August 4-7 2022
Competitors will begin their challenge at Muirfield in the 2022 AIG Women’s Open on a difficult opening par 4. The hole can look challenging from the tee, and bares its teeth particularly when into the prevailing wind, as the fairway doglegs to the right. The length of the hole warrants as long a tee shot as possible, but well-placed bunkers up the left can gobble up drives that bail out of making a tight carry over rough down the right, which can be famously penal around Muirfield. From the fairway, an approach awaits into a wide-mouthed green, but with bunkers ready to catch out players being too bold on the right and left of the surface, as well as a bunker just short and right of the green, a par here is a good score to begin the Championship.
One of the better birdie chances at Muirfield, the second hole offers two options from the tee. Aggressive, longer players can take driver and get close to the green from the slightly elevated tee, but bring in extra risk with a narrowing fairway, out of bounds over the prominent wall to the left, and an array of greenside bunkers to the right. Many will choose to lay up short of or just past the three bunkers either side of the fairway at its widest point, and play in to a sloped back-to-front green with just a short iron or wedge. Approach shots that go too far left, particularly hunting a left flag, can find trouble, with a small awkward gulley waiting and the further out-of-bounds wall an even more disastrous outcome.
The third hole represents a challenge with the opening shot, a theme around Muirfield. The fairway is not a small or overly guarded target, but the rewards wait in the correct positions on the fairway, and blind, difficult approaches await from the wrong spots. Laying up with a wood or long iron to the left of the fairway leaves the ideal angle, one that offers up a view of the pin, but still the job is not done. In a crosswind or into the wind, an approach over the distinct mounds is fraught with risk, with a false front and bunkers to the front left and right of the green awaiting poor shots. In the right wind with an accessible pin, the third offers a birdie chance, but on tough days or with difficult flags, par here is a good score.
The first of Muirfield’s famous collection of par 3s, the fourth plays down into a narrow and long green, with sharp run-off areas and bunkers to the front, back and sides of the green. The only par 3 at Muirfield playing slightly downhill, the fourth is a hole that can play long, meaning accuracy with the long irons is paramount. Any mis-struck shot could miss the green and find a hollow on either side or a nasty bunker to the left of the surface, as well as false front short. Players who grab four threes here will certainly be picking up strokes against the field.
The first par 5 at Muirfield can either yield many birdies, or prove a difficult test, depending on the wind. The usual wind, however, would present the hole as a good chance to pick up shots. The tee shot is directed across the slight dogleg right fairway, demanding accuracy. Bunkers protect the carry distance on the right, and two expertly placed bunkers on the left await if players don't fully commit to their line. Find the bunkers and suddenly bogey is just as likely as birdie, but hit the fairway and you are rewarded with a chance to find the significantly uphill green in two. A running approach up the right is likely the best option for players to leave an eagle putt or easy up and down, but a singular bunker up the right side, 40 yards short of the green, needs to be contended with for that route to be successful. A ridge through the middle of the green and a bunker just short left also pose problems. A birdie here would do nicely ahead of a very challenging stretch.
One of the toughest holes on the course, the sixth is a very lengthy par 4 that doglegs heavily to the left, with the prevailing wind usually off the right. From a mostly blind position, the ideal tee shot possesses a high right-to-left shape to carry three problematic bunkers and hold the very tight, angled fairway. That can prove tricky, though, as the fairway possesses distinct cambers that can offer unsavoury bounces. The rough is no doubt a big issue on this hole, and staying out of it off the tee is critical. The approach then works down towards a fairly wide green, but one that is well protected by bunkers to the left and right and swales around the putting surface.
The second par 3 on the front nine, the seventh, is a tricky hole that can play more difficult into a headwind. Not overly long, both accuracy and distance control are absolutely key as players hit uphill into a narrow stretch of green, a theme of Muirfield's par 3s. Balls can easily funnel down to the left or right run-off areas and bunkers, and a gnarly front-left bunker will see plenty of action for those who fail to hit enough club. A potential birdie chance in the most favourable of conditions and setups, but in all likelihood par here will be a gain on the field.
Muirfield is famous for its demanding test of driving, and the eighth is no exception. A par 4 of considerable length, it can play longer still if assurances of a fairway are sought, with a selection of bunkers down the right-hand side all coming into play on a hole that doglegs that way. The majority of players will play down the left, bringing a run-out into the left rough into play. Find the fairway and you are left with a shot to a dipped green over a hill some 50 yards short, which can be semi-blind. The green itself has run-offs to the left and right, which depending on pin position can leave tricky little chips should players miss the surface.
Playing usually into the teeth of the wind and uphill, the ninth is a potentially tricky hole despite being a par 5. Players who can navigate a gaping bunker to the left at driving distance and keep their ball to the right fairway will be rewarded with a great opportunity to reach the green in two, should the wind be behind them. With a usual wind however few players will be reaching the green in two. In that case, an accurate layup is critical, with a tight gap between a bunker 150 yards out and bunkering 80 yards to the green the ideal spot. Should the hole play downwind or a player find a bunker off the tee, long approaches with a wood are also treacherous, with an out-of-bounds wall ominously close to the left of the green. A fairly straightforward green complex awaits, but finding the putting surface is certainly a challenge.
The back nine begins with a par 4 playing away from the clubhouse, and usually downwind. Quite a long hole, the landing area appears tight with bunkers lurking down the right and, as always, Muirfield’s deep rough looming close to the fairway. Find the fairway on the left side, however, and the approach becomes easier, with a clearer view into a green opening that is flanked by three bunkers either side of the green. On this hole, though, a par is always a good score.
The first fully blind tee shot at Muirfield comes at the 11th, where players will have to pick their line and trust it over the small hill guarding the fairway. Choose the correct line off the tee and find the relatively wide fairway by Muirfield’s standards, likely just short of three bunkers guarding the edges of the short grass, and this hole becomes a good birdie chance. Still, a tricky green awaits, with run-offs to no less than seven bunkers around the back sides of the green, and multiple levels on the surface for tucked flag positions. Accuracy and distance control is required with the second shot, to leave a good chance for birdie on a sloping green.
The 12th offers another good opportunity for birdie, but again requires immense accuracy off the tee to provide the best chance. Tee shots struck to the left yield the greatest rewards, with a much better angle into any pin. From the right-hand side of the fairway, right-sided pins become tricky, as a string of bunkers and slopes expertly guard that side of the green. Still, a wood or long iron will leave just a wedge or short iron into a green that lies below the golfer but slopes from back-to-front. A fairway missed to the right however leaves a nigh-on impossible approach over the right-sided bunkers without a good lie, and must be avoided if at all possible. A very difficult bunker also awaits to the left of the green, as well as run-offs on all sides, making an accurate approach critical. Depending on wind and tees, this hole can also be played as a drivable par 4, which could change decision-making drastically.
Possibly the most famous of Muirfield's par 3s, the 13th again plays uphill into a narrow green. Visually intimidating off the tee, there is slightly more room than first appears, but not much, with never more than 15 yards of width at the green's widest point. Five bunkers await around the putting surface, which are like magnets for approach shots, and if you’re not careful for second shots too, as they are cavernous and it can be hard to hold the green, let alone be able to get the ball out of them. Big scores are possible here, and a three is always a good number.
The 14th hole is played from a slightly elevated tee, and the tee shot is a tough one. Down into the fairway lies a lone bunker to the right and three bunkers menacingly to the left intruding more into the fairway the further up you go. The best play is to navigate past the right-hand side bunker and leave an approach into the green. But as is often the case at Muirfield, the more you take on the danger, in this case the left-hand side bunkers, the easier the angle for the approach, as just one bunker protects the green, short and to the right. The green is nonetheless quite wide at its mouth, but it is important to keep the ball on line, particularly if coming in with a long iron, to miss the run-off areas that are all around the shelved surface.
The 15th is one of the most well-bunkered holes on the course, which makes for tricky decisions on each shot. Three bunkers lie in wait short left of the fairway for wayward shots intended for safety, while two bunkers sitting either side of the fairway are in play for anything more ambitious off the tee. A second shot then must contend with a short cross bunker for players who laid back, as well as various bunkers around the large green. The putting surface is also infamous for three-putts, so a par on this hole is a good result.
The last of the short holes at Muirfield, run-offs famously surround this lengthy par 3. Contouring from the green feeds balls off down the left side and at the front, and bunkers lie in wait in both positions, as well as a few larger traps to the right, to pick up the scraps. The green itself works down from back-to-front and, depending on the wind, finding the surface near the hole is a very tough ask. Those fighting it out for the AIG Women’s Open trophy on the first Sunday in August will be delighted with a three on this hole, and will look to take their chances at the next...
Probably the most iconic hole at Muirfield, the par-5 17th has had its fair share of dramatic moments in Open Championships. But who will conquer the hole this time round in the AIG Women’s Open? The usual wind renders this hole reachable in two, but in differing winds, all manner of bunkers come into play. The hole plays as a dogleg left, with the tee shot needing to flirt with a selection of bunkers down that left side in order to be in prime position for the second shot. From there, a long approach awaits into the mouth of the green, guarded by left and right bunkers at the green's opening, and the famous, distinctive mound that cuts in to the right side of the green. Should there be an unusual wind or should a player find a bunker off the tee, however, the largest and most distinctive group of cross bunkers on the course, positioned in the ideal layup area, come into play at 120 yards or so from the green, making the hole tough to par instead of a great birdie opportunity. The putting surface itself is fairly flat and straightforward, and shots missed short and to the left, avoiding the bunker, leave the easiest up and downs.
A world-class finishing hole for a world-class course. Par here is always a great score, but four is no easy feat if needed for the Championship. The fairway narrows at driving distance, with two bunkers to the left catching out even the most slight of wayward drives. Pull off your drive and you can turn the hole into an outside birdie chance, but miss the target and the penalty can be very severe. As such, many will lay up short of the two left-sided bunkers and leave a longer approach in. From the fairway, two short cross bunkers come into play for longer approaches, and two traps either side of the green, including a mounded bunker to the right, present problems too. The green also plays uphill, but multiple undulations at the middle and back of the surface can make putting and chipping to these pins tremendously difficult. Pin positions just over the slope are famous, and can make or break potential champions. The cap to a wonderful closing run of holes, all that remains is to see who handles it best coming down the stretch in August...