Review for Country Club at Muirfield Village

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I’ve never heard the term “pedestrian” used as an adjective in a friendly context. Indeed, the dictionary suggests the term refers to “lacking inspiration or excitement; dull.” Well! As someone who spends a significant amount of time as a pedestrian (noun), I take some offense.

“Pedestrian” came to mind when thinking on how to describe the Country Club of Muirfield Village, and it was not intended to demean.

CCMV is frequently compared to MVGC, the Muirfield Village Golf Club, where Jack Nicklaus hosts his annual Memorial Invitational. It’s logical, based on name alone, but the comparison and contrast of the two provides a valuable understanding of CCMV’s purpose, as well as its strengths and weaknesses.

Let’s get the bad news out of the way first: MVGC surpasses its neighbor in several areas. For one, it possesses considerably better land than CCMV. One might be shocked to consider the relative turbulence of the PGA venue versus the more pedestrian (dammit, seems I’m as guilty as the next) offerings at CCMV. Secondly, MVGC attracts significantly more money than the club across the street, both from its tournament earnings as well as its international clientele, while the country club caters to the local commune.

Anyone expecting a review to suggest, in some underhanded way, that the underdog is superior to the neighborhood bully, will be disappointed.

But there’s something to be celebrated in that, especially from an architect like Nicklaus. MVGC is a bad mother, and I’ve played enough Nicklaus signature designs to discern that the Golden Bear has designed many bears in his lifetime. CCMV is not one of them, and Nicklaus’s ability to separate the “Muirfield”-brand intensity from a course intended for more common golfers is admirable. The course is eminently more walkable, the greens run slower than the glass tabletops across the street and, most importantly, heroic plays will be called for much less frequently. This does not equate to a total lack of challenge, but rather a strategic round where one is allowed to breathe (note: rumors that guests at MVGC are encouraged not to breathe in bunkers so that they don’t disrupt the manicured sand are untrue).

Consider No. 6, the number one handicap hole. An uphill par four, where the right side of the green is guarded by a short-grass collection area for those who miss right. These concepts are all the rage on the PGA tour at the moment, providing awkward shots for a class of player all too comfortable in sand. This brilliant touch, for whatever reason, does not exist at any of the greens next door. A shot that presents itself easier for the common golfer happy to make five while intimidating the professional trying to make four. Nicklaus would do well to learn from himself! Moving back toward the tee, players will need to wrap a fade between left bunkers long and right bunkers near. I nearly did it, but ended up in the rightward bunkers. The consistency of the sand was...challenging and fair, as it should be. I have not had the privilege to hit out of a MVGC bunker, but the white powder appears so fine as to seem Nicklaus imported it from Colombia (I do admire his attempt to introduce furrowed rakes, however).

Yes, there are certainly opportunities to add more strategic intrigue at CCMV, and not just by adding more ponds near the greens on long holes. Bunkers could be made more welcoming to incoming shots, which would have made my round of misplayed tee shots more interesting, for sure. The reported next round of edits will involve new, angled teeboxes. But I would not ramp the challenge up significantly. CCMV is a member’s course, perhaps not offering sufficient challenge to land it in the Top 30 in Ohio, but sufficient engagement for an enjoyable round with less need for profanity than found at other Nicklaus designs in my experience.

I would describe the Country Club of Muirfield as “pedestrian,” and would mean nothing but the best by it.

Date: April 30, 2021

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