The locker room is everything you’d expect at such an old club. Deep, dark woods, a lot of golf history although not as much Open Championship memorabilia as expected. As a matter of fact, there is really no evidence at all that major championships have been played there, just a simple, elegant place to change, shower, etc. One other interesting tidbit was that not only did their sinks contain the usual soap, lotion, and other cleansing items, they also had brushes, presumably to clean one’s dirty fingernails after a tough morning 18. Muirfield also could have had the least-friendly locker room in my travels. Not a single golfer of the half-dozen I greeted actually returned an acknowledgment. Granted none of these individuals would have been actual members on the Tuesday (visitor day) I played, but you’d think more people who got the opportunity to play this course would be a little more outgoing, if not mildly polite.
One thing you’ll notice about most of the private and Open rota courses in the UK is that they are fairly strict about from which tees one is allowed to play. Typically they’re short by American standards; usually around 6,000 yards +\-. At Muirfield, there is one set of tees for male visitors. There is no option to play “from the tips.” There is another set of tees that would be considered “forward tees” but they appear to be for seniors or possibly ladies, provided they’re actually allowed on the grounds. I didn’t see a single female (besides staff) in my day there and there are no female members at this point.
So what makes Muirfield one of the best? First off, the property is one of the most beautiful, tranquil spots I’ve ever seen. It’s hard to imagine it with 75,000 fans roaming its grounds during the Open Championship. It’s kind of how I picture Augusta National when the Masters Tournament isn’t being played; just beautiful, open scenery where they happened to put a golf course. While it’s not on the water, the Firth of Forth is visible from many of the holes. It’s just tees, green fairways, yellowish rough, bunkers, and greens. There are no features that will wow most visitors.
The bunkering is, in the opinion of many, some of the best in golf. I encountered none of what I’d consider to be silly bunkers, those that punish a good shot. There are however many, many bunkers that will punish a poor shot. There are also many bunkers that will make you consider the best way to lay up, or just as often, make you rethink the best way back in play after a wayward tee shot.
After I was lucky enough to land my tee time at Muirfield and asked to pay for it in advance, I had a slight bit of buyers remorse. In my travels to the UK it was the most expensive round by a fairly wide margin. As a mentioned earlier, I wasn’t even sure what made the course so great. After playing it I’m happy to report it might be my favorite course in the UK. I’m still not sure if I can successfully describe what makes it so great but I do know it’s just a solid, fair, and challenging test of golf on a beautiful piece of property. Hopefully some day I’ll make it back there.
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