This is a long one but certainly no shortage of meat on this bone!
For Immediate Release…
Muirfield Village Golf Club set to undergo course renovations for 2020 and 2021
Dublin, Ohio – Muirfield Village Golf Club, home of the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide, officially announced today a two-phase course renovation project that will be overseen by the Club’s founder and course designer, Jack Nicklaus. The renovations will take place over the next two years and will include three new teeing grounds, rebuilt greens and bunkers, and a redesigned fifth hole.
Phase One will begin this fall and include new back teeing grounds for the par-3 8th hole, par-5 11th and par-5 15th, as well as new rough area for the par-5 5th hole.
A new rough area?
The work will be completed by this May and used during the 2020 Memorial Tournament, June 1-7. Each new tee box will add yardage to its respective hole, with No. 8 increasing by 25 yards, No. 11 by 15 yards and No. 15 by 30 yards. The changes will increase the total course yardage from the tips to 7,462 yards. Nicklaus’ ground-breaking and innovative design—done originally with input from the late Desmond Muirhead and officially dedicated on May 27, 1974—first played at 6,978 yards.
Well, little more than input, but let’s not get lost in a credit battle when the real eye-opener is the nearly 500-yard increase. And that Nicklaus is adding more might suggest he’s either not confident in distance regulation, or feels even with some rule changes some day that the yardage is needed.
To begin Phase Two of the renovation, Muirfield Village Golf Club will close the course July 6, 2020, at which time all 18 greens will be rebuilt, including new sub-surface heating and cooling equipment. Bunkers will be re-built, tees leveled, and the irrigation system upgraded.
As fairways are regrassed, Nicklaus said he will create new fairway widths, but keep them “fairly generous off the tee,” which has been a trait at Muirfield Village.
All greens will be laser-scanned prior to the beginning of Phase Two in order to retain the general slopes of the original design, with any modifications taking place in the field by Nicklaus. “Once we decided to redo the greens, I realized I wanted to make some minor changes to the contours,” Nicklaus said.
Once a tinkerer, always a tinkerer!
Phase Two will also include a redesign of Hole No. 5. The new layout will include an expanded landing area and convert Muirfield Village’s first par 5 on the outward nine to a par 4 during Tournament play, making the layout a par 71 for the 2021 Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide. “It’s the easiest hole on the golf course,” Nicklaus said. “They play a 3-wood or iron off the tee not to reach the creek, and then play a 5- or 6-iron into the green. I just want to create more landing area on the tee shot, so that quite often they will play driver off the tee, and then play 5 or 6 iron into the green as a true par 4.”
Sad, but true.
“This will probably be my last bite at the apple,” Nicklaus said. “I’ve done little tweaks on the golf course throughout the years, and some significant changes, like the par-3 16th. This time, we are going through the golf course, A to Z, and making sure we do everything at one time.”
One thought, just, you know, off the top of my head: maybe a little work on that new 16th too? Just saying…
“My director of grounds operations, Chad Mark, is a good man, and he helped talk me into it. He said Jack, ‘Once we’re in there, let’s just do this thing right!’ Once we decided to redo the greens, improve the irrigation system, redo bunkers and regrass fairways, the collective group—one that included Chad, General Manager Nicholas LaRocca, Head Professional Larry Dornisch and Memorial Tournament Executive Director Dan Sullivan—basically said, ‘Jack, if you are going back in there and do all this work, and the course is going to be down, you don’t want to go back to the membership and redo it again five years later for irrigation or three years later for bunkers. Let’s get the whole thing done!’ So that’s what we are doing.”
Mark has already developed a detailed timeline for the project and is excited about the work ahead.
Hopefully he consulted Chief Leatherlips.
“Working closely with Mr. Nicklaus, and with support from Nicklaus Design Associate Chris Cochran and our team at Muirfield Village, we envision the fairway bunkers and irrigation getting started after the 2020 Memorial and jumping into greens as soon as we can in July,” Mark said. “Once greens are completed in late August, and fairways and approaches are re-seeded to bentgrass, we will then finish the bunkering and push juvenile turfgrass toward maturity. Work in spring 2021 will include punch-work items with irrigation, compacting bunker sand, mending sod seams, and plugging any thin turf.”
Quick turnaround to the 2021 Memorial…
“We are very excited to carry out the vision of Mr. Nicklaus, and I think the end result will only further elevate an already spectacular golf course!”
Nicklaus emphasized that while many of the enhancements will make Muirfield Village Golf Club a better tournament venue, the renovation is also being done with the membership always front of mind.
“From what I have heard thus far, the membership is really excited about bringing the golf course back to state of the art, which they felt it was a few years ago,” Nicklaus said. “I want to make sure I do the best I can for the membership and for the Memorial Tournament. I’m putting in as many forward member tees as I can at Muirfield Village and The Bear’s Club. I will put in some forward tees at Muirfield Village while I am doing this. I have to make the golf course playable for its membership.”
“But my belief is that tournament golf should be a test to find out who is the best golfer that week. Far too many tournaments have eliminated the rough and firmness of greens, and that is just not my idea of what the game of golf should be. So I am going to stick with my old-fashioned beliefs about how the game of golf should be played and the way golf courses should be set up. How the USGA’s Joe Dey used to set up courses is how I learned and how I thought golf should be played. It’s the guy who drives the ball the straightest; the guy who plays the best iron game; the guy who is best around the greens and is sometimes challenged when he doesn’t play a good shot to the green; and the guy who putts well. The whole gamut of all shots is what the game of golf is all about. The game should challenge every facet of every club in the bag.”
Read into that however you like, but it sure sounds like the Golden Bear is tired of waiting around for governing body action on distance and defending skill.