1 Muirfield

Architect: Colt
Stats: 6,673 yds, par 70, SSS 73
GF: £75-£190
Visitor information: Play from designated tees
W: muirfield.org.uk
2008 Ranking: 1 (No Move)
Improvements since 2008 Rankings:
Course: Changes to 16 holes to be finished this winter for 2013 Open
Clubhouse: New visitors locker room and refurb to washrooms
Gallery: Muirfield pictures

When Sir Nick Faldo holed from four feet on Muirfield’s 18th green on the final day of the 1987 Open, he completed one of the most memorable rounds in the history of the Championship. His 18 straight pars in the mist and rain were good enough for a one-shot victory.

Faldo’s effort encapsulated the challenge posed by the grand East Lothian Links. This is a layout where par is a great score for even the very best players. It’s certainly not an unreasonable test, however, it’s simply a wonderful design providing a stringent examination of every element of the game, both physical and mental.

The layout at Muirfield is unusual for a Scottish links as it plays in two loops – an outer and inner. The front nine skirts the perimeter in a clockwise direction before the 10th leads into the heart of the course and the inner loop, played in a largely anti-clockwise direction. The routing means the golfer will never face a succession of holes into the wind or with the breeze at his back – just one of the characteristics that makes Muirfield such a wonderfully fair test of golf.

The run for home is extremely tough with par a particularly good score at the two challenging par 3s, the 13th and 16th. The par-5 17th provides a birdie chance though and the opportunity for drama right at the end of a round. It witnessed the turning point in the Open of 1992 when Faldo made a birdie, but John Cook missed from less than three feet to lose his lead. The Englishman then made a four at the testing last against Cook’s five and so claimed his third Open title.

Muirfield has hosted 15 Opens and the Championship will return in 2013. The Ryder Cup, Walker Cup, Amateur Championship and Senior Open have all been contested over the links.

Quality of test and design: Although undulating, there is only one blind shot 
(from the 11th tee). As Jack Nicklaus 
put it: “What you see is what you get.” There’s arguably no fairer test in world golf.

Presentation: The course is never overplayed and is maintained in peak condition all year round. Even in mid-winter the club has no need to use temporary tees and greens.

Visual appeal and enjoyment: Set on an amazing stretch of golfing coast, there are views up the Firth of Forth past Edinburgh and across to Fife. The holes themselves are extremely appealing aesthetically.

Ambience: Muirfield has a reputation as a very private members’ club, but visitors are welcomed heartily on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The traditional clubhouse exudes history and heritage from the smoking room with its wonderful outlook, to the dining room where a memorable lunch can be taken.

Panellists’ comments: “Muirfield has an unerring knack of confirming to what degree you have mastered this game”; “Classically rather than spectacularly beautiful.”

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