Updated: May 21, 2015
Muirfield Golf Course in Scotland:Do you want to play a classic links course in Scotland? One of the most prestigious course in all of the UK is Muirfield, located in East Lothian, about 30 minutes from Edinburgh. I was lucky enough to take a recent trip (April 2010) to play golf in Scotland with 5 other friends. Muirfield was on our list to try and play and we were able to do it. First, the course is demanding and they require an 18 handicap for men or lower, so be prepared to show your handicap rating to the starter. For those of you that plan on playing near St. Andrews, definitely make it a day and try driving out to Muirfield golf course - you won't be disappointed. The course has been in this location since 1891 when Old Tom Morris laid it out. The clubhouse is beautiful, an Elizabethan design which makes a great backdrop for photo opportunities either before or after your round. It's a private club and definitely one of the harder courses to get a tee time on in all of Scotland. They only take visitors on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so plan accordingly and book as early as possible to ensure your tee time. I booked mine some 7 months in advance, but that was totally necessary as all the other times filled in.
Muirfield has hosted some 15 Open Championships over the years and they are due to hold the 2013 Open Championship coming up. Ernie Els is the last to win at Muirfield - back in 2002 he won the Open Championship. The course is long for most average golfers, - the tees we played were some 6673 yards with a few very long par 4's to deal with. As a foursome, you are put off on the back 9 - so you are start on the 10th hole and go from there. The 10th measures some 473 yards as a par 4 and it plays all that. The bunkering is typical of a links style course, they are waiting out in the fairways for you and most are very penal. Expect a 1 shot penalty essentially as you have to hit sideways to get out. One of our friends had a real blowup on the Par 3 - 7th hole in which he proceeded to get into a greenside bunker and take something like 5 shots to get out. It can be embarrassing and funny at the same time when caught in bunkers like this. As a group we managed some pars along the way, but in the end only 2 of us were able to break 100. The weather can be downright awful, but on the day we played, the sun was out and the winds were calm. The grass (rough) was pretty easy to get out of, although I have seen pictures when they let it grow and you are lucky to even find your ball once it gets off the fairways. The roll was amazing on some of the fairways and the greens were in excellent shape. We had just played the Old Course two days before and we felt like Muirfield blew it away in terms of beauty and course conditions. Muirfield, being a private golf club, definitely takes pride in their course and works hard to keep it playable year round. Don't expect to hang around for lunch - that is unless you have a jacket and tie. They are strict on what is allowed and what isn't at this club, but that is what you are paying for. Overall, the experience was memorable and I would definitely play the course again. We were able to finish up in 4 hours even, quite an accomplishment given that half our party shot 100 or more. The course does not have any true seaside holes, but you do get expansive views of the Firth of Forth - the body of water that the course overlooks. Check out their official website at http://www.muirfield.org.uk.
Muirfield Tee Times and Green Fees:Visitors to Muirfield are in for a treat as the club is amazing. My first error was driving through their entrance gate with my rental car and totally embarrassing myself. See directions and location down below so you don't make the same mistake. Visitor days are only Tuesday and Thursdays and the 1st tee is setup for two balls and the 10th tee is for fourballs. Green fees for 2010 were 185 GBP (roughly $300 US) - this is a major deterrent and keeps many golfers away. We figured the cost was part of the experience and bit the bullet. Out of all the courses we played in Scotland, I would say that only Kingsbarns was in the same league as Muirfield. Muirfield Golf Course was everything we wanted and more. Besides the formal atmosphere at the club (which is not what most Americans want), everything else was just great. Booking tee times online is easy and very convenient versus what you have to do to get a time at St. Andrews and the Old Course. For Muirfield, they have an online calendar which shows available tee times for the Tuesdays and Thursdays. You can apply online and if there is a slot open, most likely you will get it. Peak season (May to September) calls for harder to get tee times, but they are available. We played in April and it was rather easy to get the time we wanted. They take credit card payment via the website/email and send you a confirmation # that you print out. When we showed up at the golf course, they take the lead golfer into the building where you sign the official docket - saying that you played there. A nice woman named Alice set us up with our stroke savers (yardage books as we call them in the US) and off we went. The starter was nice and told us some basic course knowledge and set us off on the adventure.
Muirfield Golf Course Location - Directions:Muirfield is off in it's own little region, east of Edinburgh and just at the end of the town called Gullane. It's not easy to find since there are no big signs even as you get close. The private club is very unassuming and therefore you need to pay attention to the directions. The Muirfield website says - take the last left in town as you exit Gullane (coming from the Edinburgh direction). They claim there is a road sign for Duncur Road, but everyone in our group agreed there is no road name evident anywhere. The road says "private road", so as a first time visitor we were all a little apprehensive about going down. You come to a car park which is small and more like a covered carport area. Ahead of that is the small gate that lets you into Muirfield. I drove through the open gate - which is a total no no and the starter told me so. They want you to park in the car park and then walk with your clubs down to the side gate and have them open it for you. All a bit pretentious and hidden for my blood, but it did work out. From Edinburgh it took us about 35 minutes to get there. The roads were easy to follow, but don't expect signs that point you towards Muirfield golf links. Google map it or just make it a point to turn at your last left as you leave the town of Gullane. The club is down there.