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.
Date: October 09, 2019