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Sports

July 18, 2013

Muirfield should present a big challenge

British Open begins today at storied Scottish course

The 142nd Open Champ-ionship starts today at Muirfield located in Gullane, East Lothian, Scotland overlooking the Firth of Forth.

Although Muirfield is a links course and is set upon elevated ancient land claimed from the sea highlighted by its sandy base and small sea shells in its bunkers, it has an unusual layout which was designed by Old Tom Morris.

Most links courses run along the coast and then back again leading to two sets of nine holes, each of which will roughly face in the same direction. One nine goes out and the other comes back in. Muirfield, however, was among the first courses to depart from this arrangement and is arranged as two loops of nine holes, one clockwise and one counterclockwise. This means that, assuming the wind direction remains the same throughout a round, every hole on the course has a different apparent wind direction from the tee. No more than three consecutive holes follow the same direction at any time.

The Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, now based at Muirfield, holds the claim of being the oldest verifiable organized golf club in the world, although the game of golf is several centuries older. The club’s records date back continuously to 1744, when it produced 13 “Rules of Golf” for its first competition which was played at Leith Links for the “Silver Cup.”

The club played on five holes at Leith Links for nearly a century, but overcrowding forced a move in 1836 to Mussleburgh Old Course’s 9 holes. Musselburgh, like many prestigious Scottish courses, is a public course and this course also became too crowded for the liking of the Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers.

In 1891, the club built a new private 18-hole course at Muirfield, taking the Open Championship with them. This situation caused some ill feeling at Musselburgh, which lost the right to hold the Open from that point forward. Because Old Tom Morris had designed Muirfield, it met with wide approval from the start. It has been modified and updated several times as late as the 1920s but not touched since. Muirfield held its first Open in 1892 and was the first tournament anywhere contested over four rounds or 72 holes.

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