy MVGC but I don't see it being among the USA's top 50 from the number of qualified courses I have personally played. As I stated in my review -- I do see the layout among my top 100 USA but it's somewhere in the second 50.
The diversity of architecture is now being more fully appreciated and with that has meant a rising number of other courses that don't reap the benefit of millions of eyeballs annually created via television.
Hope the info provided is helpful.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING !
Absolutely! As a Columbus resident, I have walked MV as an attendee at The Memorial many times, and across many changes. Different than playing, of course, but I absolutely hear you on the black/white perspective. Many of the holes at MV make me conceptualize it mentally as a TPC Sawgrass with hills...certainly a showcase for Tour talent but perhaps too overstated for the core principles of strategic golf.
I played MVGC a year ago, and to this day I can still recall the routing. To me, that's a sign of a great course.
It's a beautiful course. It's a demanding course. The par threes are memorable (particularly 8 and 12); the par 5s exacting (particularly hole 5 and 11); and the par fours don't let up (hole 3, 9, 18). Just so many great holes with great variety.
I've stayed at 5-star hotels and played many top clubs, but none have had a more gracious and friendly staff than the people at Muirfield Village. The course often meets the first time golfers' high expectations, but rarely exceeds it due to the prestige, history, and high ranking. The conditions are impeccable and as good as courses can get. The river that runs through the course is one highlight, but the real highlight are the pure greens with enough contours to make the greens interesting, but nothing too severe that it is questionable. When firm and fast the greens are as difficult as any course you've ever played.