PGA Tour

Golf Course Review - Muirfield Village Golf Club

By Philip Sokol, Director of Operations

Dublin, OH (Sports Network) - FACTS AND STATS: Course Architect(s): Jack Nicklaus and Desmond Muirhead (1974), Jack Nicklaus (1974-present, renovation and redesign). Year Opened: May 27, 1974. Location: Dublin, Ohio. Slope: 149. Rating: 76.3. Par: 72. Yardage: 7,352.

Hole-by-Hole:

1 - Par 4 470 Yds 10 - Par 4 471 Yds

2 - Par 4 455 Yds 11 - Par 5 567 Yds

3 - Par 4 401 Yds 12 - Par 3 184 Yds

4 - Par 3 200 Yds 13 - Par 4 455 Yds

5 - Par 5 527 Yds 14 - Par 4 363 Yds

6 - Par 4 447 Yds 15 - Par 5 529 Yds

7 - Par 5 583 Yds 16 - Par 3 215 Yds

8 - Par 3 185 Yds 17 - Par 4 478 Yds

9 - Par 4 412 Yds 18 - Par 4 444 Yds

Par 36 3,660 Yds Par 36 3,692 Yds

Awards Won: Rated No. 1 course in Ohio by Golf Digest (2001-14), #14 - Golf Digest - America's 100 Greatest Golf Courses (2013-14), #19 - Golf Digest - America's 100 Greatest Golf Courses (2009-12), #30 by Golf Magazine - Top 100 U.S. Courses (2011-12), #52 by Golf Magazine - Top 100 World Courses (2011-12), Top 100 Most Prestigious Private Clubs in U.S. - Golf Connoisseur, Top 50 Greatest Courses in the last 50 years - Golf Magazine.

Key Events Held: The Memorial Tournament (1976-present), U.S. Junior Amateur (1986), Ryder Cup (1987), U.S. Amateur Championship (1992), Wendy's Three-Tour Challenge (1995), Solheim Cup (1998), Presidents Cup (2014).

Course Record: 61 (John Huston, 1996).

Website: www.thememorialtournament.com

HISTORY: The phrase "Home is where the heart is" certainly applies to Jack Nicklaus and Muirfield Village Golf Club.

Born and raised in nearby Upper Arlington, Ohio, in the suburbs of Columbus, Nicklaus shattered most high school records before turning his attention toward college and Ohio State University. After winning two U.S. Amateur titles and an NCAA championship, he turned professional and the rest, as they say, is history.

By the way, I'm sure most people have no idea how Nicklaus earned the moniker of "The Golden Bear." Truth be told, the nickname of his high school was ... the Golden Bears. And a legend was born.

It's seemed only logical that Nicklaus would return to his roots and design his greatest masterpiece to compliment his amazing playing career.

Nicklaus began in the design business just nine years after turning pro in 1961, as he worked with legendary designer Pete Dye on Harbour Town Golf Links in South Carolina. After several co-designing efforts with Dye, Nicklaus began working with Desmond Muirhead on additional layouts, but it wasn't until Muirfield Village did the "Jack Nicklaus Signature Design" stamp make its mark in the golf world.

MVGC was a Nicklaus dream that began as early as 1966, but did not take hold until ground broke in the summer of 1972. Two years later, on Memorial Day, the course officially opened, as Nicklaus and long-time rival Tom Weiskopf played an exhibition match. Weiskopf, who followed in Nicklaus' footsteps at OSU, rarely could knock off Nicklaus on the professional level and this day was no exception, as the Golden Bear carded a 6-under 66.

Located in Dublin, Ohio, north of the perimeter that surrounds Columbus, Muirfield Village sprawls over 220 acres of magnificent countryside and was influenced after Nicklaus' first British Open title in 1966 at Muirfield, Scotland.

For years, Nicklaus has tinkered with his "baby," making many subtle and not so subtle changes. "The first year here I asked the members what their favorite hole was, and I had 14 different responses, so I knew I had four holes to work on," Nicklaus said. "So I think I worked on most of those holes, so we should have 18 holes."

The past two seasons, from 2010 until 2012, saw a dramatic change to the par-3 16th hole. "When you start to look at the back nine, and the 16th hole, I never really thought it was an exciting way to be at that point in the round," Nicklaus said. "I thought the hole was OK. There was nothing wrong with the hole. It was a nice golf hole. But I thought that 14 and 15 were really where a lot of excitement happens, especially 14. That's a pretty exciting hole and a lot of things happen at 15, and then 16, not much happened."

With Muirfield hosting the Presidents Cup in 2013 and of course the ongoing Memorial, it was time for a change. "I thought 16, and particularly with the space at 16, and with match play, I thought that was a pretty good place to try to create a situation," Nicklaus said. "So we created a central area where people really can see all of 15, 16 and 17 for the Presidents Cup. But also it's pretty darned good for the Memorial Tournament. Not everybody can get to the 18th hole, but we can probably get 20,000 people around 18, or close to it."

The bottom line: Whatever Jack wants, he does. So much so, that rumor has it during an early Memorial Tournament years ago, one of the homeowners along the back nine stretch of holes was making quite a commotion during the event, and while playing Nicklaus strolled up to the porch and asked the partygoers to keep it down. They didn't and the following season, the view from the home was obstructed by mounds put in by the architect. It's good to be the king.

Muirfield Village has been host to some amazing championships over the years, including its hosting of the Memorial, which started in 1976. Past winners of this event read like a who's who. From Nicklaus himself in 1977 and '84, to Tom Watson, Ray Floyd, Hale Irwin, Greg Norman, Paul Azinger, Vijay Singh, Fred Couples, Ernie Els, Jim Furyk and five-time champion Tiger Woods.

Nicklaus referred to his win in 1977 as "my biggest thrill in golf." The hard work, patience and determination paid off, as the Memorial and Muirfield Village was a reality. In the end, a delayed finish due to weather, Nicklaus defeated Hubert Green by two and Watson by four, as he captured his 63rd career title.

Former Ryder Cup captain Hal Sutton won the 1986 Memorial, becoming the first player in event history to post all four rounds in the 60s. In all, Sutton played 72 holes with 23 birdies and an eagle, as he won by four over Don Pooley and set a then-tournament record of 271.

Another Ryder Cup leader, Tom Lehman, cruised to victory in 1994, as he blistered Muirfield Village with four rounds of 67, setting a new 72-hole mark of 268, a record that still stands to this day.

Just two years later, the record books at Muirfield Village continued to fall. John Huston carded a course-record 61 during the second round, but faded to fifth. Watson was the winner, 17 years after titling here in 1979. "God, it feels good. It feels so good to win again," Watson said. "To be here, the last person off the golf course, the last putt in, winning a golf tournament today - I missed it." Not only was it Watson's 38th PGA Tour title, but it was his first since 1987.

When Couples captured the 1998 event, he carded four rounds in the 60s to defeat Andrew Magee by four shots. His response to the victory, "Winning on Jack's course, Jack's tournament, it means a lot. Next to Augusta, this is it for me."

Woods won the first of his five Memorial titles in 1999, as he defeated Singh by two. Nicklaus made adjustments to the course prior to the event, tightening several fairways, adding six new greens (holes 9-14) and adjusting and adding bunkers on a few holes.

Woods won again the following two seasons, not only becoming the first three- time winner, but the first player to win the event in consecutive seasons. His win in 2001 was by a whopping seven shots, after he trailed by one heading into the final round.

Kenny Perry joined Woods as a three-time winner, as he titled in 2008. Perry, who won here in 1991 and in 2003, posted a two-shot win over four players and became the oldest player -- 47 -- to win the Memorial.

Woods was at it again in 2009, as he came from four shots back, thanks to a final-round 65 to defeat Jim Furyk by a shot. The heroics came with birdies on the final two holes. He made a nine-footer on 17 and then nailed his approach on 18 to within a foot.

The record books received another jolt in 2011, as Steve Stricker became the first player in tournament history to record eagles on a par-3, par-4 and par-5 in the same week en route to a one-stroke victory. During the second round, Stricker aced No. 8 with a 6-iron from 188 yards, eagled the 442- yard second hole with a sand wedge from 116 yards in the third round and followed three holes later with an eagle on the 529-yard par-5 fifth hole. Stricker was the only player in the field to shoot all four rounds in the 60s and played the front nine in 20-under par for the week. It was a milestone for Stricker, as it was his first top-10 finish at the event in 12 starts, and he carded a 68 on Sunday to earn the win.

As they say, records are made to be broken, and 2012 was no exception, as Woods won No. 5 at Muirfield Village. Not only did he win with birdies on three of the final four holes to defeat Rory Sabbatini in come-from-behind fashion, but his victory tied tournament host Nicklaus on the all-time wins list with 73. And the way Woods won was remarkable. One back with three to play, Woods missed the green and was faced with an almost impossible 50-foot downhill chip shot. "I went for it," Woods said. "I pulled it off, and for it to land as soft as it did was kind of a surprise because it was baked out and it was also downhill running away from me. It just fell in. I didn't think it was going to get there at one point.

"To do it with Jack here, with his involvement in the tournament and the game, it just makes it that much more special," Woods continued. "If I would have won it somewhere else, it would have just been I tied Jack. But it do it here and have him here right next to me right now, that means something to us as players, and it's awfully special for me to be here with him right now."

The United States Golf Association has made two stops to Muirfield Village for the U.S. Junior Amateur in 1986, won by Brian Montgomery, and the 1992 U.S. Amateur Championship, where Justin Leonard crushed Tom Scherrer in the final, 8 & 7. Leonard, who was a birdie machine during the championship, took the lead on the second hole with a birdie and never looked back, as he missed only four greens in regulation, lost only two holes all day, chipped in twice and made four straight birdies on holes 17-20. Leonard was under par in each of his last four matches and played the 29 holes against Scherrer in 5-under par.

For the first time in the history of the Ryder Cup, the European team won on U.S. soil in 1987 when they beat the Americans at Muirfield Village. After halving the first four matches, the Europeans won the next four matches and were never caught, as they posted a 15-13 win. They were led by the teams of Nick Faldo/Ian Woosnam and Seve Ballesteros/Jose Maria Olazabal, who were combined 6-1-1 in foursome and four-ball play. The United States made a late charge in the singles, when they closed the gap with four consecutive singles wins to trail by one match, but Eamonn Darcy, Bernhard Langer and Ballesteros sealed the victory. Ironically, the captain of the U.S. team was none other than Jack Nicklaus.

In contrast, the 1998 Solheim Cup, the LPGA's version of the Ryder Cup, made an appearance at Muirfield Village, as the United States defeated Europe, 16-12. U.S. captain Judy Rankin led her squad to victory, as they were in command from start to finish. Dottie Pepper posted a 4-0 mark and Sherri Steinhauer's putt to win her match against Catriona Matthew clinched the title. Annika Sorenstam posted a 3-2 mark for the Europeans, as they lost for the fourth time in five meetings.

Similar to what Arnold Palmer has done at Bay Hill, Nicklaus makes changes to Muirfield Village each and every year, to keep up with technology and to test the best players in the world, while at the same time keeping the course enjoyable for the members.

When it first held the Memorial, the course played just over 7,000 yards long. Now, after 37 years, Muirfield Village has been stretched to 7,352 yards with a slope rating of 149.

Some of the most recent changes to the course, in addition to lengthening several holes and the redesign of the 16th, have been the addition of bunkers, which stand at 73 and the re-routing of the stream on the final hole.

Most courses drop in rankings over the years, due mainly to budget restrictions, membership falloff and genuine lack of leadership. That is certainly not the case with Muirfield Village. Just like he did when he played on the PGA Tour, Nicklaus puts his name on the line year after year to make this venue the best it can be.

A fixture in the top of the second 10 in the ratings for years, the course has reached its highest ranking ever at No. 14 by Golf Digest for the 2013-14 seasons on the America's 100 greatest golf courses. In addition, Muirfield Village has maintained its top billing as the No. 1 course in Ohio.

REVIEW: On a course that has 10 par 4s, nine of them run over 400 yards in length and the first hole is no exception. At 470 yards, it's hardly a pushover. Bending slightly to the right and from an elevated tee, you'll need to avoid the trio of bunkers down the right side. Be careful not to stray to far left, as a meandering creek runs through the rough. A medium to long iron is needed to reach the putting surface, which is one of the largest on the course. Just to keep you honest, four bunkers (left, right and rear) guard the green.

The second is another 400-plus par-4 and plays as one of the most difficult on the course. With a creek running down the right side at the 100-yard mark, this 455-yarder must be played with extreme caution. Favor the right side of the fairway to avoid the trees on the left, which protrude toward the landing area. Another medium to long iron is needed to negotiate the green. Any shot a smidgen offline to the right will catch the bank of the putting surface and slide into the creek. To make matters worse, sand, both front-right and in the rear, put additional pressure on your approach.

Although just 401 yards in length, the dogleg left third is every bit as difficult as the first two holes. From an elevated tee box, the player is greeted with a fairly wide landing area; however, a creek down the left, not to mention trees, will present an interesting challenge. Your approach to the green must now clear a lake that fronts the putting surface, which is tiered in two sections. The green is exceptionally long and any play toward a right- rear flag will bring the back bunker into play. A typical Nicklaus hole ... short, scenic and strategic.

The first par-3 on the course is the fourth hole, reaching 200 yards from the back markers. Ranked as one of the most difficult each year at the Memorial Tournament, the fourth plays slightly downhill to the green, which runs from front to back and right to left. The long and narrow putting surface is quite difficult to negotiate and missing the green is no bargain. Left is jail, as sand and thick rough sit below the green, while right brings more sand into play. If the pin is back-left, the prudent play might be to lay up and chip it close to save par. I'm not kidding.

Usually one of the easiest holes on the course, the fifth is the first par-5. Playing downhill from the tee, your tee shot must be placed in the fairway, as trees line both sides and with water present on your second shot, it's best to play from the short grass. The creek which meanders through many holes at Muirfield Village makes its mark on the fifth, as it swings from the left rough through the left-center of the fairway, finishing in front and left of the green. The real trick is where to lay up, as the water will make you second guess. The smart play is down the right side around the 100-yard mark, leaving a simple wedge to a slightly elevated green. Plenty of sand and water guard this quirky green and that features interesting pin positions and plenty of undulation.

Another favorite is the straightaway sixth. Just 447 yards in length, this par-4 requires accuracy off the tee as its main component. Avoid the series of traps down the left side and you're pretty much home free, although the rough on the right tightens the landing area. A short to medium iron will remain to a green fronted by water and a deep bunker. The two-tiered putting surface runs right to left and is quite slick. Although your approach can be with a short club, this hole usually plays into the wind, so take an extra stick. Another word of caution, don't pin seek when the flag stands left, as shots can trickle down toward the pond.

The serpentine seventh is the longest hole on the course, reaching 583 yards from the back markers. If you can avoid the bunkers on either side of the landing area off the tee, then you'll have a chance to reach in two, but only for the biggest of hitters. Miss the fairway off the tee and you'll be hard- pressed to get home in regulation. More sand flanks either side of the layup zone as you near the putting surface. Thick rough engulfs both left and right of the fairway, so be precise with your second shot. If you're safe, then you have a realistic shot at birdie, as the green, although covered with plenty of sand, can be had. The putting surface, which is fairly large, is slightly raised and runs from back to front and right to left. One of the few holes that plays under par for the Memorial. Look to the left of the green and you might get a peak at Ohio State coach Urban Meyer relaxing in the friendly confines of his home.

Claustrophobia certainly might set in when standing on the eighth tee and looking down toward the green. Whether it's dogwood, hickory or beech trees, they line both sides of this par-3. Toss in the fact that the green is virtually surrounded by sand and the putting surface is long and narrow, you'll feel like the walls are closing in. The key here is club selection, as swirling winds and the elevation change can cause consternation in picking the right stick. The greens is fast and runs toward the front, so try to stay below the hole if you can. Stricker had little issue with this hole, as he made an ace during the second round with a 6-iron en route to victory in 2011.

Another crowd favorite, the ninth is a medium-lengthed par-4 that plays downhill from the fairway. The object here is to split the tight, tree-lined landing area, otherwise you'll be laying up for certain. From the fairway, you're left with a medium to long iron to a green fronted by water and sand. The Augusta-like creek fronting the putting surface is visually stunning, but this is no time for picture taking. The green has plenty of slope with no bail out area for an errant play. Miss long and sand will gobble up your approach, right and you'll be wet. Not surprisingly, that the front nine has played over par since 2008 at the Memorial.

The back nine opens with a fairly long par four that plays uphill through the green. The good news, the fairway is quite wide, although sand guards either side of the landing area. The real difficulty comes with the approach, as it usually plays with a long iron and into the teeth of a westerly wind. With an extra club in hand and a diabolical green covered in front by an enormous bunker right and an additional trap left-rear, you'll be hard-pressed to make contact with the putting surface. A back-right flag is impossible to shoot at, so play toward the center and rely on the flat stick.

Although it ranks as one of the easier holes on the course, the 11th is one of the most majestic and sensational holes at Muirfield Village. From an elevated tee box, the player is afforded a lovely view of this 567-yard par-5, featuring a creek-split fairway. Starting from the left side of the tee box, a meandering creek roams down and then cuts diagonally across the landing area and finishes up on the right side, before cutting in front of the green. Tee shots are usually crucial to any hole, but the second shot here is critical. The landing area off the tee will leave an awkward angle for your approach as you try an negotiate a spot in the lay-up zone. Tall trees guard both sides of the landing area, making it quite difficult to move the ball in either direction. If successful, just a simple wedge to an elevated green, that runs quickly from back to front, awaits. Short shots will slide down the steep bank fronting the green. Stay below the hole and you'll have a great chance at birdie, just like the boys on the PGA Tour.

One of the most talked about holes at Muirfield is the stunning par-3 12th. Just 184 yards in length, this beauty plays completely over a pond to the diagonal, left to right green. Contours of the putting surface, not to mention the front and rear bunkers, make this a strategic nightmare. To muddy the waters, so to speak, a swirling wind usually accompanies the hole. This hole has been the sight of many a birdie, but it also has yielded plenty of heartbreak. Who can forget Bob Tway making aces during rounds 1 and 3 in 1994 on the 12th, although he finished tied for 38th. In 2012, PGA Champion Rory McIlroy, seemingly on cruise control in the opening round at 4-under par through 11 holes, made a quadruple-bogey seven and ended up missing the cut. The 12th was the second-hardest hole in 2012 with a scoring average of 3.479 on the final day.

Through a chute of trees, the next hole plays downhill and favors a draw off the tee. A successful tee shot, avoiding the left fairway bunker will leave a relatively short iron to a long and slightly narrow putting surface. The green is guarded on both sides by full, green-lengthed bunkers. The left trap sits well below the putting surface and will make for a difficult up and down, especially with a left-rear pin. If you find trouble off the tee, play down the right side of the fairway for your best chance to save par, as this opens up the entire surface to a simple pitch.

The shortest hole on the course, outside of the par 3s, the 14th is another picturesque gem. From an elevated tee box, the player must decide to lay up off the tee or blast the big stick. The decision here is because another meandering creek cuts the fairway in two from left to right at the 245-yard mark, thus leaving the player with a huge choice. Now, for us mere mortals, it's simple, lay up with three-metal or a long iron, as this will set up a short iron to one of the slenderest and longest greens on the course. With water protecting the entire right side and sand left, you'll be hard-pressed to get this one close. But if you do, you'll have a real shot at birdie. Miss right and you're shot if not already in the water, will trickle down the bank into the H2O.

On paper and on television, the par-5 15th seems to be a pushover at just 529 yards. You'd be completely mistaken. In person, this hole is quite intimidating from tee to green. First off, tall trees flank both sides of the fairway. In fact, they're downright encroaching on the landing area. The tee shot is played uphill to a plateau, which will enable the golfer to go for the green in two. However, if you are short of the hill, you'll face a blind layup shot to a split fairway that slopes hard from right to left toward a creek. Your third shot is uphill to a minuscule target that runs from back to front in the quickest of fashions. PGA Tour players will attack this hole with reckless abandon, but the average golfer's best play is to lay up and make birdie the old-fashioned way.

To say the changes to the 16th hole were dramatic in nature would be an understatement. The original 16th was a modest par-3 which featured a fairly long green with a very deep bunker guarding the front left portion of the putting surface. On July 13, 2010, Nicklaus and Co. transformed this one-shotter to the longest par-3 on the course, reaching 215 yards with a lake down the left side and bunkers front-right, right and rear. Now with many pin placements, the 16th green runs fast and away from you and ranks as one of the most difficult on the course. In 2010, prior to the changes, Justin Rose made his sixth birdie of the day on the 16th on his way to a closing 66 to win for the first time on the PGA Tour. Following the redesign, the hole was the second-most difficult during the Memorial and in 2012 the third-most difficult on the final day. Trailing Sabbatini by a stroke during the final round of the 2012 Memorial, Woods lined up a 50-foot downhill chip shot from 15 feet off the green. He bounced the ball off a ridge at the edge of the green and the ball rolled toward the cup, falling in just before it lost momentum. The shot enabled Woods to win this event for the fifth time. "I don't think, under the circumstances, I've seen a better shot," Nicklaus said

Always one of the most difficult holes during tournament week, the 17th is also the longest par-4 on the course. As much as 478 yards from the tips, the second-to-last hole also has been adjusted by Nicklaus. The left side of the landing area used to feature a Sahara-type waste region. Now, specific traps guard the left and right side of the fairway, as just 20 yards separate the sand. A sweeping draw might be the best play, setting up a mid-iron approach to a green with a steep bank, leading to water and sand in the front. The putting surface rolls from right to left and toward the front, so below the hole is your best bet.

Featuring one of the greatest amphitheaters in golf, the 18th is a magnificent hole that is one of the best closers on the PGA Tour. Downhill off the tee, the player must avoid the bunkers down the right side and play far enough down the fairway to have a clear shot toward the green, as trees guard the corner of the dogleg right. However, any drive played to far left, will have the opportunity to run through the fairway and not only into the rough, but into a creek that runs along the tree line. Now it's an uphill approach to the fastest putting surface on the course, running from back to front in such a fashion, that it's next-to-impossible to leave your putt short if above the hole. The bunkers fronting the green sit well below the hole, while the rear traps and thick rough will have you choking for air.

What a ride!

OVERALL: In the grand scheme of things, will Muirfield Village ever replace Pine Valley, Augusta National or Cypress Point on the top of the greatest courses in the United States? Probably not, but those are courses from a different time and era, whose designers are legendary and whose courses have always been regarded as the best of the best.

However, if you look at the courses in America that have been designed since 1970, only one course stands ahead of Muirfield Village, that being the Ben Crenshaw/Bill Coore design of Sand Hills Golf Club.

I'm sure Mr. Nicklaus could care less about where Muirfield Village stands in the latest rankings. However, what he does anguish about, is making his layout the best it can be, by making a tweak here and there, redesigning a hole, moving bunkers, tightening fairways and conditioning a course to be in such perfect shape, that players, members and guests will shiver to the core when maneuvering around the layout.

Feedback from the tour players has inspired Nicklaus to make several adjustments over the years. "When 80 percent of the fellas tell me the fairways are too wide, then I think maybe I ought to listen a little bit," Nicklaus said. "So that's why I did it, why we narrowed the fairways and made a couple of others a little bit more in tune with how far the golf ball goes now."

The players can't seem to say enough about Nicklaus and Muirfield Village.

"I've been here every year that I've been in the field, and looking forward to the challenge." said 2012 Masters champion Bubba Watson in a pre-tournament interview. "He always has a great challenging golf course." Another bomber, Dustin Johnson, added in the media tent, "Jack does a great job. He treats the players really well and the course is always in fantastic shape. The greens are always perfect here, so it's always nice."

Two-time PGA Championship winner Rory McIlroy has played the Memorial on three occasions, posting a pair of top-10 finishes. "It's a fantastic golf course, always in unbelievable condition every time we turn up here," he said. "It's great, and it's Jack's tournament, so a lot of guys want to turn up just because of that and what he's done for the game and what an impact he's had on a lot of guys."

Pine Valley, Merion, Shinnecock ... been there, done that. Even strolled the emerald green fairways at Augusta National, which is the only course that rivals Muirfield Village when it comes to conditioning.

Although Nicklaus gets the credit for the design and creativity of the course, Paul Latshaw, the GCSAA Class A Director of Grounds Operations, is the man behind the scenes who makes Muirfield Village a horticultural feat. Previously at Merion Golf Club and Oak Hill Country Club -- both major championship layouts -- Latshaw has been on board since 2004.

"I got the call about a week after the 2003 PGA Championship and went out and interviewed with Mr. Nicklaus on a Saturday and it was a nervous interview," Latshaw said. "Here's the guy growing up that I idolized as the greatest golfer in the world and I get off the plane and I didn't know if I should ask for his autograph first or what. You're such in awe of who it is first of all, but the opportunity to work for Jack and what he brings to the table."

"He has taken this course to the next level," Nicklaus said of Latshaw. Over the years, Muirfield has had minor issues with drainage, but that seems to have been rectified. "Paul has put about nine miles of drainage into the golf course over the last four years," continued Nicklaus. "Even when we have rain now the golf course drains very, very rapidly."

"We've made so many changes here at Muirfield and that's what really makes this place great," Latshaw said. "Jack is always watching how the players play the golf course and reacting and making changes. Being able to work with Jack and have him describe his vision of what he wants and being able to execute it, is just an experience you'll never be able replace. He's made me a better superintendent."

You'd be foolish if you failed to take advantage of the practice facility and warm-up on the 11-acre driving range. It's fully equipped to handle any kind of practice session you desire. Several modifications have been made, including lengthening it to over 315 yards. "The driving range, if it isn't state of the art now, I don't think it's ever going to get state-of-the-art. It's pretty good," Nicklaus said.

We slightly digress to the course itself. The layout is top drawer, from the first tee shot to the final putt. Although the professionals have their way with the course during tournament week ... at times, the challenge of Muirfield Village will test all levels of play. With tee boxes ranging from 5,591 yards to now 7,300 and change from its day one opening of 6,978 yards, you'll be able to find the right spot for your game. The thought process as you make your way around the course will be tested.

"Just in the design aspect, I can't think of anybody else that's impacted the game of golf more than Jack Nicklaus," Latshaw said. "I've been so fortunate. His vision is incredible. He's just sees stuff that other people don't see and his attention to detail is amazing. He's one of the smartest people I've ever been around. He's just a remarkable individual."

That say's it all.

I've been fortunate to play some of the greatest courses this country has to offer and Muirfield Village ranks among my top-10 of all-time. A return visit would be awesome to say the least.

Aces, pars or bogeys, send your thoughts to psokol@sportsnetwork.com.

01/25 16:59:02 ET

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