The Challenge of Muirfield

Muirfield represents one of the sternest tests in championship golf. With the Open Championship close, Alex Jee reviews the stunning course


With the Open Championship coming back to Muirfield this year, I believed it necessary to review the incredible course that tests even the most able of golfers.

There are two things that should remain in no doubt about this course: it's beauty, and it's difficulty. Having been referred to as "the best golf course in Britain", Muirfield has attracted only the bravest and best of the golfing world.   Just look at the list of winners- Els, Faldo, Nicklaus, Player... it's like a who's who of the golfing world- it would certainly seem that the likelihood of any rookies, amateurs or newly turned pros winning here is very slim indeed.   Muirfield has also served as a barrier to the two recent grand slam attempts, denying Jack Nicklaus, who finished a stroke behind Lee Trevino in '72, and Tiger Woods, who ran into gale-force winds in the third round of 2002, and finished in a tie for 28th place.   The fact that the course that they will be playing has been lengthened since Ernie Els won in 2002-by a full 211 yards, making the challenging course a total 7,245 yards in length- simply adds to the difficulty for the players.

Looking at the techniques of some of the previous winners, it is clear that occasionally luck can play a large part in any victory, apparently Trevino's nearest competitor in the third round, Tony Jacklin, had problems with his putter towards the end, and ended up third behind Nicklaus.   My point is that even the best players require either luck or to be on top of their game to beat this course - and while you could say the same of any course, the facts are no more poignant than at Muirfield.   This course will this year do what it can do like no other, separate the men from the boys.

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