Debate: Is Muirfield the best course on the Open rota?

The Scoop

Or has the Old Course at St Andrews got something to say about that?


It’s clearly the classiest host course on the Open rota, says Dan Murphy

Close your eyes and think of the last hole of the Open. It’s a long par 4, basically straight, with bunkers on both sides of the fairway and a handsome old clubhouse standing behind the green. You’re picturing Muirfield – the classiest of our Open venues.

Jack Nicklaus is on record as saying that the further south you go the less he likes our Open venues, which was primarily a barb aimed in Sandwich’s direction. I would agree with him in the sense that an Open just feels more ‘proper’ when it is in Scotland.

These days most of the players are too diplomatic to say what they really think but let me assure you that even in private very few of them will have a bad word to say about Muirfield this month.

The reason they like it so much is because it’s fair. The challenge is in front of them and visible. It is also arguably the greenest of our Open venues, and has flat fairways. The reason that some pros don’t like Sandwich is because it gets very bouncy and unpredictable.

It is very unlikely that freak bounce or piece of misfortune will be the deciding factor at Muirfield this month.

The opening hole is a classic – a stark and austere beginning to the round. And the closing stretch is as good as it gets. It culminates in a classic 3-5-4 finish that presents the chance of eagles, double bogeys and heroic closing pars.

Just thinking about it, I can’t wait for the action to begin.
It is very unlikely that freak bounce or piece of misfortune will be the deciding factor at Muirfield this month.


The Old Course still has the magic for me, says Mark Townsend

Recently, 26 years hence from my last round at the Old Course, I revisited the old girl and it was every bit as special as 1987.

Then, four of us had spent a week here to celebrate the end of our O Levels. The first glimpse of the 1st and last holes was at 5am after catching an overnight sleeper from London. Nobody had slept but nothing could take away from the quiet beauty of two holes that seemingly sat in the middle of this wonderful town. A town which is worth the pilgrimage alone.

Every night would be spent walking the course, trying to make some sense of the strategy required, and two of the days lapped up, having come through the ballot for the price of £16.

Now as an equally excitable 42-year-old the precise memories of those two days came flooding back and, even with winds of 50mph whipping things up, it was like nothing else.

Explain much of it to someone who has never been and you will get some funny looks: “At 17 you drive over some railway sheds next to a hotel before playing to a green which is next to a road. Then the last is a driveable par 4 with no bunkers and a 100-yard wide fairway.”

But to play these holes, or even walk them, and there is an ever-present sense of what has gone before. It’s truly magical and no other course can come close as an experience.

There is a very good reason the Open returns here every five years.

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