For 20 years, aside from an occasional nip here and tuck there, the Muirfield Village Golf Club course was the same one Jack Nicklaus built for the first Memorial Tournament in 1976.Isn't there something wrong with the game when a widely respected, consistent top 40 course suddenly has to do all of this stuff...oh hell, you know where I'm going.
Then thin-faced drivers and long-distance, low-spin balls began changing the game. It hasn’t been the same since.
Neither has Muirfield Village.
Fairway bunkers were deepened and moved farther from the tee. Water was rerouted closer to where balls landed. One hole, the 17 th, was bulldozed and redesigned from tee to just short of the green.
Nine of the past 11 years, Nicklaus tacked on yardage, stretching a course that measured 7,104 yards as recently as 11 years ago to one that will set up at roughly 7,337 yards when the 31 st Memorial begins today.
But "length is not the issue," Nicklaus said. "How the course plays is my issue."
This was also interesting, though I'm still not entirely sure this is the best way to reintroduce "thought" to the game:
Slugger White, the tour’s on-site tournament director this week, said he does not anticipate a controversy over the furrows, which surprised the players when they arrived.
"It’s a change. We’re trying to make (the bunkers) a little more penal. It is a hazard," White said.
"I was talking to Vijay (Singh) and he said, ‘You might not want to short-side yourself this week.’ I said, ‘You mean you might have to think a little bit out on the golf course?’ He said, ‘That’s a good point.’ "
That is Nicklaus’ point, also. Adding length alone to combat technology, as the Masters has done in recent years, does nothing to level the playing field. Power hitters still have the advantage. Deepening bunkers, making them harder to play out of, narrowing landing areas and greasing fairways by cutting them consistently in the direction of the greens — as also is being done this year for the first time — gives players more decisions to make and risks to take. If weather cooperates, that allows a bunter like Bart Bryant as good a chance to win the Memorial last year as a bomber like Ernie Els the year before.
And for Muirfield Village to survive the week with its integrity intact.