Muirfield, otherwise known as The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers has records dating back to 1744 making it one of the oldest clubs in existence. The Honourable Company were instrumental in the game’s earliest progress first playing over Leith Links then the Old Links at Musselburgh before moving to East Lothian.
Situated on the outskirts of the village of Gullane, the hallowed turf now played over by the Honourable Company was, according to the club's history, ‘nothing more than a boggy mire and most unsuitable for golf’. Old Tom Morris was drafted in from St Andrews to outline a rudimentary course but it was David Plenderleith who did most of the detailed work. This was later refined by Harry Colt and Tom Simpson of Wentworth fame with Robert Maxwell putting on the final touches in the 1920s. The Muirfield course has remained essentially the same since that period.
Since those early days Muirfield has ascended golf’s pantheon to become one of the game’s most respected venues. The course offers the finest balance between form and design, challenge and restraint. "The course is built to the right proportions," said Sir Nick Faldo. "When you have a long shot to the green, the green is generous enough. When you face a small shot, the target is small too."
More than most, Muirfield relies mainly upon its punishing rough and defiant bunkers for defence. Jack Nicklaus describes these as "the most fastidiously built bunkers I have ever seen, the high front walls faced with bricks of turf..."
This fine equilibrium has brought 14 Open Championship tournaments through Muirfield's door with some of the game's greatest heroes battling each other and the course. Braid, Vardon, Hagen and Cotton all took on the course to win and Nicklaus, Player, Trevino, Watson and Faldo followed in later years.
A little more 'inland' in character than a typical links course with fewer characteristic links undulations you’re main aim on a round here is to keep the ball in play. This often implies leaving the driver where it is and picking your way towards the pin along the slender avenues of even fairway edged by that unforgiving waftng grass.
The 10th is recognised as one of the great holes in Scottish golf, a long Par 4 of 471 yards shooting straight away from the clubhouse towards the sea and usually crossed by a west to east wind. A second shot, whilst still long, is also blind. But the real test is in the crafty green, whose subtle movements have fuelled many a cocksure putter.
The two closing holes are discerned as two of the most demanding. It was here that Lee Trevino and Tony Jacklin struggled for supremacy in the climax of the 1972 Open. Trevino was one ahead at the 17th following a brace of birdies but then proceeded to throw the game away with a series of wild flings. Meanwhile, Jacklin played straight up the middle. At the green, Trevino had rolled through and was looking at a possible 6 or 7, but his pitch back on was perfect and fell into the cup for Par. Jacklin, meantime, three putted!
It was on the 18th that, arguably, Nick Faldo's greatest-ever-moment came, his most emotional at least. In 1987, following two years of reassembling his swing, Faldo had trailed Paul Azinger through a chilling sea-mist. On the home stretch, 17 & 18, Azinger's game came up on the rocks and Faldo, with his unadulterated application to basics, sailed out of the fog into the home port scoring that round, an impeccable string of 18 Pars.
Muifield, in spite of a rather disdained by none. There is nothing clandestine about the place - you get what you play and, should you get the chance, grab any chance to play it. It is a test of the highest calibre. There are many stories about golfers of the highest ranking being turned away from the gates but the moral is simple; book well in advance and meet the various, straightforward requirements and you will have a round of golf that you will cherish for the rest of your life.
Muirfield (The Honourable Company Of Edinburgh Golfers)
Duncur Road, Gullane, East Lothian
Tel: 01620 842123
Design: Old Tom Morris, David Plenderleith, Harry Colt & Tom Simpson
Statistics: 18 holes, 6601 yards, Par 70, SSS 73
Green Fees: Weekdays: £190 per round. £240 per day Tuesdays & Thursdays only (excluding Public Holidays)
Location: Follow Edinburgh Ring Route signposted A1 to Berwick, turn off at the A198 signposted to North Berwick. Muirfield is situated on Duncur Road, the last on the left leaving Gullane towards North Berwick.