Golf

The Open Championship: Muirfield course preview

Muirfield is littered with deep bunkers. (©GettyImages)
Muirfield is littered with deep bunkers. (©GettyImages).

Golf's oldest championship returns to Muirfield for the 142nd edition of the Open Championship. Here's an in-depth look at the venue the world's top golfers will be tackling this week.

Set along the coast in Scotland's south-east Muirfield is one of the most iconic courses on the Open rotation and doesn't follow many traditions of most links designs.

For example most coastal designs follow the coast in two directions meaning the wind direction is constant for most holes in one direction or the other. However, Muirfield is more spiral shaped in it's design meaning the wind changes almost every hole.

The course is a par 71 measuring 7,245 yards, the front nine a conventional Par 36 while the back nine a par 35 with a solitary par 5 at the 17th.

Muirfield will be a stern test for all the golfers and here are some of the key holes at this week's Open.

The first hole will set the tone for the round offering a long par 4 into the wind and is one of the more crucial tee shots to a narrow fairway, a long bunker protects the right hand side of the green.

The second and third are short par 4's both under 400 yards but are certainly not easy birdie holes as out of bounds protects the left and the second and mounds block the approach to the third. 

The fourth is the longest par 3 on the course but plays downhill to a plateau green where any shot that misses the green leaves a difficult up and down for par.

The following hole is the first par 5 and provides the best birdie opportunity. A few bunkers around the landing area and a downwind second shot of around 200 yards will be a mid-iron for most to a small green protected by bunkers on both sides. 

The best birdie hole is probably followed by the hardest on the front nine, the longest par 4 on the front nine a sloping fairway leaves a shot to a green protected by slopes on two sides and bunkers.

The seventh will be a fairly simple par 3 if the wind doesn't blow at 180 yards plays to an elevated green with three deep bunkers on the right.

The eighth is an easy hole provided the golfer avoids the bunkers off the tee, a carry of 280 yards is needed to do so, the second shot to a smaller green but only a solitary bunker surrounds the putting surface.

The ninth hole is the second par 5 and demands accuracy rather than length. Out of bounds down the left hand side with a deep bunker on the left are the only major threats, a second shot of over 210 yards will need a hybrid or long iron for most to a green with five bunkers protecting short and right from 70 yards in.

Into the back nine and one of the longest par 4's on the course but the tee shot is the difficulty here. The prevailing wind pushes the ball towards the bunkers on the right, the final bunker at 300 yards out. A circular green protected by two bunkers short, right will catch plenty of shots that are bounced onto the green. 

The 11th and 12th are all about not being long, a blind tee shot on 11 leaves a wedge into a heart shaped green with three bunkers long and another two on both sides, while 12 is another short par 4 again well bunkered around the green but slopes over the green will leave a hard chip back. 

The 13th is a short hole all about finding the right part of the green, a long green at 46 yards but only 15 paces wide bunkers await any shot left or right.

The fourteenth is the second hardest hole on the course and plays almost straight into the prevailing wind. The hole is a 475 yard par 4. Bunkers end at 275 yards out and most will use the bunkers as aiming point if the prevailing wind blows. An open approach to a circular green means this hole is all about accuracy. 

Entering the final stretch, the 15th is a good birdie hole as many will hit the driver leaving a sand wedge approach to an open green that provides the biggest challenge as three-putts are possible. 

The last par 3 at sixteen is all about aiming to the right of the green, any shot left with go down a steep slope into rough or deep bunkers, a shot short will go come back down the slope towards the tee. 

The 17th is the final par 5 and again all about being down the right, all bunkers are down the left, any lay up will need to cover four bunkers between 125 - 90 yards short of the green. While the green is narrow and quite small by Muirfield standards, mounds surround the green on three sides. 

Finally the 18th, one of the most famous finishing holes in the Open rotation, a long par 4 with a right-to-left wind meaning two bunkers at 250 yards out are in play. A second shot with a mid to short iron plays to a green with a long, deep bunker on both sides.

Certainly one of the most difficult courses on the rotation, Muirfield demands accuracy rather than length and as with all Open championships the man who putts and scrambles the best will be right up there on Sunday.


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The Open

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