Muirfield is the current home of the Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers. The “HonCo” as it is affectionately called by members, began in 1744 as the Gentlemen Golfers of Leith on Leith Links and then in the 1820s played across the grounds of Musselburgh before moving to Muirfield links in 1891.
The club quickly distinguished itself as an important part of golf’s heritage by establishing the earliest rules of the growing game, the first formal competition and the Silver Club, the oldest trophy in golf.
Muirfield has hosted 16 Open Championships to date, but not all were on the current Muirfield golf course. Six Opens held between 1874 and 1889 were held at Musselburgh. Members of the HonCo were not the only enthusiasts playing at Musselburgh and in 1890 they made the decision to move to Muirfield Scotland as the links were becoming too crowded. The Club was immediately awarded the 1892 Open at its new course which also saw the first time the Claret Jug was competed for over 72 holes.
Old Tom Morris was responsible for laying out the original Muirfield golf design opened in 1891, that was expanded and redesigned by Harry Colt in 1925 with the acquisition of additional land. Tom Simpson made improvements in the 1930s and then Martin Hawtree in 2011 modernized the course for today’s professionals.
The course is not a traditional out and back links routing, but rather consists of two loops of nine that both return to the clubhouse. The outward nine is in a clockwise direction and the inward nine is counterclockwise. Known for its strategic and penal bunkering, unless you have the touch and brilliance of Ernie Els, the 2002 Open winner, it is best to avoid them at all costs if you wish to return a decent score.
However, like many clubs in the UK, Muirfield is a “two-ball” club where foursomes (alternate shot with a partner) is the preferred method of play. Even their club championship is a two-ball competition rather than medal.
The format has many advantages, not the least of which it is fast, with most rounds lasting under two hours. This is because the highlight of a day at Muirfield, especially if the weather is in climate, is the fabulous roast lunch which would rival any 5-star hotel buffet. The members arrive in their coats and ties, change out for golf, change back for proper lunch. Then usually after fortification of food and drink, change back out for another round across the links.
Muirfield recognizing their importance to avid golfers around the world allows limited visitor play – but only on Tuesdays and Thursdays (foursomes only). They offer both 18 and 36 hole packages. To experience Muirfield as a member enjoys, opt for the 36-hole experience, playing your own ball in the morning, partaking in the fantastic roast lunch (don’t forget your coat and tie) and then playing an additional round in foursome format.