British Open 2013: A course guide to Muirfield golf club

Ross Kinnaird

Muirfield is no stranger to hosting The Open. We detail the famous links course and what obstacles the players will face this week.

Of the nine courses currently in the British Open rotation, the Old Course at St Andrews has the most history and prestige, but Muirfield isn't far behind. This week's tournament is the 16th time the course has hosted The Open. Only St. Andrews and Prestwick Golf Club -- the original site of The Open -- have hosted more.

Muirfield's place in history isn't just because of the number of times it has hosted the British Open, but instead for the history that has been made during those championships. Some of the best players to ever play the game, including all-time greats like Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Tom Watson and Lee Trevino, have hoisted the Claret Jug on Muirfield's grounds.

More history could be made this week, but if it is, the players will have to tame a variety of challenges the old links course presents. Here's a closer look at Muirfield and what the players are facing this week.

Muirfield's history

Designed by Old Tom Morris, Muirfiled opened in 1891 and hosted its first Open Championship less than a year later in 1892. The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers -- the oldest organized golf club in the world -- is based at Muirfield.

Unlike a few other courses, Muirfield hasn't undergone significant change in the modern era. A few changes were made initially, but outside of some extended tee boxes, the course remains largely the same today as it did in 1935. In addition to Morris, famed course designer Harry Colt also had a significant hand in the current design.

Previous Opens

The course hosted its first Open Championship in 1892 and remained a regular host since, with the last British Open at Muirfield being played in 2002. Player, Nicklaus, Nick Faldo and Ernie Els all won their first Open Championship at Muirfield.

The course plays to a variety of difficulty levels, depending on the wind and other elements, but of the last nine Open Championship winners at Muirfield, eight have finished under par, including two who finished 12-under or better. That said, Muirfield can certainly bite back, just ask Tiger Woods. Woods was in contention heading into the weekend in 2002, but was unable to overcome difficult weather conditions in the third round and shot an 81.

Several of the holes have been lengthened for this year's British Open and Muirfield is once again firm and playing hard and fast.

Hole-by-hole Guide

The Par 71 course plays at slightly less than 7,200 yards. Like a typical links course, it's known for firm conditions, a lot of bunkers, long and think rough and wind. Lots and lots of wind.

No. 1, 447-yard Par 4: Players won't be able to ease into their rounds with the opening hole being one of the most-challenging on the course. An accurate tee shot is important due to bunkers lining the left side of the fairway. The hole usually plays into the wind, making it even tougher.

No. 2, 364-yard Par 4: The shortest Par 4 on the course, but still a challenge. Out-of-bounds runs down the left side of the hole, while several bunkers are in the landing area on the right. Many will play a long-iron off the tee with a few pulling out driver if conditions are calm. A contoured green will lead to a lot of two-putts, or worse.

No. 3, 377-yard Par 4: A narrow fairway will lead most players to taking an iron off the tee at No. 3. Land in one of the fairway bunkers in the landing zone and this hole could quickly turn into a nightmare. Bunkers pose a threat in the front of the green, but many players will play into the back. The green sets up well for birdie, if players can avoid the other trouble.

No. 4, 226-yard Par 3: A new tee box was built since the 2002 Open, lengthening the hole. Wind is often a major factor. Players will find trouble if they come up short since the front of the green is heavily sloped and runs into a pair of bunkers. Even if you avoid the sand, it's a difficult up-and-down.

No. 5, 559-yard Par 5: Accuracy off the tee is the key at No. 5 with seven fairway bunkers in play. The hole typically plays downwind and is reachable in two, but not if the tee shot finds a bunker. Seven more bunkers guard the sloped green. No. 5 is a solid birdie opportunity for those who find the short grass off the tee.

No. 6, 461-yard Par 4: A narrow fairway and crosswinds make the tee shot at No. 6 one of the toughest on the course. A stone wall and bunkers are down the left side, leading many players to play their tee shot up the right portion of the fairway. The green runs off on the backside and a back pin location extremely difficult.

No. 7, 184-yard Par 3: One of the shortest holes on the course, but it plays longer due to wind. The green slopes from back to front, meaning most players will try to come in short and avoid a tricky downhill putt.

No. 8, 441-yard Par 4: A dogleg right, players will need a 285-yard tee shot to carry the fairway bunkers off the tee. Hit it too far, however, and other bunkers come into play. Players won't face too big of a challenge into the green, but putts can be tricky on the subtle, yet challenging green.

No 9, 554-yard Par 5: The ninth hole has been lengthened since 2002 by nearly 50 yards. An out-of-bounds wall runs down the left side and could come into the play. The severely-sloped green is guarded by out-of-bounds on the left and bunkers on the right.

No. 10, 469-yard Par 4: Wind blowing from the left is the biggest obstacle on No. 10 because it brings fairway bunkers on the right into play off the tee. If players can avoid issue off the tee, they should have good birdie opportunities on the flat green.

No. 11, 387-yard Par 4: Players will hit a blind tee shot on No. 11, but the hole features one of the widest fairways on the course. The green is small and heavily guarded with deep bunkers, but a solid drive will leave most with a wedge or short iron in.

No. 12, 379-yard Par 4: A narrow fairway and trouble to the left will lead most players to play to the right side of the fairway off the tee. The green is long and narrow and players will want to avoid going long. The back of the green slopes off leading to a very challenging up-and-down.

No. 13, 190-yard Par 3: Typically playing downwind, the 13th hole plays short, but is far from easy. Five deep bunkers guard the green and will be a challenge for any player who finds them. The green is extremely narrow, less than 15 paces at its widest point.

No. 14, 475-yard Par 4: The long Par 4 is one of the hardest holes on the course. It typically plays into the wind, making it play even longer. The fairway narrows in the driving zone and most players will be hitting long-irons or hybrids into the green.

No 15, 448-yard Par 4: Another dogleg right, the 15th hole plays into the wind, bringing several fairway bunkers into play. The green may be the hardest on the course with a large ridge in the middle. The slope is severe enough that approach shots landing on the contour may roll all the way off the green and into a bunker.

No. 16, 186-yard Par 3: A wide green appears inviting, but slopes on the left and right, make No. 16 a challenge. Balls landing on the wrong areas of the green will roll off into the rough or green-side bunkers. Most players will aim for the middle of the green and attempt to limit the damage.

No. 17, 575-yard Par 5: The 17th is the longest hole on the course, but it plays downwind, so it is reachable in two for most players. Many will play down the right side of the fairway to avoid bunkers off the tee. There is some trouble around the green, but if avoided, the 17th sets up well for birdie due to the relatively flat green.

No. 18, 470-yard Par 4: One of the best, and most-difficult finishing holes in golf. Wind blows from the right, bringing bunkers on the left of the fairway into play. More bunkers guard the green, including one on the right that includes a grass island. If players find that obstacle, they may be left without much of a shot. The green slopes from front-to-back and is tricky. A four is a very good score on No. 18.

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