(Honourable Company Of Edinburgh Golfers)
Designer: Old Tom Morris, Harry S. Colt
The story of The Honourable Company begins in 1744, when the Edinburgh Town Council presented a silver club as prize for a competition among “The Gentlemen Golfers.” The club required “proper regulations” for this competition, and as a result the first official rules of golf – 13 in total – were introduced. For the next century and a half, The Honourable Company wandered between the shared Leith Links and Musselburgh Racecourse, before eventually hiring Old Tom Morris to design a course of their own in 1891.
Although the TV commentators during The Open are quick to sing the virtues of Old Tom’s design, in reality the first rendition of Muirfield left much to be desired. One Scottish professional, Andra Kirkaldy, summed up the general consensus when he called the links ‘nothing more than an old water meadow.’ It wasn’t until Harry S. Colt arrived in 1923 for a complete overhaul of the course that the golfing world was gifted with Muirfield as we know it.
Colt’s work may have solved the shortcomings of the original links, however, it certainly didn’t stop the adverse opinions of Muirfield from mounting. This time the critics weren’t concerned with the overall quality of the links, but rather its unyielding difficulty. For starters, the masterful routing of the nines as two circles – the front-9 running clockwise around the perimeter of the property, the back-9 counterclockwise within it – means that the often brutal wind torments the golfer from every angle. Pair this with the plentiful and fortress-like pot bunkers, alongside rough that is best described as impenetrable, and we have a recipe for a war of attrition that the golfer is destined to lose.
Muirfield has hosted The Open some 13 times, and it is no surprise given its difficulty that most of the greats have emerged as the Champion Golfer here. Vardon, Braid, Player, Nicklaus, and Watson all achieved glory at Muirfield. As did Phil Mickelson, who put together what history will deem to be one of the finest closing rounds in the history of the Open Championship. Of course, the name of a particular 14-time major winner is noticeably absent from this list. His best chance was buried in the “coffin bunker” on #17. For the sake of your own match, we suggest you not follow in his footsteps.
Contrary to the above, it’s not all doom and gloom Muirfield. After morning fourballs, we head inside to the members’ dining room for the finest lunch in Scotland. While most will revisit the links for round of foursome play, you’ll be forgiven if you choose to keep on the jacket and tie and head to the comfortable confines of The Smoking Room. It’s here that you’re likely to reach an unavoidable conclusion: despite the trials and tribulations on the course, a visit to Muirfield is nothing short of the best day in golf.
Major Basil Haversham, OBE
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