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Muirfield as seen by an amateur



In 1891, Old Tom Morris designed Muirfield, a new private course to become home for the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers. Over the subsequent 122 years, the exclusive traditions of the golf club have changed very little.

To the benefit of golf aficionados, Muirfield has kept its private policies, but it has altered them to allow visitors on Tuesday and Thursday. Tee times are available from 8:30 to 10 a.m., but require years of forward-thinking and planning.

Last year, I embarked with my dad, my friend and his dad on the ultimate golf pilgrimage to watch the weekend rounds at the British Open. We then played North Berwick, Carnoustie, the New and Olde Courses at St. Andrews and with shrewd prepartion: Muirfield. Each of the five courses were dripping in tradition, but the elegance of Muirfield left it in a class on its own.

Muirfield’s swanky persona revealed itself upon arrival. Our taxi driver stopped at the end of the road that led to the club and told us that was as far as he was allowed. The membership did not want taxis to service the club’s entrance.

We were greeted by an ominous iron gate that read, “The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers,” protecting history that dates back to the adolescent years of the game.

Behind the gate laid boundless rolling hills of brown and green grasses that emptied into the ocean at the horizon, interrupted by narrow strips of lush green fairways, with yellow flagsticks peeking up arbitrarily throughout the field to ensure it was indeed a golf course.

The landscape emitted a simple beauty, but the vastness made you feel nearly insignificant.

Behind the gate was a man with a clipboard, who condescendingly asked, “What are you doing here?” We clearly were not members of the Company, but with golf bags slung over our shoulder, the answer seemed obvious.

Muirfield Entrance

Our names were on the visitor tee-time list, so he begrudgingly allowed us to enter the grounds. The un-welcomed feeling was easy to get past — we were just appreciative to be there.

We didn’t arrive early enough to hit balls on the range; I’m not sure they would have let us anyway. Before our turn at the tee, we only had time to hang our suit jackets and pants in the locker room. Formal attire was necessary to eat lunch in the dining quarters after the round, and we came prepared based on a tip from the manager at North Berwick the day before. The locker room had the feel of a fine cigar club with the elegant blend of comfort and wealth, surely a room that classy American golf clubs attempt to emulate.

Our names were called to the first tee, and as we approached nerves set in. The first hole is a 448-yard par 4 into a prevailing wind with treacherous fescue on both sides. An already narrow sliver of fairway seemed to disappear as we approached the teeing area.

All four of our drives found the fescue (which didn’t make our caddy happy), but we were relieved to get underway without total disaster.

After playing some military golf (left-right-left) on the first few shots, I had an approach shot into the green from the fairway. It’s not often that I’m hesitant to take a divot with a wedge, but the grass in the fairways made me weary to disturb such perfection. A tentative swing left me in the front right bunker, and after failing to get up-and-down, I tapped in for a humbling double-bogey.

A run of pars on the next five holes allowed me to get comfortable despite the intimidation of the atmosphere early in the round. I was faring well by keeping the ball out of the thick fescue for a while, but that only lasted so long.

Our group was losing balls by the dozen. We counted 43 lost balls collectively for the round (although my friend’s father may have underestimated his tally). The caddy was collecting more ticks than golf balls.

No. 9, a par 5, was one of the most memorable of the trip (and it had heavy competition). To the left of the hole was a working sheep farm protected by an old stonewall. The sight of hundreds of sheep placed you back in time to the origins of the game, with a loud and constant “baa-ing” from the herd. I’m not sure they will obey the “Quiet Please” sign at this year’s Open Championship.

The uphill 550-yard par 5 into the teeth of the wind made it a full three-to-four-shot hole. With pot bunkers drizzled throughout the fairway and guarding the green, fescue everywhere, a stonewall marking out-of-bounds on the left and the looming clubhouse of disapproving members behind the green, the loud animals was the least of its challenges.

A driver, 3-wood and healthy pitching wedge left me with a 12-footer for birdie to break 40 on the front side — I shot 41.

Muirfield View

The back nine delivered much of the same as the front nine. It was a battle set upon a beautiful canvas, truly “a good walk spoiled.” Our caddy barely watched us struggle to hole out on No. 18 before he understandably took off for the local pub.

A 40 on the incoming 9 gave me an 81 for the round. This tied Tiger Woods’ score in the 2002 Open Championship on Saturday at Muirfield, confirming the fact that on an average day, I’m only as good as Tiger on the worst day of his professional career.

After the round, we were giddy at the opportunity to dine in the clubhouse. My hand-me-down linen 1970s suit jacket that I had bought at a local thrift store the day before worked well enough as upper-body attire, but we had forgotten to purchase dress shoes. They denied our entry to the dining quarters.

My dad quoted the movie Shawshank Redmeption, “I mean seriously, how often do you really look at a man’s shoes?”

The shoe-shiner in the locker room had extras stashed away in a box for these types of situations. I wear a size 12, and the largest shoes he had were size 10. Sacrifices had to be made.

The round was all-inclusive: the bar stocked with top-shelf liquor, kitchen with every meat on the chopping blocks and dessert table with mouth-watering treats was at our expense. My only concern was utilizing the appropriate fork and spoon at the proper time. Ladies were forbidden, and the dress code was strictly enforced; it didn’t seem timely to break the rules.

The meal was fit for kings, even though we were pawns wearing used suit jackets and ill-fitting shoes. Unfavorable stares from the members followed us out of the door following our meal, but it was a memory we will never forget.

As typical tourists, we wanted to buy souvenirs at the pro shop. We asked an employee of the club where it was, and his answer embodied the experience at Muirfield: “The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers does not see it fit to have a professional, therefore, we do not have a ‘pro’ shop.”

We should have expected that.

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Andrew Tursky is the Editor-in-Chief of GolfWRX. He played on the Hawaii Pacific University Men's Golf team while earning a Masters degree in Communications. He also played college golf at Rutgers University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.



  1. Arthur J

    Jul 17, 2013 at 7:41 am

    I think the moral of the story is when you are going to one of the oldest establishments in any game (let along golf!) then you wear your ‘sunday best’.

    Turning up to any old private members club in a borrowed jacket may be ok, but not the Hon Company!!!

  2. robert horneman

    Jul 16, 2013 at 11:22 am

    Mr. Tursky ,I can see why you are getting a Masters in communication!
    Your description about your experience at Muirfield was masterfull.
    I especially enjoyed the part about dinning in used clothes.
    I had a similar experience at Woburn. Not quite as stuffy as Muirfield. We took jackets from home, but the day we but left them back at our hotel!
    We rented jackets,we brought shoes and because it was summer we did not need ties,from the locker room attendant. Like you they were out of the 70’s. I have long arms so the sleeves were above my wrists. Like you when we walked out everyone stared at us.
    I’m sure they were saying there goes a couple of goofy Ameaicans.
    Playing golf in Scotland was an experience I will never forget.

  3. Martin

    Jul 15, 2013 at 9:00 pm

    On the classic courses in Scotland, England and Northern Ireland they tend to be a little skeptic against americans, maybe that was what you experienced. I would say they regard you as a bit “loud” and without “manors” :). I have heard several times that they laugh about stories of american players doing this or that on the course (stories about japanese players are also very popular). In fact I played Castle Stuart (this years host of the Scottish open as you all know) a couple of years back with an american player. He thought that was one of the most boring courses he ever played. “Where is the water hazards”, was one of his comments… He promised me he would never play a links course again! And I believed him 🙂

  4. Drew Farron

    Jul 15, 2013 at 7:25 pm

    Sorry that you felt so out of place, when we played there they couldn’t have been nicer. The dining room manager was a woman, the staff was very friendly and the caddies regaled us with their stories of how many pints they had consumed the night before!

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Branson, Missouri Continues to Evolve as a Golf Destination



If you think you know Branson, Mo., it’s time to think again. While the live music venues that put the bucolic Ozark Mountains town on the map continue to thrive, its reputation as a top notch golf destination has grown … and continues to evolve.

Heck, golfers who’ve visited just a few years ago will find the scene almost unrecognizable. Sure, the awe-inspiring Top of the Rock — designed by legendary Jack Nicklaus and holding the honor of being the first-ever par-3 course to be included in a professional PGA championship — is as striking as ever, but its sister course, Buffalo Ridge, has undergone a metamorphosis.

No. 15 at Buffalo Ridge

Designed by renowned architect Tom Fazio and originally opened in 1999, Buffalo Ridge has done the unthinkable – make its list of previous accolades pale in comparison to what now graces the land. In conjunction with owner and visionary conservationist Johnny Morris, Fazio has exposed massive limestone formations, enhanced approaches and added water features to make every hole more memorable than the last.

Jack Nicklaus and Tom Fazio masterpieces not enough? Gary Player has stamped his signature in the Ozarks with the recently opened Mountain Top Course. This 13-hole, walking-only short course is unlike anything you’ve ever played.

Strap your bag to a trolley and let your imagination dictate your round. There are stakes in the ground with yardage markers nearby, but they’re merely suggestions. Play it long or play it short. Play it from different angles. The only mandate is to enjoy the course, nature and camaraderie.

No. 10 at Mountain Top

The Mountain Top greens are huge and as smooth as putting on a pool table. Nearly as quick, too. And the bunkers are as pristine as the white sands of an isolated Caribbean beach. Capping off your experience, the finishing hole plays back to the clubhouse and the green boasts multiple hole locations that enhance golfers’ chances at carding an ace. Hard to imagine a better way the end an already unforgettable round.

It shouldn’t take you much longer than two hours to get around Mountain Top Course. If it does, you were likely admiring the stunning panoramas. One notable addition to those views is Tiger Woods’ (TGR Design) first public access design — Payne’s Valley (named to honor Missouri golfing legend Payne Stewart) — which is full speed ahead on construction and scheduled to open in 2019. As a treat, the 19th hole was designed by Morris. Named “The Rock,” it’s a short par-3 that promises to be amazing.

Payne’s Valley will be both family-friendly and challenging. It has wide fairways and ample landing areas along with creative angles and approaches that shotmakers love and expect from a championship course.

If two years is too long to wait for new golf, then Morris and his Big Cedar Lodge have you covered with the yet-to-be-named ridge-top course by the industry’s hottest design team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. With all the heavy lifting complete, the Ozarks is scheduled to be unveiled in 2018.

The Ozark Mountains form the backdrop on No. 5 at Buffalo Ridge.

Once opened, this par-71 (36-35) track will play “firm and fast” and offer multiple avenues into each green. Both Coore and Crenshaw bristle at the notion that there’s only one way to approach the playing surface. Bring it in high or run it along the ground. Considering the exposed nature of the course and propensity for high winds, the latter may be your best option.

There’s more. Tiger won’t be finished with Branson when he wraps up Payne’s Valley. He’s also designing a family-friendly par-3 course on the grounds of Big Cedar Lodge. There isn’t a date attached to this project, so stay tuned.

These new tracks join the likes of Thousand Hills, Branson Hills and Pointe Royale Golf Village to make Branson a powerful player on the golf destination scene. Combine that with world-class fishing and camping, as well as countless museums, restaurants and points of interest and this bustling Ozarks town is a must-visit spot in Middle America.

Learn more or plan your trip at

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Ari’s Course Reviews: Oakmont Country Club



Editor’s Note: Ari Techner is a well-traveled, golf-course connoisseur who’s setting out to review the best golf courses in the world. The views and opinions expressed in these reviews are his own. 

Oakmont Country Club. The name alone strikes fear into the heart of any mortal golfer. Oakmont has a reputation for difficulty unmatched in the golf world; it’s fear forged in the public’s eye while watching best players in the world struggle during the U.S. Open every 10-plus years or so. There is a notion that Oakmont could hold a U.S. Open just about any day of the year. This is not a course that needs to be tweaked from its daily setup to test the best in the world.

All that said, a close look at the course reveals that there is so much more to Oakmont than just difficulty. Since around 1950, MANY courses have been built with the dilebrate intention of holding a U.S. Open. Most, if not all, of these courses are filled with water hazards, extremely long holes and very little variety. Oakmont is the exact opposite of that, and this is what is at the core of its greatness.

A view from the ninth fairway

Oakmont Country Club first opened in 1903 and was designed by Henry Fownes, who built it because he felt the other courses around Pittsburgh were not difficult enough. The course was constantly tweaked in the early years by Fownes and his son William. Both Fownes were accomplished players with William winning the U.S. Amateur in 1910 and serving as the playing captain of the first U.S. Walker Cup team in 1922.

Trees, or no trees?

The 18th tee

The course was extremely influential in the development of early golf courses in America. It was equally influential in future years by setting trends that have changed the way many other courses have evolved. When Oakmont opened, it was built in an open field and had no trees on the course, adding to the links-like flavor that Fownes wanted from his visits overseas. In the 1950s (after all the Fownes had left the club) Oakmont added thousands of non-native trees to line the corridors of the holes, a look that was a heavy trend of the time. This work was mostly done by Robert Trent Jones, who also modified the bunkers to fit more of his style of the time.

The course continued to evolve over the years with the bunkers being restored by Tom Fazio… but the trees remained. In preparation for the 2008 U.S. Open, Oakmont cut down thousands of trees, returning the course to its open, windswept origins. This was very controversial among the members, and much of the work was done in the middle of the night in the off-season so as not to cause a big stir. After 2008, thousands more trees have been cut down, opening all of the amazing long views across the property. You can see almost every hole on the property from just about every spot on the course. Oakmont was the first course to embrace this massive tree removal and it has turned into a trend with hundreds of classic courses removing their non-native trees and going back to their more open original layouts.

Oakmont is the only course that Fownes designed and I believe that contributes greatly to its uniqueness. Fownes’ version of difficulty did not include artificial water hazards, out of bounds or excessive bunkering fronting greens, and it did not rely simply on longer-than-average holes to challenge the golfer. Instead, it has an amazingly varied mix of holes that challenge the golfer in a variety of ways both mentally and physically. Overall, the course requires you to be a straight driver of the ball, a good iron player and to have a deft short game and putting touch. You also need to be able to think your way around the course while you execute the shots you choose at a high level.

A good variety

Oakmont has its share of length with long par 4s, such as hole Nos. 1, 10, 15 and 18, the monster par-5 12th and long par 3s such as Nos. 8 and 16.  What sets the course apart to me, however, are the short holes and the holes that require strategic decision-making off the tee. These include short par 4s such Nos. 2, 11 and 17 and mid-length par 4s including Nos. 5 and 14.  These holes can be just as difficult as the long ones, and they require a completely different skill set.  The short par-3 13th and short par-5 9th (plays as a par 4 for the U.S. Open) round out what is an amazing set of shorter holes.

A view of the ninth fairway from across the Pennsylvania Turnpike

The course uses the natural movement of the site very well and has a tight, extremely walkable routing despite being bisected by the Pennsylvania Turnpike at the bottom of the hill in the middle of the property. I particularly love the fallaway greens at 1, 10, 12, and to a lesser degree 3 and 15 where the front of the green is higher than the back. This is a unique look that you do not see in the USA very often. Without the little backboard that a back-to-front sloping green provides, you must hit the ball solid or execute a well played run-up shot to hold the green. The short par 4s tempt the long hitter just enough to make them think about hitting driver, but wayward shots are punished enough to make most think twice. The 17th, at a little under 300 yards, could be the hardest hole on the course, and yet it is definitely drivable for the right player who hits a great drive. The small and extremely narrow green requires a short shot be hit the perfect distance if you decide to lay up to the right down the fairway. Hit it even a little short and you end up in the aptly named “Big Mouth” bunker which is extremely deep. Hit it a hair long or with not enough spin to hold the green and you end up rolling over the green into one of a few smaller bunkers. Carry the bunkers on the left side off the tee into the sliver of fairway up by the green and you have a short, open shot from a much better angle into the fatter part of the green. Such risk/reward and great use of angles is paramount to Oakmont’s genius.

Green complexes are…complex

The green on the 18th hole

Oakmont also sports one of the best sets of greens anywhere in the world.  They are all heavily contoured and very challenging, yet playable. You can certainly make putts out there if you are putting well, but get on the wrong side of the hole and you are left with an extremely difficult, but rarely impossible 2 putt. They are also very unique due to Fownes only designing one course, as they do not look like any other classic course; they have a feel all their own. They are mostly open in front, coming from the correct angle, and they have many squarish edges. They also cut the tight fringe far back into the fairway, which aids in run-up shots; it also gives a great look where the green and the fairway blend together seamlessly.

The bunkering is also very unique and very special… and they are true hazards. Find yourself in a fairway bunker off the tee, and you are likely wedging out without much of any chance of reaching the greens. The green-side bunkers are fearsome, very deep and difficult. The construction of the bunkers is unique too — most of them have very steep and tall faces that were built up in the line of play. Oakmont is also home to one of the most famous bunkers in golf; the “Church Pews” bunkers — a large, long rectangular bunker between the fairways of holes 3 and 4 with strips of grass in the middle like the pews in a church. There is also a smaller “Church Pews” bunker left of the fairway off the tee on hole 15. Hit it into one of these two bunkers and good luck finding a decent lie.

Ari’s last word

All-in-all, along with being one of the hardest courses in the world, Oakmont is also one of the best courses in the world. It is hard enough to challenge even the best players in the world day-in and day-out, but it can easily be played by a 15-handicap without losing a ball. It is extremely unique and varied and requires you to use every club in your bag along with your brain to be successful. Add that to a club that has as much history as any other in the county, and Oakmont is one of golf’s incredibly special places.

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Coming Up: A Big Golf Adventure



My name is Jacob Sjöman, and I’m a 35-year-old golf photographer who also enjoys the game we all love. I will be sharing some experiences here on a big golf trip that we are doing. With me I’ve got my friend Johan. I will introduce him properly later, but he is quite a funny character. According to Johan, he is the best golf photo assistant in the world, and we will see about that since this is probably his biggest test yet doing this trip. Previously on our trips, Johan almost got us killed in Dubai with a lack of driving skills. He also missed a recent evening photo shoot in Bulgaria while having a few beers too many… and that’s not all.

Anyway, the last couple of days I’ve been packing my bags over and over. I came home from the Canary Islands this Sunday and I’ve been constantly checking and rechecking that we’ve got all the required equipment, batteries, and that the cameras are 100 percent functional and good to go for this golf trip. I’m still not sure, but in a couple of minutes I will be sitting in a taxi to the airport and there will be no turning back.

Where are we going then? We are going to visit some of the very best golf courses in New Zealand and Australia. There will be breathtaking golf on cliffsides, jaw-dropping scenic courses, and some hidden gems. And probably a big amount of lost balls with a lot of material produced in the end.

I couldn’t be more excited for a golf journey like this one. Flying around the globe to these special golf courses I’ve only dreamed about visiting before gives me a big kick and I feel almost feel like a Indiana Jones. The only thing we’ve got in common, though, is that we don’t like snakes. Australia seems to be one of the worst destinations to visit in that purpose, but all the upsides are massive in this.

First, we will take off from a cold Stockholm (it’s raining heavily outside at the moment) and then we will do our first stop at Doha in Quatar. Then after two more hours, we are finally heading off to Auckland on the north island of New Zealand, a mega-flight of 16 hours. I believe that could very well be one of the longest flights available for a ordinary airplane. I need to check that.

Flights for me usually mean work, editing photos from different golf courses I’ve visited, writing some texts, editing some films, and planning for the future. Last time, though, I finally managed to sleep a little, which is a welcome progress for a guy that was deadly scared of flying until 2008.

Now, I am perfectly fine with flying. A few rocky flights over the Atlantic Sea to Detroit helped me a lot, and my motto is now, “If those flights got me down on the ground safely, it takes a lot of failures to bring down a plane.”

Anyway, I hope you will join me on this golf trip. Stay tuned!

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19th Hole