News & Opinion

2020 Memorial Tournament: Course preview of Muirfield Village Golf Club

Muirfield Village Golf Club 17th hole Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy crosses a creek at No. 17 at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio.

'Jack's Place' dates to 200-acre purchase by Nicklaus in 1972 near his boyhood home in suburban Columbus, Ohio

Tiger Woods returns to the PGA Tour this week at one of his favorite courses: Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio. Golf fans know Muirfield Village, site of the annual Memorial Tournament, as “Jack’s Place.” What began for Jack Nicklaus as his dream course when he acquired 200 acres near his boyhood home of Columbus has become a fixture on the Tour schedule.

Nicklaus and the late Desmond Muirhead, the co-designer, broke ground on the course in July 1972. Two years later, Nicklaus, by then 34 and already having won 12 of an eventual 18 major championships, struck the first tee shot, on Memorial Day, in an exhibition match with another major champion by way of Ohio State, Tom Weiskopf. In that round, Nicklaus shot 6-under 66, which stood as the course record for five years.

Saying that Nicklaus has "tinkered" with his course over the years would be a gross understatement. Among the changes, holes have been lengthened, bunkers have been added and removed, greens have been repositioned, etc. Even the bunker rakes were replaced in 2006 with a wooden model featuring wider-than-normal tines that created furrowed sand and led to inconsistent lies (and more challenge), but that experiment faded after one year amid player pushback.

This week’s Memorial Tournament marks the end of the course as we’ve known it in recent years. After Sunday’s final round, the club will enter the final phase of a multiyear renovation that was announced at the end of 2019. Whereas previous work consisted of adding a few new tee boxes, Muirfield Village will shut down entirely for the final phase of work.

According to a previous announcement from the club, all greens and bunkers are set to be rebuilt, including subsurface heating and cooling for the greens. All tee boxes will be laser-leveled, and new fairway mowing widths installed. A major redesign of the par-5 fifth will convert the hole to a long par 4 for the Memorial, thus making the scorecard a par 71.

2020 Memorial Tournament scorecard

For those wondering how the game has changed since the course opened, Muirfield Village debuted in 1974 at 6,978 yards. For this week’s Memorial, it will play 7,456 yards. After the renovations, it will be 7,462 yards.

Four holes to watch this week:

No. 5, par 5, 527 yards: This dogleg right plays downhill to a fairway bisected by a meandering creek that runs from the typical landing area up to the front and left of the green. The green is small for a par 5 and is protected by water and three rear bunkers.

No. 8, par 3, 202 yards: This Instagram-worthy tee view demands a precise mid-iron to avoid ruining the memory a keepsake photo. The hole is surrounded by dogwood, beech, and hickory trees that create an inviting ambiance. A narrow green is almost entirely surrounded by bunkers, including a deep pot bunker back left. The tee shot is slightly downhill, but the valley between the tee and green can invite an optical illusion.

No. 12, par 3, 184 yards: Nicklaus’ affinity for Augusta National, where he won six Masters titles, comes into focus on this replica of ANGC’s famous par-3 12th, known as Golden Bell. Though Muirfield Village’s version plays a bit more than the 8- or 9-iron favored by the pros at Augusta, the Ohio hole plays over a pond to a narrow green guarded by front and rear bunkers.

No. 18, par 4, 484 yards: In typical Nicklaus fashion, the finishing hole is the toughest on the course and demands a precise drive and accurate approach shot. Another long dogleg right, with a right-to-left-sloping fairway favors a power fade, Nicklaus’ go-to shot shape. The challenging approach shot plays uphill to a two-tiered green complex that’s heavily contoured and protected by ample bunkers short and long.

Sign up to receive the Morning Read newsletter, along with Where To Golf Next and The Equipment Insider.