| Muirfield - East Lothian
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Honourable Company |
of Edinburgh Golfers
Duncur Road, Gullane, East Lothian
Secretary: Alastair Brown
18th Green, Muirfield
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West Links, North
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Famous East Lothian Golfers
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|| Muirfield Links |
By Douglas Seaton
The original course was designed by Old Tom Morris and
16 holes built by hand and horse were opened on 3rd May 1891, with two more added in December. Sir Alexander Kinoch performed the
opening ceremony by driving the first ball, teed up by Old Tom Morris in the pouring rain.
Muirfield was the first course designed in two loops of nine holes, the first nine going round the perimeter of the property in a
clockwise direction, the second nine contained inside the first, running anticlockwise, and since never more than three successive
holes run in the same direction, any wind that blows afflicts the golfer from all points during a round.
Muirfield is home to
the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers who held their first meeting on Leith Links in 1744.
The Links at that time were also shared by the local citizens and although it was public ground, the Honorable Company employed men
to tend the ground and was therefore the first Club to maintain it's own golf course. The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers is
recognised as the world's oldest golf club, although the Royal Burgess Golfing Society was formed in 1735, and also played over Leith
Links, but has no documentation to substantiate this date due to the nature of the secrecy of the freemasons who founded the society.
In 1744 the first 13 rules of golf were drafted by a committee, including John Rattray, the first captain of the Gentlemen
Golfers of Edinburgh, subsequently to be known as the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers. The Thirteen Articles were adopted
almost word for word ten years later by the St. Andrews Society of Golfers, later to be known as the Royal and Ancient Golf Club
of St. Andrews. To mark the creation of the club, Edinburgh Town Council presented the Honourable Company with a Silver Club to be contested for
by the members, thus was born the first club competition.
In March 1744, John Rattery was the first winner, he was also a past archery champion on Leith Links. In 1745, Rattery was brought into
service as medical surgeon to Bonnie Prince Charlie's army camped in Edinburgh. At Culloden he was captured and imprisoned but fellow
member of the Honourable Company, Duncan Forbes then Lord of Session secured his release.
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Starters Box used for Medal Competitions
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East Course, North Berwick
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Muirfield Score Card
Although Forbes and Rattery were on opposite sides during the Jacobite rebellion they were back playing together for the Silver Club
in 1748 which Rattery won, and again in 1751.|
Originally the winner of the Silver Club became captain, a practice that ceased after 1837. Today the winners name is engraved on
a silver replica golf ball of the day, which is attached to the silver club shaft. The event was matchplay since strokeplay was in
its infancy and was played over Leith's five-hole layout. A forbidding test with holes measuring 414, 461, 426, 495 and 435 yards,
respectively. The long game was the thing in those days, putting did not play such a dominant role until the invention of the
In 1865 the use of the gutty ball for the Silver Club competition was made compulsory and that was the official end to the
feathery ball. During the late 18th century as Edinburgh expanded, Leith Links became overcrowded and the Honourable Company of
Edinburgh Golfers decided in 1836 to move to the nine hole course beside the race track at Musselburgh.
This ground was shared by a number of other golf clubs and the Honourable Company would also play the West Links at North Berwick
during the summer months. Again overcrowding at Musselburgh forced them to move further down the coast, eventually settling on another
racecourse, the site of the East Lothian horse races on the Hundred Acres Park at Muirfield owned by the Rt. Hon. Nisbet
| The Honourable Company regard matchplay as the true and proper expres -sion of the game,
and Foursomes as the epitome of all that is best in golf. |
Mr. B. Hall Blyth is credited with securing the transference of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers from Musselburgh to
Muirfield. He carried through the arrangements for the lease of the property and in recognition of his services was given the
honour of playing the first match on the course. This was emphasised by his being pitted single-handed against Mr. A. Stuart and
Mr F. V. Hagart.|
Benjamin Hall Blyth was an engineer by profession and a consultant engineer to the North British and Great North of Scotland
Railway companies. He was associated with the reconstruction of Waverley station at Edinburgh, the rebuilding of the Tay Bridge
and the expansion of the North Berwick branch line to include stations at Aberlady, Luffness and Gullane. He was a life member of
the Royal and Ancient Club and his name will always be associated with the acquisition of the Braid Hills as a municipal golf
course by the citizens of Edinburgh.
The name Muirfield is shown on Roy's map of 1754, and derives from a period when it was the practice for the tenant farmer to
identify each field with a descriptive name. The word 'muir' in Scotland means a track of unenclosed and uncultivated land often
affected with marshy areas. During the 1892 Open played over the new links at Muirfield, still in primitive condition, the course
was described by the sardonic professional Andrew Kirkaldy as 'an auld water meadow'. Which aptly reflects the name originally
given to this track of land called the 'muir-field'.
George Fitzjohn was the clubmaster for the Honorable Company at Musselburgh and in 1891 he moved with the Club to their new location
at Muirfield. His sons, Frederick, Edward, and Valentine Fitzjohn were successful golf
professionals and clubmakers in America.
During the 1896 Open Championship at Muirfield, seventeen professionals stayed in Hopefield Private Guest House on the Main Street,
Gullane. Including J. H. Taylor, Alex Herd, Willie Fernie, Rowland Jones and Willie Auchterlonie. Hopefield House was organised by
Alexander Gillam and the remainder of the competitors stayed in the Golf Hotel in Aberlady.
In those bygone days curling and golf where old allies and the Muirfield Links was also the site of the Dirleton curling pond used
by the neighbouring villagers. The outline of the banks and bed of the pond can still be seen between the fourth green and the
wall where a supply of water ran into a narrow drain which they used to flood when the frost came. On this pond the farmers in the
district and the members of the Honourable Company held their curling tournaments.
Henry Buchan was appointed clubmaker to the Honourable Company at Musselburgh. In 1892, James H. Hutchison was appointed club and
ballmaker to the Honourable Company at Muirfield with his timber workshop adjacent to the clubhouse. That year Muirfield hosted the
Open Championship for the first time when the amateur Harold Hilton lifted the claret jug. To attract more players the prize money
was increased from £28.10/- to £110 and the entry fee was 10/-.
The first greenkeeper at Muirfield was Davie Plenderleith from North Berwick who followed the design staked out by Tom Morris. Bobby
Brown was also a green keeper before moving to Troon. In 1901 the second hole was lengthened to avoid the danger of driving into
players on the putting green. The seventeenth, originally a blind hole was particularly dangerous as the putting green was on a
slope within reach with an iron club from the tee. A new green was laid well to the right beyond the former green which then
necessitated a new teeing ground and line for the eighteenth hole. Head greenkeeper Alex Gow and his staff carried out the alterations
forming the present seventeenth and eighteenth holes which have seen so much drama over the years.
Amateur Champion Freddie Tait played his last recorded round of golf at Muirfield in October 1899 before returning to his regiment
in South Africa. He was killed on 7th February 1900 at Koodoosberg Hill during the Second Boer War. In 1901, the Open Championship
was played at Muirfield on the 5th and 6th June. Two rounds were played each day with any competitor 20 strokes behind the leading
score at the end of the second round was compulsorily retired. The winner was James Braid (229) who received the Championship Gold
Medal, valued at £10 and £50 in money, while Harry Vardon (234) in second place received £20.
The Honourable Company organised the Open Championship until 1919 when the day to day running of the event was handed over to the
Royal & Ancient Golf Club. In 1923 land was purchased to allow for the introduction of 14 new holes designed by Harry Colt. Many
historians are convinced that Muirfield did not become a truly great course until Harry Colt, and Tom Simpson were brought in to
make the changes in 1928.
Pictured here at the Shelter Hole during the play-off for
the 1896 Open at Muirfield|
is John H. Taylor, the figure touching his cap and the winner Harry Vardon
in the white boots
with his back to the camera.
The re-modeling of the 13th hole in 1935 was the last substantial improvement until 2011 when golf course architect Martin Hawtree
was involved. Hawtree heads the family course-architecture firm started by his grandfather. Some greens were extended to provide more
championship pin positions, and the new layout also introduced six new championship tees to extend the course to a total of 7245 yards.
The first hole at Muirfield (447-yards) is one of the toughest opening holes on any championship course. To the left of the narrow
fairway is one of many large bunkers which dominates the player's thoughts. Bailing out to the right is not an option with severe
rough, so an accurate drive is essential. At the 1966 Open Championship, Doug Sanders remarked about Muirfield's knee-high rough
and said he didn't mind so much about winning the championship as long as he could have the hay concession.
The biggest challenge is the four par-3s with raised greens, making them a tight target and a missed shot will inevitably end in a
deep bunker. The 226-yard fourth hole, surround by four bunkers is a particularly difficult test. The 184-yard seventh is similar
to the fourth but runs in the opposite direction, into the prevailing wind and offers an exposed elevated green guarded by four
Jack Nicklaus regards the 190-yard 13th as a great par-3. It runs uphill to a narrow green with deep bunkers on both sides. The
final par-3 is the 186-yard 16th with seven bunkers to contend with and the slope gathers any shot played to the left side into
In addition to the short holes, Muirfield demands accuracy everywhere else, especially on the 461-yard, par-4 sixth, which
dog-legs to a split-level fairway. The 441-yard eighth has 12 bunkers and starts a run of three very challenging holes. The biggest
change is on the ninth, where a land swap with neighbours the Renaissance Club has allowed the tee to be moved back almost 50
yards, extending the par-five to 554 yards with a new bunker on the right of the fairway and bunkers moved closer to the green. This
has tightened the fairway with out of bounds on one side and two bunkers on the other.
Muirfield remains the No1 golf course in Europe, measuring 7245 yards S.S.S. 71. with no trees or water in play, none of its
subtleties are hidden or even disguised, only one blind shot, the drive over the ridge at the 387-yard 11th hole. The outstanding
feature is the bunkering, faced with revetted turf, gritty sand from the adjacent beach and as tall as a man stands.
The course is maintained by Colin Irvine, the course manager for the past 19 years and his staff of 12 green keepers. In 1949,
James Logan was appointed head green keeper. He was the son of William Logan the green keeper at Gullane Golf Club. James
Logan (1949-80), was followed by David Kirkcaldy. In 1987 Davie retired and Chris Whittle from St Andrews Links was appointed.
In 1981 Colin Irvine started as a green keeper at Muirfield when he was 16 years old. After the 1992 Open Colin moved to a course
in Dusseldorf, where he remained for two years before returning to Muirfield as course manager in 1994.
The Open has been played at Muirfield 16 times, the Walker Cup twice, the Curtis Cup in 1984, Ryder Cup in 1973 and the Amateur
Championships 10 times, the most recent in 2010. Henry Cotton won his third Open title in 1948, Gary Player won in 1959 and
Jack Nicklaus in 1966. The course is a walk through history. The par-4 second is where a 19 year old Jack Nicklaus nearly drove the
green in a practice round for the 1959 Walker Cup. The long fifth, on high ground along the north edge of the property, is where Johnny
Miller holed his second for an albatross two during the 1972 Open. The eighth where Walter Hagen cut the corner of the dogleg twice on
the last day, and where bushes were planted to prevent a repeat of his short cut to the green. The lovely par-3 13th, where Ernie Els
played a miraculous bunker shot up a near-vertical face, to 18 inches, in winning the 2002 Open. The 15th, with the green the members
call the Camel's Back to which Nick Faldo hit 'one of the best shots of my life' in the 1992 Open. Perhaps the most dramatic Open in
Muirfield's history came in 1972 when Lee Trevino holed his famous chip shot from the edge of the 17th green and in the process stole
the title from Tony Jacklin. Tom Watson won in 1980, Nick Faldo 1987 and 1992, Ernie Els in 2002 and Phil Mickelson in 2013.
In 1926, Bobby Jones entered the Amateur Championship at Muirfield and stayed in the Marine Hotel, (Scottish Fire School) in Gullane.
He hired a local caddie Jack McIntyre, a coal miner from Tranent and they struck up a working friendship. That year Jones won the
Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St Anne's with Jack McIntyre on the bag.
James Braid winning his first Open Championship at
Muirfield in 1901 |
| Jack Nicklaus was 19 years old when he played Muirfield for the first time as a member of the 1959
Walker Cup Team, and has become one of the course's greatest ambassadors ever since. Over the years the City of Edinburgh has
presented four Silver Clubs to the Honourable Company, a fifth was gifted to Muirfield Village in Ohio at their opening ceremony
in 1974. |
Unlike most golf clubs, Muirfield does not have a professional's shop. The reason given is that the majority of the members of the
Honourable Company are also members of another golf club closer to their home, where they can use the facility of their local
professional. Today the visitor traffic on the course could sustain a resident professional, but the Honourable Company has
decided not to provide a commercial outlet. In September 2013, Alistair Brown retires as secretary when Stuart McEwen takes over.
He was a former director of golf at Gleneagles and Kingsbarns.
| Driving from the North and Edinburgh Airport |
Edinburgh take the A720 City By Pass (South) - follow sign post Berwick-Upon-Tweed (A1). Continue on A1 (South) take the A198 -
sign post North Berwick. Pass through the villages of Longniddry, Aberlady and Gullane. On leaving Gullane, Muirfield is accessed
from the last exit on the left - sign post Greywalls Hotel. Drive time from Forth Road Bridge and Edinburgh Airport 45 minutes.
Driving from the South
From the A1 motorway take the A198 - sign post North Berwick. Continue through North Berwick for 5 miles on
the A198 - sign post Edinburgh. Muirfield is accessed from the first exit on the right when entering Gullane - sign post Greywalls
| Copyright © Douglas Seaton 2013, All Rights Reserved. |