Muirfield dates back to the very beginning of golf. It has hosted 15 Open Championships and was designed by Old Tom Morris, himself. It sits just east of Edinburgh on the east coast of Scotland.
Records indicate that the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers played organized golf matches at a five-hole course near where the Muirfield links sit today as early as 1744.
They moved to Musselburgh, a public course, in 1836. Feeling too crowded, they decided to build an 18-hole private club in 1891. Tom Morris was commissioned to design the course and it hosted its first Open Championship in 1892. The 1892 Open Championship at Muirfield was the first 72-hole tournament played over four rounds on an 18-hole golf course.
Muirfield’s design is significant due to the routing of the course. Typical links golf courses of the day were built in a parallel fashion. The holes tended to go out away from the clubhouse in a singe direction and then would turn and work back to the final hole at the clubhouse. One direction would be into the wind and the return would be downwind.
Tom Morris built two separate nine-hole courses in a loop. One loop travels in a clockwise direction and the other nine holes go the opposite direction. This is very significant in that the golfer is constantly facing a different wind direction when playing his shot.
Muirfield’s design also requires the champion golfer to be proficient with every club in his bag. It seems to identify the best golfer of the time as its winner.
Harry Vardon won at Muirfield in 1896. James Braid won in 1901 and again in 1906. Ted Ray, Walter Hagen, Alf Perry and Henry Cotton were all the best golfers of their era and won Open Championships at Muirfield.
In the modern era, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Tom Watson, Nick Faldo and Ernie Els have won here.
There are no fluke wins at Muirfield.
Jack Nicklaus has called Muirfield the best course in Britain.
He completed his first career grand slam with his first Open Championship win here in 1966 and was so enamored with the course that he named his course in Dublin, Ohio, Muirfield Village.
The weather is always a huge factor in any Open Championship and never more so than in 2002, when Tiger Woods at the height of his golfing prowess, was caught in a brutal squall in his third round on Saturday and posted an 81. He came back to shoot a brilliant 65 in the final round on Sunday, but fell six shots shy of the leaders.
Other than the “Auld Course” at St. Andrews, no other Open Championship course can claim more historical significance to the game of golf than Muirfield.
It will provide a wonderful stage to host the Open Championship next week and once again identify the “Champion Golfer of the Year.”