Traditional out and back links allowed a golfer to ‘dial into the wind’ and settle. Muirfield adopted a revolutionary design of two loops of nine, turning about 30 degrees at each tee to thwart rhythm. Consequently the wind never comes from the same place on consecutive holes. Golfers have to continually adjust and read the conditions. It was a design hit. Muirfield is widely regarded as the most complete test of a links player that Scotland has. Their list of Open champions attests to this.
Plans to play Muirfield normally need making about 18 months in advance.
When Jack Nicklaus was tasked with compiling his best eighteen Open Championship holes he selected Muirfield’s second on his composite course. He reasoned that it offers you a sporting chance. In the right conditions it can be driven by the big-hitters, but an out of bounds wall runs down the left side, coming within 15 feet of the green. The second penalises anything errant. It this regard its a clever ‘thinkers’ hole. For such a seemingly innocuous hole it has the capacity to reward and punish in equal measure, and above all else, its fair
This is probably the most demanding hole on the course. It’s a lengthy dog-leg left that protects the inside with four penalising bunkers and a blind landing area. The hole almost always plays in a cross wind from right or left, and involves a tee shot is over the crest of the fairway, leaving only sky to aim at. The sighting line is a point at the right edge of the furthest right bunker which will set up your best approach angle. The hole then sweeps down and away to the left to a climbing green set against the backdrop of Archerfield Wood. This is an unusual background on a links, and the hidden hollow short of the green, make the pin look a lot closer than it is in reality. The second shot is a tough one to judge. With the rough usually grown out missing the fairway or green altogether will likely result in a lost ball.
Still a bit short by modern par five standards, the hole compensates by playing straight into the prevailing wind, and was tightened up in 2010. The tee shot landing area is squeezed between a deep bunker to the left and thick rough on the right, leading many players to lay up. A careful tee shot however means a more demanding layup for the second. An aggressive tee shot successfully placed taunts the player to thread the eye of the needle for the green in two. And so it the ‘shall I, shan’t I’ debate goes on. Even with a really solid drive it is still very difficult to chase a long running shot past the bunkers on the right to the green. The ninth makes use of the OOB boundary wall, and orientation of the green emphasises a well placed second.
11th green overlooking the Firth of Forth
Extra yardage has been added to what was already a difficult uphill par three. Slightly unusually for these types of uphill assignments the risk of a shallow trajectory is negated a little bit by a putting surface that runs 46 yards deep. The steep front edge of the green begs you to play an extra club and avoiding the awkward chips that awaits anything that hits the face and tumbles back down the fairway. It needn’t be necessary to get a stopping height onto the ball therefore with all the risk of riding the wind that this involves. The threat comes instead from the fact that the target is never more than 15 paces wide and is ringed by brutal bunkers on both sides. The green runs severely from back to front and slopes to the right where the ball is gathered by the bunkers. You just have to stay out of the sand.
One of the great finishing holes in golf and requires two immaculate shots with very little margin for error in either. Two bunkers cut into the fairway on the left side as the fairway reaches its narrowest point, but any tee shot hit too safely to the right is threatened by more sand on that side. The prevailing cross wind from the right enhances the difficulty of the drive and the second shot to a long rising green. The green itself is guarded by deep bunkers on either side and is long and rising. The bunker on the right is the iconic ‘Island Bunker’
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