The Takeaway: Known as the Augusta National of Scotland, Muirfield is an elite club steeped in tradition. Championship golf is the call of the day with challenging holes, engaging green complexes, and extremely penal rough that devours balls that sail wide of the fairway. The Open rota course is laid out on a slightly sloped piece of ground that lacks the elevation changes necessary to provide inspiring views or highly engaging hole designs. In the end, Muirfield is full of good holes but lacks great ones (other than the world class 13th) and is more about the experience than it is about unforgettable golf. Grade B+
Designer: Old Tom Morris in 1891
Cost: £235.00 (Caddies available, but not required, for £50 plus gratuity) Click for current rates
Phone Number: +44 (0) 1620 842123
Course Website: Official Website - Visit Muirfield's official website by clicking on the link provided.
Directions: Get here! - Duncur Road, Muirfield, Gullane, East Lothian, UK
Accolades: Ranked 6th in Scotland by Golf Course Gurus. British Open champions; 1892 (Harold Hilton), 1896 (Harry Vardon), 1901 (James Braid), 1906 (James Braid), 1912 (Ted Ray), 1929 (Walter Hagen), 1935 (Alf Perry), 1948 (Henry Cotton), 1959 (Gary Player), 1966 (Jack Nicklaus), 1972 (Lee Trevino), 1980 (Tom Watson), 1987 (Nick Faldo), 1992 (Nick Faldo), 2002 (Ernie Els), and 2013 (Phil Mickelson).
What to Expect: Muirfield is one of the most celebrated and respected courses in the world of golf. Comparisons to Augusta National have been exhausted at every level as Muirfield is the club steeped in more tradition and prestige than any other in Scotland. The course welcomes visitors on Tuesdays and Thursdays but you better plan at least a year in advance to claim one of the prized tee times. While at the club players will be given the opportunity to eat the famed lunch buffet which is often discussed more than the course. If you plan on getting your grub on, you better come with dress slacks and a suit jacket otherwise you may find yourself outside wishing you had packed a PB&J sandwich. The pace of play at Muirfield is brisk to say the least which is ensured by caddies that seem more worried about getting the round over than they are about delivering a quality experience to the golfer. In addition to the caddie's encouragement, the handicap minimum enforced by the club prevents high handicappers from taking a loop around the course and potentially slowing the pace down. A unique and welcoming tradition at Muirfield is playing your own ball in the morning before engaging in alternate shot with your playing partner in the afternoon. The course is not as flat as Carnoustie but is an easy walk nonetheless which is nice considering you won't find buggies as an option while playing the course. The downside of the mildly sloped terrain is the lack of views offered within the boundaries of the course or of the nearby ocean. Muirfield is not as fun as other links offerings in Scotland but is a quality layout that is a fine test for high level tournament golf. The fairways are fairly generous overall but the chance of you losing a ball sometime during your round is pretty high considering the pushing rough that devours balls about as quick as the Cookie Monster consumes his favorite chocolate chip baked good. Perhaps the best comparable to Muirfield in the states is Winged Foot. Both courses feature great green complexes and bunkering but are laid out on less than engaging terrain and feature designs meant to test the most elite players in the world. As a side note, Muirfield allowed female members for the first time in 2017 with the underlying motivation being focused on getting the British Open to return to the famed layout. The R&A made it clear that Muirfield would see the Open on their ground again until their policies were more reflective of the 21st century.
By the Numbers
Individual Hole Analysis
Signature Hole: 13th Hole – 191 Yard Par 3 – Without question this was my favorite hole at Muirfield and one of the finest uphill one-shotters you'll ever encounter. The steep front edge of the green begs you to play an extra club and avoiding the awkward chips that awaits when a tee ball hits the face and tumbles back down the fairway or into the rough. Five bunkers provide a heavy defense to this 15 yard wide green while the chipping area deep left has confounded more than its share of golfers into a bogey. With the tee sitting well below the green it can give golfers a false sense of the wind strength and lead to poor results when not properly judged. With over 40 yards of putting surface to work with you'd think that a green in regulation would be relatively routine, but nothing is routine at Muirfield.
Best Par 3: 16th Hole – 186 Yards – Muirfield's last par three is a less sexy version of the 13th; not quite as much uphill and not quite as narrow of a target but longer and with more bunkers. Falling into one of the seven surrounding bunkers is an instant recipe for posting a five on your scorecard while coming up short will leave a challenging chip to this tiered green. It's not uncommon to see an entire foursome get skunked on greens in regulation due to high winds or taking aim at tucked pins. Muirfield is known for its strong closing stretch from #13 - #18 and this hole carries its weight in that challenge.
Best Par 4: 18th Hole – 471 Yards – If there is one common theme among major championship host sites it is perhaps the strength of their closing holes and Muirfield is a prime example of that. Tipping out at 471 yards and boasting three fairway bunkers in the driving zone, two of which are on the left side where the prevailing wind sends balls, Muirfield demands that players save one of their best drives for last. Things don't get easier enroute to the green that is protected on each side with nearly 20 yard long bunkers; the bunker on the right featuring a grass island in the middle of it. Two more bunkers sit short of the putting surface in case players try to take the easy way out by laying up. With the sprawling and iconic clubhouse encompassing the background and history oozing out from every wrinkle on the property, walking up the fairway of Muirfield's closer is one of the more impressionable experiences in golf.
Best Par 5: 5th Hole – 559 Yards – With just three par fives on the course, the first is its best. A series of five bunkers set the right boundary of the hole and call for a power fade that starts at the fairway bunkers on the left and steers clear of the sand on the right. Players that decide to lay up to the traditional 100 yard area will have a large bunker creeping in from the left to avoid while players going for the green in two need to thread the half dozen bunkers surrounding the putting surface. Successfully threading your ball through the opening in front of the green yields a opportunity to use your flat stick to navigate the green that slopes right to left and over a tier. Standing on this green offers one of the few, and perhaps best, views of the ocean that is closer than you might think while on the property.
Birdie Time: 2nd Hole – 365 Yard Par 4 – The best view afforded on a tee box and the most opportune chance to card a birdie collide at the 2nd hole where an elevated tee can combine with a tailwind to give long hitters a shot at reaching the green. Four bunkers protect the left side of the green while an out of bounds wall lines the left side. A 3-wood off the tee is a safe play to this wide fairway and sets up a comfortable approach distance to stick close to the flag. Take advantage of this hole early, you'll need the cushion on your scorecard later.
Bogey Beware: 6th Hole – 467 Yard Par 4 – Muirfield's stoutest test comes in the form of a lengthy dogleg left that protects the inside of the dogleg with four penalizing bunkers and a blind landing area. The aiming point is at the right edge of the furthest right bunker which will set up your best approach angle. After climbing uphill initially, the fairway slopes down before climbing back up to the greensite that is hugged by a pair of bunkers. The prevailing cross winds make hitting the fairway and green in regulation difficult while missing the fairway or green altogether will likely result in a lost ball. Bogey isn't the big fear here, it is how many strokes over par you could possibly go.