the Memorial Tournament course preview: Muirfield Village Golf Club
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the Memorial Tournament course preview: Muirfield Village Golf Club

Muirfield Village's fascinating 3rd hole

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This is the week where the golf calendar really starts to heat up and become serious. You know a major is about to occur when the field has 12 of the top 20 in OWGR and 31 of the top 50. That’s a fair amount of firepower. But would you expect anything less at Jack’s Place, home of the Memorial Tournament?
 
PGATour.com gives a nice overview of the course:

“Muirfield Village Golf Club, 7,392 yards, par 72. Envisioned by Jack Nicklaus as a stage to both honor golf’s history and showcase its current talent, Muirfield Village opened in 1974 and has become a not only a favorite PGA Tour stop but an occasional venue for bigger events. Now in its fourth decade as Memorial host, Jack’s Place also is the only locale to host all three of U.S. pro golf’s team match-play showcases – Ryder Cup (1987), Solheim Cup (1998) and Presidents Cup (2013). The U.S. Amateur also paid a visit in 1992. With constant fine-tuning by Nicklaus and his design team, Muirfield Village consistently has ranked among America’s top 20 courses and the world’s top 50.”
 
With that said, let’s take a bit of a deeper dive. For background, Nicklaus’ own design website has this to say:



“The land was acquired in 1966, but construction did not begin until July 28, 1972. The golf course, with 71 bunkers, is situated on 220 acres, which includes an 11-acre driving range. The course was officially dedicated on Memorial Day, May 27, 1974, with an exhibition match between Nicklaus and Tom Weiskopf. Nicklaus scored a 6-under par 66, which stood as the course record until 1979.”
 
While the course was designed by Nicklaus (and still tinkers with it to this day, e.g. since its opening in 1974, Nicklaus has remodeled every hole at Muirfield Village, some more than once) he was also a driving force behind its development. This is important because he was instrumental in taking the time to find the right piece of land. Rarely can you build a spectacular course on a below-average tract. The land for Muirfield is beautifully wooded with intersecting creeks. N.B. Encroaching on creek frontage is now considered an environmental flashpoint no-no. And while the course is surrounded by real estate, thankfully it’s all on the perimeter, situated far enough back from the course that golfers don’t feel as if they’re playing in people’s backyards.
 
When Muirfield Village was being designed and built, Nicklaus’ biggest course influence was Augusta National. This can be seen directly in a couple number of ways:

  • Muirfield Village’s 12th hole is takes overt cues from ANGC’s 12th
  • All of Muirfield’s par 5s dare the golfer to navigate water hazards to reach the green in two

In fact, Muirfield Village now features water on 75 percent of its holes. Other classic Nicklaus design elements include: shotmaking (requiring the player to move the ball in both direction, sometimes on the same hole), downhill tee shots (tee box is above the green), shot values (Nicklaus likes a stern test of golf). And maybe it’s most striking feature is its perfect sightlines. In other words, you can see the putting surface and all hazards around the green from every fairway.
 

Holes to Watch

Hole 3 - Par 4, 401 yards
While noted as the No. 1 handicap hole on the scorecard, Tour players still find a way to make birdies on this challenging hole as demonstrated by its 3.856 scoring average. Or, as the Tour describes it: “A downhill drive to a generous fairway, then an approach over a lake to a small, two-tiered green cut into a hillside. A drive too far left might find a creek at the wood-line, leaving nowhere to drop out that permits a clear shot to the green. Water awaits the weak approach -- and sand the over-bold shot. One of Muirfield's most scenically spectacular holes, and tougher than it looks.”
 
Hole 10 - Par 4, 471 yards
Jack Nicklaus' thoughts: "This hole features comparatively open terrain and, as with the 15th hole, it requires the nearest thing to an uphill drive at Muirfield Village. Bunkers guard both sides of the landing area, and a menacing, many-fingered bunker fronts the green and threatens approaches that come up short of the putting surface. This is a stern test that demands both length and precision, and it is one of the toughest par 4s on the inward nine, especially when played into wind."


 
Hole 18 - Par 4, 484 yards
This stern closing hole is a brute. Just before Presidents Cup in October 2013, Nicklaus added a new back tee to the par-4 18th, extending it from 444 yards to 484. This length restored the hole’s original strategy where the tee shot features a downhill drive to a relatively narrow fairway, and the bunkers at the right corner of the dogleg come into play. A long drive hit too far left can find the creek that borders the left side of the landing area. The second shot is an approach to an uphill green, across a swale. The medium-sized green is two-tiered and heavily contoured—bunkered front left, front right, left and rear right.


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About the author

Ethan Zimman

Ethan Zimman is a proposal writer for a large federal government contractor by day and freelance writer by night. He's an avid golfer who started playing at age 13 and keeps trying to chip away at his 8.6 handicap index. His passion for golf course architecture began after reading Tom Doak's 'The Anatomy of a Golf Course' in high school. In his (non-golf-related) spare time, he loves visiting wineries and breweries with his wife, son, and their goldendoodle Bodie.