Though evidence of the Company of Edinburgh Golfers has existed since 1744, it wasn’t until 1891 that Muirfield moved to its present location at Dirleton, when Old Tom Morris laid out a sixteen-hole course, that was subsequently extended to eighteen holes a year later. Before this, the Gentleman Golfers had relocated several times, originally from Leith, then to Musselburgh racecourse in 1836. It too became overcrowded as four different clubs were sharing it, and a year after its founding, Muirfield hosted the first-ever Open Championship played over 72-holes in 1892.
The first Old Tom design was somewhat constrained by the stone walls found on three sides of the golf course, and they also had early issues with drainage. As a result, an additional 13-acres of land were bought in 1907 and a further 50-acres in 1923 that allowed Harry Colt and Tom Simpson to redesign the course producing today’s layout, two 9-hole loops. Since then only minor upgrades have taken place. The last of these occurred in 2010/11 when Martin Hawtree added new bunkers, relocated some greenside bunkers, extended some putting surfaces to allow for new pin positions, and added six new tee boxes. These changes were first played in 2013 Open Championship, won by Phil Mickelson.
Muirfield is home to the world’s oldest golf club, the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers. The clubhouse behind the 18th green is also one of the most iconic in world golf where the tradition of jacket and tie after 10 am, is still a requirement in public areas. A total of sixteen Opens have been played at Muirfield where only Braid and Nick Faldo have won twice. The links have further hosted two Walker Cups, the 1973 Ryder Cup, two Curtis Cups and numbers other amateur and professional tournaments. Visitors are welcome at Muirfield on Tuesday and Thursdays, and the club requires golfers to play in Fourballs in the morning and Foursomes (Alternate shot) in the afternoons, maintaining the traditions of the club since establishment.
Muirfield is not your classic seaside links golf course, for even at its closest point, the sea is over 200m from the boundaries of the course. It also doesn’t have the dramatic dunes or rugged links land of many of its peers. Nonetheless, Muirfield is a stringent test, in particular of driving accuracy and rough avoidance. Despite the fairways being generous, the strategically positioned bunkers at Muirfield, require your thought and attention. The continually changing wind direction as a result of the courses two loops means that you play a very different shot at almost every stroke.
The 8th and 9th holes on Muirfield are the Pro’s particular favorites because they require incredible accuracy. The 443yard par four, 8th is a superb dogleg that demands a pinpoint drive to the left half of the fairway to avoid a cluster of five bunkers positioned at its elbow. A further four cross bunkers need to be carried to reach the green, which falls severely off to the right and back, adding to the challenge.
The par 5, 9th hole at 556 yards from the championship tees is usually played into the prevailing wind. Your drive must avoid the deep fairways bunkers and rough, with a lay-up the preferred option for many, before your second shot is required to miss a cluster of five bunkers gathered about 70yards in from the putting surface. The out of bounds wall that runs the length of the hole adds another element of danger, particularly where it comes unnervingly close to the left side of the green.
Muirfield is a unique golf experience, and no sojourn through the links courses of Scotland is complete without a day at The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers.