Open Championship: Hole-by-Hole Preview

Open Championship: Hole-by-Hole Preview

The Open Championship begins on Thursday. Ernie Els is the defending British Open champion. Here is a preview of each of the holes at Muirfield.

HOLE ONE – Par 4 – 447 yards: This is arguably the toughest opening hole at any of the Scottish courses on The Open Championship rota and this year will be even harder with the addition of a new bunker situated 300 yard out on the left-hand side of the fairway. The ideal tee shot should be hit left of centre as this leaves a clear view up the narrow green. A new shallow depression has been built into the left side of the green.

HOLE TWO – Par 4 – 364 yards: This is the shortest par-4 on the course but is a deceptively difficult test with an out-of-bounds wall running down the left- hand side and several bunkers positioned in the landing area and to the right of the green. Two of the greenside bunkers have been removed since the 2002 Open but the others are now tighter to the putting surface. Competitors will play from a new tee during this year’s Championship.

HOLE THREE – Par 4 – 377 yards: A lot of competitors will hit iron from the tee on the 2nd and that is also the sensible strategy on the 3rd where the fairway narrow 290 yards out and is protected by a couple of bunkers. The view to the 40-yard long green is partially blocked by a dune on the right and the bunkers on that side have been moved closer to the green. The safest shot is to the back of a green but the shot will need to be more accurate than in previous Championships because three new hollows have been added to the back right edge.

HOLE FOUR – Par 3 – 226 yards: This testing short hole was lengthened by 33 yards in time for the 2002 Open and is now to be played from a new Championship tee which has added a further 13-yards to its length. The tee shot is played to a plateau green that is 40-yards deep and protected by bunkers and hollows on both sides. It is important to hit enough club because anything that lands short will run down the slope and into one of the traps.

HOLE FIVE – Par 5 – 559 yards: The first of Muirfield’s long holes features one of the most testing tee shots on the course. Competitors have to carry a large expanse of rough ground to reach the fairway but if they get too greedy they will fall off the fairway into a bunker and if they play too safe they can run out of fairway and into more sand on the other side. Down the prevailing wind the green is reachable in two but it is protected by a cluster of bunkers on both sides.

HOLE SIX – Par 4 – 461 yards: This might well be the most demanding hole on the course. The tee shot almost always has to be played across the wind to a hidden fairway and the second then struck towards a green that is protected by three bunkers and has Archerfield Wood as its backdrop. New hollows have been introduced short and left of the green and the right-hand greenside bunker moved slightly to the left.

HOLE SEVEN – Par 3 – 184 yards: The second of Muirfield’s short holes is played uphill and into the prevailing wind. The contouring on the green itself is probably not as severe as at the 4th but it still requires an accurate shot to avoid the three bunkers down the slope on the left and the sole trap on the other side. The green itself is 37 yards long so correct clubbing is crucial if you want to give yourself a realistic birdie putt.

HOLE EIGHT – Par 4 441 yards: The 8th gives a perfect illustration of how the bunkering at Muirfield is often used to lengthen a hole. It requires a carry of over 280 yards to clear the cluster of bunkers set into the dog-leg so many competitors will opt for a 3-wood or long iron to the left and then a longer shot over cross bunkers to a green that drops away at the back and left. The old bunker short and right of the green has been replaced by a new trap closer to the putting surface.

HOLE NINE – Par 5 – 554 yards: A new tee has been built some 45 yards behind the previous Championship tee and it will not only add length but also bring the out-of-bounds down the left much more into play. The tee shot has to be placed between a deep bunker on the left and a new trap situated 270 yard out on the right of the landing area while the green sits uncomfortably close to the out-of-bounds and is protected by a cluster of bunkers on the right. Downwind the 9th remains a birdie opportunity but it becomes much more formidable in less favorable conditions.

HOLE TEN – Par 4 – 469 yards: A new fairway bunker has been added 290 yards out on the right-hand side of the landing area. The fairway itself has also been realigned in time for this year’s Championship and the existing right-hand fairway bunkers moved left to reflect this change. The prevailing south west wind pushes a tee shot towards those bunkers while the second has to be played to a flat and partially hidden green protected by sand on both sides.

HOLE ELEVEN – Par 4 – 387 yards: This hole features a completely blind drive over the crest of a hill to a landing area which has been tightened by the introduction of a new fairway bunker built into the right-hand side of the fairway 320 yards from the Championship tee. The left-hand trap has also been moved so that it is now 270 yards from the tee. The second shot has to be accurate to hit a small and sharply-contoured heart-shaped green surrounded by sand.

HOLE TWELVE – Par 4 – 379 yards: Sandy Lyle once said this was a fairly comfortable driving hole but the second has to be threaded between sand to a long thin green which sits at slightly lower level than the fairway. The first bunker on the left-hand side has been replaced by a grassy hollow but the next one to it has been extended and the first bunker on the right has been moved a little to the left.

HOLE THIRTEEN – Par 3 – 190 yards: An extra 32 yards were added to this hole in time for the 2002 Championship but it has not been altered since. The green is 46 yard deep but it can be an elusive target because it is never more than 15 paces wide at any point and falls away into three deep bunkers on the right and another two on the left.

HOLE FOURTEEN – Par 4 – 475 yards: The 14th is invariably played into the prevailing south west wind and in those conditions it can prove to be a demanding par-4. The competitors will play from a new Championship tee that makes the hole around 30 yards longer than it was in 2002. The fairway narrows considerably at around 300 yards out and the second is played to a plateau green that falls away on all sides. The bunker to the right of the green has been extended towards the front of the putting surface.

HOLE FIFTEEN – Par 4 – 448 yards: This is another hole which will play some 30 yards longer than eleven years ago. It features a tight landing area protected by deep bunkers on both sides of the left-to-right dog-leg. Members refer to the green as the Camel’s Back because of its significant contours. The first bunker on the left of the green has been filled in while a couple of the others have been edged closer to the putting surface.

HOLE SIXTEEN – Par 3 – 186 yards: The best strategy on this testing short hole is to aim for the centre of the green because anything left or right is in danger of sliding down into the bunkers that guard both sides of the green. It was on this hole that Lee Trevino holed a bunker shot on his way to winning the 1972 Open Championship but lesser mortals are likely to less fortunate if they find the sand.

HOLE SEVENTEEN – Par 5 – 575 yards: This hole will play just under 30 yards longer than in 2002 but in favorable conditions will still be reachable in two for the big hitters provided they can avoid the five bunkers built into the corner of the dog-leg. A group of cross bunkers lurk about 100 yards short of the green and the green itself is set back into dunes and protected by a narrow entrance with bunkers on both sides.

HOLE EIGHTEEN – Par 4 – 470 yards: The 18th hole at Muirfield is rightly regarded as one of the great finishing holes in golf and it will be even more testing this year because it has been extended by 21 yards since the 2002 Championship. Three bunkers cut into the left and right-hand side of the landing area while the green is also protected by bunkers short and on both sides of the putting surface. The iconic island bunker to the right of the green has been altered to widen the sand area and reduce the chance of a virtually unplayable lie.