Take a Course Tour of the Muirfield Links

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Home to The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers

The gate to Muirfield with the name 'The Honourable Company of Edinburg Golfers' on it picture in Gullane, Scotland
A gate at Muirfield tells visitors the name of the club that calls the links home. Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Muirfield is a Scottish links course that is considered one of the best golf courses in not just Scotland, but the world. It traces its history to the early 1890s (although the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, which calls the club home, goes back much farther).

For many years Muirfield was part of the British Open rota, but in 2016 the R&A dropped the course after its membership voted to maintain a men-only membership policy. (Expect the links to return to the rota when that policy is reversed.)

Muirfield is the name of the links, but the name of the club is The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers (a k a, HCEG). Think of it this way: The club, as in association, is HCEG; the golf course that club owns, operates and plays on is Muirfield.

And the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers is one of the most historic clubs in the history of golf - and one of the oldest.

The club began as the Gentlemen Golfers of Leith, under which name it created the first known written rules of golf in 1744. The club played on the Leith Links, immediately northeast of Edinburgh, Scotland. The club officially became known as The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers on March 26, 1800.

The HCEG maintained its role as a leader on the rules of golf through revisions in 1795 and 1809, but eventually accepted the leadership of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews on the rules (the R&A's first Rules of Golf Committee formed in 1897).

Meanwhile, the Leith Links were getting crowded as the popularity of golf in Scotland kept growing. So in 1836 the HCEG moved to the Musselburgh Links, a 9-hole course situated inside a horse racing track. Musselburgh is about six miles southeast of Leith.

While headquartered at Musselburgh, the Honourable Company began hosting the British Open every third year, rotating with The Old Course at St. Andrews (where the R&A was headquartered) and Prestwick. The HCEG hosted the Open at Musselburgh in 1874, 1877, 1880, 1883, 1886 and 1889.

But the Musselburgh Links then started becoming overcrowded, too, as HCEG shared the links with four other clubs.

So The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers moved again. The club bought another horse track, called The Howes, in Gullane, about 12 miles northeast of Musselburgh (and about 20 miles outside of Edinburgh).

The club brought in Old Tom Morris to lay out a private links just for the HCEG. And that's Muirfield. Muirfield immediately replaced Musselburgh in the Open rota, hosting its first British Open in 1892.

And the HCEG has called Muirfield home ever since.

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Muirfield, Hole 1

Muirfield 1st Hole
The 1st hole at Muirfield. David Cannon / Getty Images

The first hole at Muirfield is a 450-yard (from the back tees, all yardages cited in this gallery are from the members' back tees) par-4 hole. It's a testing length, especially as it typically plays into the wind. The fairway bunker in the image above shouldn't be in play for golfers at the British Open, but can snare balls played by the rest of us.

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Muirfield's 2nd Hole

Muirfield 2nd Hole
The 2nd hole at Muirfield. David Cannon / Getty Images

The second hole at Muirfield is a par-4 that plays to 367 yards. The hole is drivable for long hitters, if the wind conditions are right, but danger lurks left in the form of out-of-bounds, and right in those little pot bunkers visible in the photo above. The OB left is most dangerous closer to the green, as it comes within 15 feet of the left side.

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Hole No. 3 at Muirfield

Muirfield 3rd Hole
Hole No. 3 at Muirfield. David Cannon / Getty Images

The third hole at Muirfield is a 379-yard par-4. Golfers who hit the ball a long way have to stay short of the 290-yard mark off the tee because it's there that two bunkers on opposite sides of the fairway mark the point where the fairway is pinched down to almost nothing by mounding. The green is best approached from the left, and angles left-to-right while sloping down back-to-front.

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Muirfield, Hole 4

Muirfield 4th Hole
Hole No. 4 at Muirfield. David Cannon / Getty Images

Golfers encounter the first par-3 hole at Muirfield on the fourth hole, and this one plays as long as 229 yards. As you can tell from the photo, the green is perched above the surrounding area, with hollows and bunkers waiting for balls that run off. It's a deep green, played to from an elevated teeing ground.

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Muirfield's No. 5 Hole

Muirfield 5th Hole
A view of the fifth hole at the Muirfield links. David Cannon / Getty Images

The fourth hole is the first par-3 at Muirfield, and this hole, No. 5, is the first par-5. The fifth hole plays to 561 yards. A fairway bunker approximately 300 yards off the tee on the left side of the fairway is a good aiming point off the tee (assuming you don't hit into the bunker, of course). The green is heavily guarded on both left and right sides by bunkers.

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No. 6 Hole at Muirfield

Muirfield 6th Hole
Muirfield's No. 6 hole. David Cannon / Getty Images

The sixth hole at Muirfield is a 469-yard par-4. Muirfield's website calls this "probably the most demanding hole on the course." It starts with a blind tee shot that is usually played into a cross-wind. The fairway runs down from that point to a green that itself slopes back up. The copse of trees behind the green is named Archerfield Wood.

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7th Hole at Muirfield

Muirfield 7th Hole
The seventh hole on the Muirfield links. David Cannon / Getty Images

The second par-3 hole on the front nine, Muirfield's No. 7 hole plays to 187 yards. The tee shot is both uphill and, usually, into the wind. The green is protected by one deep pot bunker on the right and three on the left.

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Muirfield's No. 8 Hole

Muirfield 8th Hole
A view of the eighth hole at Muirfield. David Cannon / Getty Images

The No. 8 hole on the golf course at Muirfield is a par-4 of 445 yards. The cluster of bunkers and hollows in the photo above begins roughly 60 yards from the green and continues to within about 20 yards of the putting surface. Another cluster of bunkers guards the dogleg where the fairway turns to the right.

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Muirfield, No. 9

Muirfield 9th Hole
Hole No. 9 at Muirfield. David Cannon / Getty Images

The front nine at Muirfield ends with this par-5 hole, which is 558 yards in length. The fairway pinches very narrow beginning about 300 yards out from the tee, and zags to the left. But the hole typically plays into the wind, so even many long drivers will be short of a deep bunker guarding the left side of the fairway at that elbow. A wall marking out-of-bounds runs the entire left side of the hole, and five bunkers are clustered on the right side of the approach to the green.

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Muirfield, Hole 10

Muirfield 10th Hole
The 10th hole at Muirfield. David Cannon / Getty Images

The back nine of the links at Muirfield begins with this 472-yard par-4 hole. The pair of fairway bunkers in the photo above are about 100 yards from the putting surface and don't typically come into play. But they do serve to make the approach to the green semi-blind. A series of three bunkers down the right side of the fairway closer to the tee can come into play on tee shots. The green itself has two bunkers on the right-front and another bunker left of the green surface.

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No. 11 at Muirfield

Muirfield 11th Hole
Hole No. 11 at Muirfield. David Cannon / Getty Images

The 11th hole at Muirfield is a par-4 that plays to 389 yards. The hole is straightaway, but begins with an uphill, blind tee shot. Two bunkers right and one left pinch the fairway about 270 yards off the tee. The green is surrounded by pot bunkers, two left and two right, plus three more behind.

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Muirfield's 12th Hole

Muirfield 12th Hole
The 12th hole at Muirfield. David Cannon / Getty Images

The 12th hole on the links at Muirfield is another sub-400-yard par-4, the second in a row, this hole playing to 382 yards. It also plays downhill to the green, but there is trouble (well, in addition to Muirfield's ubiquitous heather) left - a bunker, gully and bushes - around 270 yards off the tee. There are two bunkers just short of the green on the right side of the fairway, a large bunker near the left-front, plus three bunkers along the right side of the green.

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Muirfield No. 13

Muirfield 13th Hole
A view of Muirfield's No. 13 hole. David Cannon / Getty Images

The first par-3 hole on the back nine, Muirfield's No. 13 is 193 yards in length. The tee shot is uphill to a deep but skinny green. The green also slopes quite a bit from back to front. The bunkers in the photo above are among the five situated around the putting surface, three on the right and two on the left.

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Muirfield's 14th Hole

Muirfield 14th Hole
The 14th hole at Muirfield. David Cannon / Getty Images

The 14th hole at Muirfield is a 478-yard par-4. It's a long par-4 made longer when it plays into a hurting wind, which is usually does. The green is elevated above the fairway level and falls off all around.

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Hole No. 15 at Muirfield

Muirfield 15th Hole
The 15th hole at Muirfield. David Cannon / Getty Images

The 15th hole is another par-4, this one measuring 447 yards from the back tees. The town of Gullane is visible on the hillside in the background. There are bunkers on the left and right sides of the fairway near a common landing area, as well as more closer to the green (including one in the middle of the fairway approximately 30 yards short of the green). The green itself has three small bunkers on the the right, one at the front-left, and large bunker that wraps around the back-left.

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Muirfield, 16th Hole

Muirfield 16th Hole
The No. 16 hole on the Muirfield links. David Cannon / Getty Images

The 16th hole at Muirfield is the second of the two par-3s on the back nine, this one measuring 188 yards. The green is protected by seven bunkers, and tee balls landing on the left half of the green run the risk of catching a slope and trundling off the green.

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Hole No. 17 (Muirfield)

Muirfield 17th Hole
The 17th hole at Muirfield. David Cannon / Getty Images

The 17th hole at Muirfield is the only par-5 on the back nine, and the longest hole on the links at 578 yards from the back tees. The hole doglegs to the left and there are multiple bunkers at the turn. A collection of three cross bunkers looms at 100 yards out from the green.

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Muirfield No. 18

Muirfield 18th Hole
The 18th hole at Muirfield. David Cannon / Getty Images

The home hole at Muirfield, No. 18, is a par-4 that stretches to 473 yards in length. The 18th green is guarded by two long bunkers on either side, the one on the right having an island of grass in the middle of it.

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Muirfield Clubhouse

Muirfield Clubhouse
A view across the 18th green to the Muirfield clubhouse. David Cannon / Getty Images

The clubhouse at Muirfield was considered, well, ugly when it first opened in 1891. According to the Muirfield website, "the original clubhouse was unkindly described as a 'box-framed' salon with its Elizabethan design and half-timbered main gable." Now, more than a century later - and after many additions - attitudes have changed and the Muirfield clubhouse is much admired.

The Muirfield clubhouse includes both men's and women's locker rooms, plus a Smoking Room (which is non-smoking today - think of it as a sitting room or lounge area) and Dining Room, among other areas. The public areas overlook the links and boast walls covered with photos and artwork and rooms featuring historic artifacts.

Visitors to the Smoking or Dining rooms are required to dress "smart," which means, the club explains, "a gentleman's lounge jacket and tie." Visitors are not allowed to wear golf apparel in any of the clubhouse's public rooms, and cameras and cellphones are banned.

The dining area serves morning coffee, lunch and afternoon tea, and there is also a bar. There is no pro shop, however, at the Muirfield clubhouse.