It is a pretty difficult task to sift through the golf courses of Scotland and pick out a favourite. Thousands of golfers suffer with the same difficulty since Scottish lands are host to so many incredible golf courses, many with unique views and scenic passage over some of the best countryside that anyone will ever lay eyes on. St. Andrews Old Course is probably the first that comes to mind for many golfers, but few courses are as fair or evenly balanced as that of Muirfield. Perhaps a little cockily referring to its club as the ‘Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers', Muirfield is a course whose physical shape and form is among the best in the world, it also forms an essential part of golfing history and is a pillar of tradition for the sport. In fact, the very rules of golf (as we know them today) had their origins at Muirfield, and more specifically, in the minds of the individuals that made up the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers.
The club's history can be traced back to 1744, a time when the aforementioned men regularly met and put forward the discussion of the original thirteen rules of golf that would later be codified and brought to an official capacity amongst professional golfers everywhere. The course itself used to reside where the Musselburgh Links did, but moved in 1892 to Gullane where it has since hosted no less than sixteen British Open Championships (check out the description of Muirfield on the Open website). The sheer number of official events held here is obviously evidence of the course's quality, but you shouldn't just take the number of events it has hosted as sole proof of its greatness.
The design of the course itself is something to behold. The course consists essentially of two loops, with the number of holes in each loop split down the middle at nine holes a piece. These loops - the first nine holes playing clockwise and the last anti-clockwise - are designed so that barely any consecutive shots are in the same direction, putting pressure on the golfer's skill and ability to judge distance and keep a cool head amidst constantly-changing directions. If you factor in the natural elements, specifically the unpredictable wind coming in from the wonderful North Sea, then you have a course that is both unpredictable and also an impressive test of a golfer's adaptive ability.
The course features some fairly thick grass in the rough and bunkers that will challenge anyone's ability to retrieve a ball, including the professionals. From the very first hole, golfers of all ability are met with the same challenge: a great deal of rough and a sloping (away from you, that is) green. Many have emphasised the importance of having a good short game on this course, as well as a well-rounded long game. Par 4s abound on this course, many with distances of around 400 or so, meaning that you're not going to be making greens in anything less than two shots, and that's on a good day. For this reason, putting is another aspect of your game that will be fully challenged.
You'll also find a few wonderful par 3 holes covering very short distances; 130 or so yards to be precise. These greens are designed so that you must swing up at them, presenting you with the requirement of being very accurate. Don't forget the cavernous bunkers that are littered about the course as well, particularly on the 18th where an island-like bunker waits silently to perhaps spoil that round and maybe even the whole game.
Whether you're a golfer of great experience, a mid-handicapper, or simply a lover of the sport with little experience, Muirfield remains one of the fairest and balanced links courses that one could ever play. The course is open for play on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and more information about the course itself can be sought at the Murfield Course section of the website.