The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers — as the golf club at Muirfield is properly known — is one of the oldest golf clubs in the world, and the source of the earliest written rules of golf, which date back to 1744. Yet the club has only been based at Muirfield comparatively recently: it was in 1891 that the current course was opened and the club moved from its previous home at the links in nearby Musselburgh. Just a year later, in 1892, Muirfield hosted the first of its fifteen Open Championships, which was won by Harold Hilton, one of only three amateurs to have lifted the Claret Jug.
The course is renowned amongst golfers as being perhaps the fairest test of all the Open venues, with few of the quirky bounces and hidden danger that links courses often contain. Two circuits of nine rotate in opposite directions, the back nine looping inside the front nine, ensuring that the golfer is never faced with the same wind direction on two consecutive holes. As Jack Nicklaus once put it, “What you see is what you get.”
Whether the honesty of the layout has had anything to do with it or not, the fact remains that Muirfield has an astonishing record of identifying the greatest golfers of the age, with a roll of honour which reads like a Who’s Who of golf over the last century, with winners including Els, Faldo, Watson, Nicklaus, Player, Hagen and Vardon.