Friday, September 27, 2019

Burlington Golf & Country Club

*** Now on the Tee has MOVED to our own domain!!! ***


Burlington Golf and Country Club
East Burlington, Ontario, CANADA

6510 YARDS (PAR 70)
COURSE ARCHITECT: Stanley Thompson (1922)
LAST PLAYED: August 26, 2019.
LOW SCORE: 74 (+4)

- ScoreGolf Top 110 in Canada 2018: #106

The Burlington Golf & Country Club was incorporated in 1922, with the first nine holes opening a year later and the full 18 holes completed by 1924. Stanley Thompson, in his peak period as a golf architect, designed the golf course with able assistance from Burlington's first head professional, Andy Anderson.

The course has a couple of holes that are adjacent to Hamilton Harbour (formerly known as Burlington Bay) and that scenic location, along with the sandy loam and undulating topography make this a very attractive site for golf.

You get a good sense of what you're in for right from the opening tee shot. This 430 yard par four requires a long and accurate tee shot over a gully to a fairway that bends close to 90 degrees to the left. There is much less room to the left off the tee than you'd think so most shots are played conservatively to the right, leaving a long iron or fairway metal approach. This is no gentle handshake!

The challenge continues on the par three second, measuring a stout 230 yards from the back tees. The green is flanked by bunkers both left and right but is thankfully open in front for those that can't fly the ball all the way there.

The par five third hole, measuring 543 yards from the back, showcases the lovely topography at Burlington. This slight dogleg left features a very rolling fairway and a two-tiered green that slopes sharply from back to front.

After the long par four 4th hole, things lighten up a tad on the 338 yard par four 5th. The hole plays straightaway but your drive needs to avoid a tree that sits just off the fairway down the right side, a challenge that's made more difficult due to the left-to-right slope of the land. The green is quite strong here with some nice undulation - I understand the club may be moving this green at some point further to the left and back but they've digitally mapped out the entire surface in order to replicate all of those undulations should this process move forward.

The wind can be a challenge on the par three 6th, measuring 181 yards. On this day, I tried to hit a 4-iron to this very small green surrounded by two bunkers left and one to the right, with a pond that sits at the foot of the green down a false front. The water is only in play for the poorest of efforts but it still can play with your mind and I was lucky to avoid it after hitting a wipey fade off the trees to the right!

You get a good idea how tight this property is from the 7th tee, which sits just inside a boundary fence in a residential subdivision. This is a reachable par five, measuring only 490 yards but you need to hit the fairway off the tee to have a chance at birdie. Any drives to the left are in "punch out" territory due to the massive trees lining that side of the hole.

The 348 yard 8th looks innocent on the scorecard but is anything but in reality. A tight driving hole, with bunkers pinching the fairway on both sides leads to your first view of Hamilton Harbour through the trees behind the green.

Frankly, the routing is a bit awkward here, as you make a pretty considerable walk from the eighth green up the hill, past the first tee and around the bend to reach the par three 9th tee, which sits beside the pro shop, with a practice driving net off to the right behind a large hedge.

A wonderful set of holes follow, starting with the 401 yard par four 10th. It's a stunning tee shot over a large gully and I enjoyed the greensite as well, one that is framed by bunkers left and right but allows a running approach.

The 11th is an absolute stunner - Hamilton Harbour provides the backdrop on this par four, one that measures a whopping 464 yards from the back tee and once again showcases the phenomenal land prevalent at Burlington. The second shot needs to carry well uphill to a multi-tiered green protected by two large bunkers front left and right. Pars here should be celebrated.

In my humble opinion, the 11th is one of the best two-shot holes in Canada.

Following the routine par five 12th, the mid-length par four 13th is yet another fine hole with great aesthetics. The tee shot is elevated and an accurate drive is required to avoid a well-placed bunker on the right and a creek that winds down the left side of the hole. The green is large and very undulating here as well.

I really enjoyed the long par four 14th hole as well. It's a stout 426 yards from the back tee and runs straight away, with out of bounds to the right and the land falling down considerably on the left towards the aforementioned creek. The green is pretty narrow and any shots hit long will fall well down a slope behind the green.

My favourite par three at Burlington is the picturesque 15th, which measures 183 yards from the back tee. It requires anywhere from a mid-iron to a hybrid through a shoot of trees and over a very large depression area to a green protected by bunkers left and right. There is also a false front on this green so an aerial approach is preferred.

You have a lovely walk that leads you to the 16th, a mid-length par four from an elevated tee that offers a lovely view of the harbour. This is another really tight hole off the tee, one where you don't necessarily need a driver. There are two bunkers just off the fairway on the left and a creek runs down the right side so accuracy is paramount.

You cross North Shore Boulevard, where the last two holes play on the clubhouse side of the road, hard up against Hamilton Harbour. The 17th is a challenge of the highest order - a 419 yard par four that seemingly plays longer, perhaps due to the swirling winds off the water. The tee shot is hit over an inlet of the harbour to a generous fairway but the approach is among the toughest at Burlington, with a mid-to-long iron that needs to be flighted from right to left to take advantage of an offset green that is benched into the hillside and protected by three bunkers and a large pond. There is nowhere to miss here and I can only imagine some of the scores that get posted here - the 17th is a scorecard ruiner...but lovely nonetheless.

The course ends with a par three, a bit of a rarity, perhaps, but it's a whale of a finishing hole at 197 yards from the back tee. The tee shot is elevated and must be carried the entire way to the green that sits high up into the hillside, just in front of the beautiful clubhouse. Adding to the challenge is a green that slopes sharply from back to front and one protected by bunkers around the entire perimeter. The par threes at Burlington are all exceptionally strong and the 18th is a very worthy finisher.

It had been ten years since I last visited Burlington and I was blown away by how strong the golf course was. I am very impressed with the bunker and tree clearing work that's been conducted at Burlington since my previous visit, led by noted Canadian architect Doug Carrick. Vistas have been opened up and more importantly, the growing environment must have improved significantly.

Conditioning was above average, with firm and fast fairways throughout but greens that were a bit soft and on the slow side on this particular day.

The architecture here is rock solid, with very challenging par threes and great variety among the par fours. The par has been reduced to 70 (it was a par 71 when I last visited in April 2009) and at 6510 yards from the back tees, it's a very worthy challenge for players of any caliber. The course sits on a wonderful piece of land - you'll encounter every type of lie imaginable out here but shots off flat lies are pretty rare. This is also one of the finer walking courses in the country, some awkward routing notwithstanding.

As of this writing, Burlington is listed at #106 on ScoreGolf's most recent rating of the best Canadian golf courses and I'm absolutely baffled by this fact. If there are 105 courses better than Burlington in this country, I obviously need to get out more.

Burlington Golf and Country Club is a classic parkland test, designed by Canada's preeminent architect and sits comfortably between Toronto and the US/Canadian border. It features great land, lovely views and a demanding par 70 design that will delight and challenge players of every level. If you are offered a chance to play this incredibly underrated private club, it comes with my wholehearted recommendation.

I hope to return again soon.

The approach into the first hole at Burlington G&CC
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

The long par three 2nd hole
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

The landing area on the par five 3rd hole
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

The tee shot on the par four 4th hole at Burlington
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

The uphill approach into the 4th green
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

The interesting short par four 5th from the tee
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

A difficult tee shot awaits on the par three 6th at Burlington, with a tiny green surrounded by bunkers and water in front
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

You have a chance to reach the par five 7th hole in two shots if you find the fairway off the tee
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

Just in front of the green at the 7th
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

The approach into the par four 8th, with a glimpse of Hamilton Harbour through the trees in behind
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

The par three 9th hole at Burlington
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

The approach into the par four 10th
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

The tee shot on the gorgeous but difficult par four 11th
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

The approach into this long par four requires a long and accurate strike
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

A lovely walk in the park, as Steve and Jon make their way up to the 11th green
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

The landing area on the par five 12th
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

The beautiful and challenging par four 13th tee
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

The uphill approach to the 13th
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

The tee shot on the 14th, with OB right and trouble lurking left as well
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

The 14th green
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

The picturesque par three 15th at Burlington
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

This gives a good indication of the forced carry required on the par three 15th, as the green is elevated well above the depression area
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

A tight tee shot awaits on the short par four 16th hole
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

A winding creek provides additional challenge on the 16th
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

The long par four 17th runs hard alongside Hamilton Harbour
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

The author hitting one of his best tee shots on the day right down the middle - I'd still make double bogey!
(Photo by Jon Pollock)

The most demanding approach of the day is here on the 17th, with a very well protected diagonal green only accepting a perfectly flighted right to left shot
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

This fella is slacking on the job today, as the geese mock him from the hillside!
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

A stunning sunset as we putt out on the 17th green, with the 18th looming in the background
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

A sweeping panoramic from behind the 17th green, with Hamilton Harbour on the left and the par three 18th on the right
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

The difficult par three finisher at Burlington G&CC
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

The Burlington Skyway looms in the distance as you look back from behind the 18th green out towards Hamilton Harbour
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

#AuldSod2019 - The Return to Scotland

A shot of the clubhouse and 18th green at Royal Troon Golf Club
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

In a few short hours, I will be heading to the airport in Toronto and embarking on a ten day trip to Scotland, my second visit to the home of golf. In 2017, we played 12 rounds in eight days but this year, we're outdoing ourselves, with an incredible 16 rounds of golf booked over a ten day period.

Oooh baby!

My trip begins with a red-eye out of Toronto tonight and an early morning arrival in Glasgow on Thursday. I'll meet up with three friends for the "Pre-Trip" portion of the trip and we'll immediately depart for Royal Troon Golf Club on the Ayrshire coast.

In 2017, our group stayed at the Marine Hotel in Troon right alongside the 18th fairway but we did not play the course on that trip. The Old Course at Troon has hosted The Open Championship nine times, most recently in 2016 when Henrik Stenson came out on top in a thrilling final round shootout over Phil Mickelson. The par three eighth hole, known as "The Postage Stamp", is one of the most famous and notorious holes in the game.

From there, our foursome will head north into the Scottish Highlands, where 36 holes await us at Royal Dornoch Golf Club.

Old Tom Morris is given credit for overhauling the original nine hole design and converting it into the 18 hole Championship Course in the late 1880s. It is known as one of the greatest golf courses in the world, currently sitting 15th on Golf Magazine's 2017 list of the world's best and I've been desperately hoping to experience the course and the town of Dornoch ever since reading Lorne Rubenstein's wonderful book, "A Season in Dornoch", which gets my highest recommendation.

The next day, we will head about a half hour north to Brora Golf Club.

James Braid laid out the links at Brora in 1891 and I'm a big fan of his after our round in 2017 at Elie, another charming Braid design just outside of St. Andrews. Brora is known for the sheep that roam and graze on the property and the electric fences that surround many of the putting surfaces to keep them off the greens. The club is a bit off the beaten path, so to speak but I'm a big fan of hidden gems and I'm guessing that our day at Brora will be one of the highlights of the trip.

We were originally planning on doing a distillery tour after our round at Brora but recently changed course and added a second round that day, visiting nearby Golspie Golf Club.

Golspie is yet another wonderful James Braid design, with the course sitting off the Dornoch Firth. It's notable for its mix of classic links, heathland and parkland holes and has stunning views from all holes of the Dornoch Firth on one side and the backdrop of Ben Bhraggie on the other.

We wrap up our time in the Highlands with a round on the modern masterpiece, Castle Stuart Golf Club.

The brainchild of developer Mark Parsinen, who also brought Kingsbarns Golf Links to life, Castle Stuart overlooks the Moray Firth and was co-designed by Gil Hanse, a noted American architect, with the course opening for play in 2009. Castle Stuart already sits within the top 100 courses in the world and has hosted the Scottish Open an incredible four times.

From there, we will head four hours south and meet up with the other four members of our group in East Lothian. Their trip begins with a round at Gullane #1 but us "Pre-Trippers" will miss out on that while making the trek from the Highlands. The eight of us will all meet up for the first time after their round and the next day, we'll be playing 36 holes at the phenomenal North Berwick Golf Club's West Links.

The Children's Course runs alongside the famous West Links at North Berwick Golf Club in Scotland, as seen from the Macdonald Marine Hotel & Spa
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

We enjoyed a 36 hole day at North Berwick back in 2017 so this is the first course that we felt compelled to see again on this trip - simply put, it's that good!

North Berwick has long been a "hidden gem" on Scottish golf itineraries and is a favourite of pretty much anyone who visits, with great template holes in a spectacular, seaside setting. It's awesome, it's on great land in a great location, it's a charming, quaint town and it's fun personified. I absolutely loved North Berwick and can't wait to see it again this year.

We have our second and final repeat viewing the next day, as the group once again heads back to one of the greatest clubs in the world, the famed Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, perhaps better known as Muirfield Golf Club.

The gorgeous clubhouse at Muirfield provides the backdrop as you approach the 18th green
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

Muirfield has hosted 16 Open Championships and most recently, it was Phil Mickelson finally lifting the Claret Jug on these historic links back in 2013. Muirfield is commonly ranked among the top five or ten courses in the world, with its distinctive routing and excellent bunkering being celebrated. A full day at Muirfield is one of the great experiences in golf and once again, we will be lucky enough to play our own ball in the morning, have the famous Muirfield lunch (jacket and tie absolutely mandatory!) and then head back out for a boozy alternate shot match in the afternoon.

I'm especially excited to get back to Muirfield due to the fact I played one of my finest rounds of golf ever there in my first trip, making an eagle and four birdies, including the 17th and 18th holes, to shoot an incredible 72. A day I'll never forget...

Our final day in East Lothian sees us visit Tom Doak's only Scottish design, The Renaissance Club.

Jerry Sarvadi, an American businessman, played a lead role in developing the course and would eventually move to North Berwick with his family to run the day-to-day operations of the club, which opened for play in 2008. We will be playing Renaissance only three days after the conclusion of the Ladies Scottish Open, one of the premier events on the LPGA Tour so I'm guessing the course will be in magnificent shape. The 2019 Mens Scottish Open is also taking place at Renaissance in early July so it's a big year for the club - two major world tour events and hosting our itinerant group of eight golf fanatics. Not bad!

After our round, we head north for the final leg of our amazing trip, setting our anchor in the city of Aberdeen. Our first round the next morning is at Murcar Golf Club, another hidden gem from what I'm told.

Murcar was originally designed by Archie Simpson in 1909 and revised by James Braid in the 1930s. The course is located on a classic stretch of links land with massive sand dunes, undulating fairways and is covered in whins and heather with some magnificent views across the North Sea.

Later that afternoon, we will head a few miles south for a game at Royal Aberdeen Golf Club's Balgownie Course.

Founded in 1780, Royal Aberdeen is considered to be the 6th oldest club in the world. The club relocated in the late 1800s and the Balgownie Course, designed by Archie and Robert Simpson, opened for play in 1888. The club has hosted many great events over the years and is well known for their immense dunes, among the largest in the country, that must be navigated during the round.

I'm also very excited about the following day, where we will play two rounds at Cruden Bay Golf Club.

Long known as one of the great hidden gems in Scotland, wide acclaim over recent years has propelled Cruden Bay on to many World Top 100 lists and as a result, the course is a preferred stop on most Scottish itineraries. A few guys in the group played Cruden Bay in 2017 but I wasn't one of them so I'm greatly looking forward to the day. Old Tom Morris and Archie Simpson designed the course in 1899 and like Royal Aberdeen, Cruden Bay features massive dunes and a glorious seaside setting. This is one of the most anticipated days of the trip for yours truly.

We conclude this epic adventure with a round at the controversial Trump International Golf Links in Aberdeen.

The course was designed by Martin Hawtree and opened for play in 2012 but the development was heavily scrutinized by many conservationists throughout the process and that scrutiny continues to this day, with the fires fanned even more due to Trump's time in the White House. As a result, I will admit this is the course I'm least looking forward to on our trip but perhaps that's not entirely fair - I've heard plenty of accolades from people I greatly respect about the experience and even those who aren't effusive in their praise say they respect the course quite a bit. The landscape is supposed to be as dramatic as any in the world of golf so I will give it a fair chance. That said, it's the last course we see on our trip and for the sake of comparison, I came away feeling lukewarm about Kingsbarns in 2017 when it was the last course on that vacation so perhaps there will be some parallels in 2019.

16 rounds in 10 days...I may not be able to walk when I get back to Canada! I literally can't wait for this trip.

You can look forward to detailed reviews of all the courses upon my return. In the meantime, feel free to follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, as I document this incredible experience each day.

Thanks for reading, as always.

Friday, May 17, 2019

This Week on the PGA Tour: 2019 PGA Championship at Bethpage Black

The spectacular par five 4th hole on Bethpage State Park's Black Course
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

The 2019 PGA Championship sees the tournament move from its decades-long August date to mid-May, with this year's event being held at the notorious Bethpage State Park Black Course.

I had the opportunity to play the course back in 2011 and I was fortunate to get the true "Bethpage Experience", sleeping in my car in the parking lot the night before in order to secure an early morning tee time.

Check out the link below if you're interested in reading up on one of the more unique public golf experiences in the world:

COURSE PROFILE: Bethpage State Park - Black Course

Enjoy the tournament this weekend!

Friday, May 10, 2019

2019 Ontario Better Ball Qualifier

Toronto's skyline offers a picturesque backdrop on the par five 9th hole at Eagles Nest Golf Club
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

For the first time in seven years, I decided to test myself by playing in one of our provincial championship qualifiers.

My buddy Ryan and I battled 39 other teams in frigid conditions on Tuesday April 30th at Eagles Nest Golf Club in Maple, Ontario, just north of Toronto. It was one of eight qualifiers to determine entry into the 2019 Ontario Better Ball Championship, which takes place in mid-May at Oakdale Golf & Country Club.

Ryan and I last tried out for this event back in 2012 at Highland Country Club in London and fell a few strokes short that year. Based on previous qualifiers, we knew we'd likely need a score of par or better to move on to the actual championship so we had birdies on our mind as we teed off mid-morning at Eagles Nest.

Things started out decently, as I'd rip my first tee ball long down the middle of the first fairway and we were off. Ryan and I both made pars on the mid-length par five first hole but we'd be in tough on the long, uphill par four second. I actually hit a gorgeous five-iron past pin high to about 20 feet but my first putt would tumble down the hill, past the hole and end up an agonizing ten feet away. I'd suck it up and knock that uphill putt into the middle of the cup for the satisfying par save after Ryan missed his own par putt earlier.

Unfortunately, we'd both bogey the third hole, with Ryan not able to get up and in from over the green while I wasn't able to do the same from the front right bunker. After a good two putt par on the 4th from yours truly, we both missed short par putts on the par three 5th, with Ryan's miss from only about three feet.

At this point, I was +2 on my own ball and Ryan was +4. Not the start we wanted.

Ryan would start to take over on the par four 7th, a tough dogleg right par four. He'd hit a great approach to about 15 feet and with me sitting 10 feet away for par, he'd calmly knock it in for our first birdie of the day.

The picturesque par three 8th was next and after Ryan hit it into a greenside trap, I'd hit pitching wedge to about 12 feet. Ryan almost holed his bunker shot and easily tapped in for par, giving me a good birdie run but I'd hit it through the break and we'd have to settle for a par. Then, on the par five 9th, both Ryan and I had birdie putts from about 15 feet - I'd miss but Ryan would make again, pulling us back to even par on the day and giving us a fighting chance to qualify, especially seeing our playing partners struggle to a 43 (!!) on their best ball.

Unfortunately, we'd start to fall apart from here, with us both bogeying the 10th and 11th holes to drop right back to +2. This was especially egregious for me, as I had only a wedge into the par four 10th and couldn't take advantage of it.

Ryan would keep us in it on the back side, as I lost my rhythm with the driver and was getting into constant trouble. I'd double bogey the 16th and 18th holes, hitting into three water hazards in the process and we'd stumble to a 40 on the back nine and a final total of 76 (+4), good for T22nd out of 40 teams. Only seven spots were up for grabs and as expected, we would have needed a 71 just to squeak in, so we have plenty of work to do if we want to try again next year. I finished 38-44-82 on my own ball, as I struggled quite a bit on the last few holes.

Overall, it was a great experience to get back into that level of competition and Eagles Nest was a fine host, with the golf course in really good shape all things considered. I hope to do more of that this year - I'm joining the men's league at Lookout Point CC and plan on competing in their men's invitational event in early June, known as "The Brooke", one of the longest running invitationals in the province. I've been playing decently to start the season, especially considering the incredibly cold and wet spring, notching a couple of 76's and winning a few bucks in my side games with friends along the way.

If this weather ever makes a turn for the better, I'm expecting good things to come from my game.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

A New Beginning

The short par four 15th at Lookout Point Country Club
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

My new home away from home, Lookout Point Country Club, officially opened for the 2019 season on Saturday and I was up bright and early to take advantage. It was a decent day - temperatures around 13 degrees Celsius with partly cloudy skies but very breezy, which made flighting the ball very challenging on my first round in close to six months.

It was a wonderful walk and a fun round - after starting reasonably well (+2 through 8 holes), I'd start to lose accuracy with my driver on the last ten and end up shooting a season-opening round of 81 (+9). Overall, I hit more good shots than bad and I putted well using a cross-handed grip, something I've experimented with in the past but may try a bit more this season.

The weather this Easter weekend looks terrible in Niagara and we'll be lucky to get one round in by the looks of it. I've got an Ontario Better Ball qualifier coming up in less than two weeks so I'm anxious to get out and work on my game. Lookout has a wonderful practice facility and I plan to take full advantage this year.

I got a new rangefinder last week, the Precision Pro NX7 Pro but I must say, my first impressions are very negative. On a clear day, it wasn't picking up any flags from over 175 yards away and I even had my playing partners try to use it to no avail. Thankfully, I've been in touch with some key people over there and their customer service is wonderful - they've given me a couple of tips and I'm going to give it another shot this weekend but they tell me if it doesn't work, they'll be sending out a brand new unit right away as a replacement. Wonderful service for sure.

I'm also using a new game improvement app called Bebrassie, which calculates strokes gained statistics for every component of your game, offers charts/grids on your shot dispersion and has all sorts of other cool features. It's a very sophisticated program and it requires a lot of post-round editing work and I can see myself tiring quickly of that process. But again, it's very detailed and I'm going to stick with it for awhile and perhaps write a full review here after a month or so.

I really intend to work on my game this year in hopes of getting back to around a 3 handicap, a very tall challenge considering I've made the move to a new and more difficult golf course.

More course reviews to come, with the wonderful North Berwick - West Links up next.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019


*** Now on the Tee has MOVED to our own domain!!! ***


Muirfield - The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers
Gullane, East Lothian, SCOTLAND

6728 YARDS (PAR 71)
COURSE ARCHITECT: Old Tom Morris (1891); Harry S. Colt (1923)
LAST PLAYED: August 15, 2017.
LOW SCORE: 72 (+1)

- Golf Club Atlas 147 Custodians of the Game: #45
- Golf Magazine Top 100 Courses in the World 2017: #10
- Golf Digest World's Greatest 100 Courses (Outside USA) 2018: #4
- World's Top 100 2018: #10
- Britain and Ireland Top 100 2018: #4

"Its modest topography might not win over the first time visitor, but the keen architecture student is guaranteed to find lots to admire. The greens are beautifully if subtly contoured, and the quality of the bunkering - both in its strategic placement and in the artistry of its shapes and revetments - is simply the finest on the planet."
Tom Doak, Golf Course Architect, "The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses Volume 1 - Great Britain and Ireland"

The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers holds the claim of being the oldest verifiable organized golf club in the world. Although the game itself is several centuries older, the club's records date back to 1744, when it produced the thirteen original Rules of Golf for its first competition, which was played at Leith Links for the Silver Club. The Company played on the five holes at Leith Links for nearly a century, but overcrowding forced a move in 1836 to Musselburgh's nine-hole Old Course, which was situated within a horse-racing track. The Musselburgh course would eventually be shared by four separate clubs and as a result, became too crowded for the liking of the Company members.

As a result, in 1891, the Company purchased The Howes, another old horse-racing track on the Archerfield Estate at Dirleton, leading cynics to claim that all the Company had done was move "from one race-course to another." The course, called Muirfield, was designed by Old Tom Morris and within a year, it hosted its first Open Championship. This situation caused some ill feeling at Musselburgh, which lost the right to hold the Open from that point forward. This new course was met with wide approval from the start and has been modified and updated several times since, most significantly in the mid-1920's by Harry S. Colt, who would introduce 14 new holes after the club purchased an additional 50 acres of land north of the existing course.

Muirfield has hosted 16 Open Championships and most recently, it was Phil Mickelson finally lifting the Claret Jug on these historic links back in 2013. Other winners at Muirfield include Nicklaus, Watson, Trevino, Player, Els, Faldo (twice), Vardon and Hagen. That is some list...

The club is unique for many reasons, one of which is due to the fact that the game most commonly played by members is foursomes, more commonly known as alternate shot. The club also was in the news for the wrong reasons in recent years due to the fact that it had a male-only membership policy, one that was finally abolished so that the club could maintain its spot in the Open rotation.

Muirfield is commonly ranked among the top five or ten courses in the world, with its distinctive routing and excellent bunkering being celebrated. A full day at Muirfield is one of the great experiences in golf and we were lucky enough to be playing our own ball in the morning, have the famous Muirfield lunch (jacket and tie absolutely mandatory) and then head back out for a boozy alternate shot match in the afternoon, all while enjoying some of the finest weather during our entire trip.

After the very challenging 446 yard opening hole, one usually played into a prevailing wind, things perk up on the 365 yard 2nd, as you get your first glimpse of the Firth of Forth. An out of bounds stone wall runs down most of the left side, pushing play towards the right side of the fairway. However, you will then have a very challenging approach over the four greenside bunkers all situated on the right side of the green. This is where you quickly realize that proper placement of your tee ball is imperative if you want access to the open sides of the greens.

The 3rd, a mid-length par four measuring 375 yards, looks more menacing than it really is. The fairway narrows to the width of a walking path about 290 yards from the tee, with bunkers on both sides of the fairway. The approach will need to be played long in order to clear the two pot bunkers in the front right.

The par three 4th hole features a slightly elevated tee shot to a plateau green, with bunkers in front and short grass hollows behind and on both sides. A very challenging shot when the wind is up.

If the 5th hole is playing downwind, as it was the day we visited, it likely qualifies as the best birdie opportunity at Muirfield. At only 510 yards, this par five is eminently reachable in the right conditions but will require a long and accurate drive into an angled fairway that is very well-protected by five bunkers lining the right side. I was able to make an eagle here, one that kick-started a round that would end up being quite memorable when all was said and done.

The 6th is a very long par four, measuring 467 yards and it may just be the most demanding tee shot on the golf course, as it's played semi-blind up a hill with no discernible aiming markers. From there, the hole moves down and to the left, with the approach made more difficult by a hidden hollow short of the green, making distance that much harder to judge. Things don't get any easier on the mid-length par three 7th, a 185 yarder that is played uphill and into the prevailing wind to a perched green completely exposed to the elements.

After the 443 yard par four 8th, the par five 9th returns to the clubhouse and plays much longer than its yardage due to the fact that it too plays into the prevailing wind. It's a great second shot hole, as a cluster of bunkers protects the natural entryway into the green down the right hand side of the fairway about 50 yards from the green, forcing many to lay up short and attempt a wedge third shot. The layup is no bargain either, with a stone out of bounds wall running hard down the left hand side of the fairway right in the landing zone.

The 10th is another brute. It's a 470 yard par four with a very narrow fairway, three menacing bunkers lining the right side and a prevailing southwest wind that pushes balls in that direction. The green is partially obscured by two centre-line bunkers about 100 yards short but the green is open in front and accepts a running approach.

The 11th, a 387 yard par four, is an absolute delight. The tee shot is completely blind, essentially the only shot of its kind at Muirfield, over the top of a hill to what you'll eventually see is a pretty generous fairway. The panoramic view that awaits upon cresting the hill is one of those special moments in golf, with the sea in all its glory beautifully framing the landscape. The approach is no bargain here, with a small and very undulating heart-shaped green enveloped by seven bunkers. In my mind, this rates at the most picturesque hole at Muirfield.

The par four 12th is 380 yards long and takes you back towards the town of Gullane, with the hillside offering a lovely backdrop. It's a routine driving hole, with most of the challenge lying at the narrow green, with five bunkers lining the right and a large depression area back left.

The 13th hole is one of the world's great uphill par threes, reminiscent in some respects to the 11th at Shinnecock Hills and Sand Hills Golf Club's 13th, among others. This hole measures 191 yards from the championship tee and features a perched green that is long but extremely narrow, a mere 15 paces wide. There are two deep bunkers to the left and three to the right and any tee shots that end up in the sand usually mean a bogey at best. Truly world class in every respect.

Two long par fours come next, with the 445 yard 15th providing the most interest, especially at the green, called "Camel's Back" by the members due to its many humps and hollows. Three putts must be commonplace here. Meanwhile, the 186 yard par three 16th is yet another very challenging one-shotter to a severely sloping green protected by seven bunkers on the right and front left.

The finish at Muirfield is outstanding and the 576 yard par five 17th, which usually plays much shorter than its yardage due to the prevailing wind, is on the short list of the world's greatest three shot holes. You have plenty of room out to the right off the tee but if you want to challenge this green in two shots, you'll need to drive your ball down the left side, which brings a string of five bunkers into play. From there, you'll next notice four bunkers, including the famed "coffin bunker", lined up in the middle of the layup area between 100 and 130 yards from the green. If the hole is playing into the wind, you'll likely need to layup short but with the normal prevailing winds coming from behind, you'll likely attempt the more heroic approach and try to challenge the green. And what a green site this is, with the putting surface set back into the dunes behind bunkers left and right of a very narrow entrance. A simply exhilarating par five.

The par four 18th is one of the great finishing holes in championship golf, a 471 yarder to a narrow fairway made even tinier by the prevailing crosswinds. The approach must clear two centre-line bunkers about 40 yards short of the green and the putting surface is long and tilted sharply from back to front, with deep bunkers left and right. The historic clubhouse sits in the background on this most worthy of closing holes.

Muirfield is notoriously difficult but on this day, I was particularly inspired, making an eagle and four birdies, including the 17th and 18th holes, to fire a three under 33 on the back nine and a one over par 72 overall, one of my finest rounds in years. Making that putt on the 18th for a closing birdie was a particularly memorable and emotional experience.

However, the true "Muirfield Experience" doesn't end on the 18th green. From here, we headed for the men's locker room, showered and then changed into a coat and tie, allowing us access to the clubhouse dining room and the most spectacular lunch that you can possibly imagine. A full salad bar, carved meat stations and many other foods hot and cold await in the dining room, as you mingle with members and guests alike. From there, four of us retired to the lounge with a glass of red wine and some Kummel, where we were able to take in some of the incredible history that lines the walls in the Muirfield clubhouse.

I would have been perfectly content just hanging out here for the rest of the day but we had more golf to play!

As previously noted, most of the golf played at Muirfield is with two balls, more commonly known on this side of the pond as alternate shot. Any afternoon games at Muirfield must be played in this format so we got back into our golf gear and went out for a quick 18 holes of alternate shot action. We'd end the day on the beautiful patio in front of the clubhouse and adjacent to the 18th green, sipping on ale and telling stories about our day.

I probably looked forward to this day more than any other on this particular trip and as such, I had incredibly high expectations for my day at Muirfield. I'm happy to say that those expectations were exceeded in every way. The club has a hard-earned reputation for being a tad formal and stuffy but we were welcomed with open arms from the moment we arrived and I felt completely comfortable both on and off the golf course.

And what a golf course this is! Muirfield is on the very short list of the most ingeniously bunkered golf courses in the world, with very well-defined edge work, some incredible artistic flair and most significantly, some of the most superb and strategic bunker positioning I've ever seen. There is great variety in shot values throughout and the greens are well-contoured, very well protected and all provide great interest both on the putting surfaces themselves and in the immediate surrounds.

The fact that this was accomplished on what would normally be considered a pretty routine and unremarkable piece of land, set well-away from the sea, further accentuates the greatness of the design.

The club is steeped in history and that's never more apparent than when you are walking through the clubhouse and seeing the incredible artifacts lovingly displayed throughout. The locker room is a treat and as indicated, the famous Muirfield lunch is not to be missed.

That all said, it's the golf course that shines above all else here.

Muirfield is famously private but accepts limited outside play on Tuesday and Thursdays, assuming you book well in advance. If you have the ability to plan ahead and have the means, a day at Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers is unquestionably one of the finest experiences you can have in this great game and comes with my highest recommendation.

The stately entrance gates to the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

The beautiful clubhouse at Muirfield
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

Matt S tees off the par four 1st hole at Muirfield
(Photo Courtesy of Howard Riefs)

The tee shot on the par four 2nd hole
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

Bunkers line the right side of the approach area on the 2nd
(Photo Courtesy of Howard Riefs)

Looking back down the 2nd from behind, with the out-of-bounds stone fence menacingly close to the green
(Photo Courtesy of Howard Riefs)

Another view of the 2nd green, with this photo taken from the 16th tee
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

Our group makes our way up the par four 3rd hole, a 377 yard par four
(Photo Courtesy of Howard Riefs)

Dan stands just in front of the green on the 3rd
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

The 3rd green, as seen from the 4th tee
(Photo Courtesy of Howard Riefs)

The tee shot on the 182 yard par three 4th
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

Looking back towards the tee from the 4th green, with the Gullane hillside providing a picturesque backdrop
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

A deep greenside bunker on the 4th
(Photo Courtesy of Howard Riefs)

A panoramic view of Muirfield from the 5th tee, with the fourth green in the foreground
(Photo Courtesy of Howard Riefs)

The tee shot on the 510 yard, par five 5th
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

The uphill second shot into the 5th
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

The 7th hole, a par three measuring 147 yards
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

Another stone out of bounds wall runs down the left side of the par five 9th hole
(Photo Courtesy of Howard Riefs)

A great look at the beautiful bunkering at Muirfield, as displayed near the 9th green
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

Dan rips yet another one down the middle on the long and tough par four 10th hole
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

An absolutely stunning vista awaits as you crest the hill on the par four 11th
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

A view from the right side of the fairway on the 11th
(Photo Courtesy of Howard Riefs)

This is me teeing off on the 12th, a 380 yard par four
(Photo Courtesy of Howard Riefs)

The approach shot into the 12th at Muirfield
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

Four bunkers are seen and one is hidden (back right) near the green on the 12th
(Photo Courtesy of Howard Riefs)

The incredibly challenging uphill par three 13th at Muifield
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

The 13th green is perched high above the tee and offers a splendid view of the surrounding sea
(Photo Courtesy of Howard Riefs)

The approach shot into the par four 15th hole
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

The par three 16th, a 186 yarder
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

A great look at what awaits on your second shot on the fantastic par five 17th, with four cross bunkers in the distance
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

The famed coffin bunker on the 17th hole at Muirfield
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

The pitch shot third shot into the par five 17th
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

The tee shot on the 418 yard, par four closing hole
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

A glorious view looking back toward the sea and the 18th tee at Muifield
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

The final approach into the 18th, with the gorgeous clubhouse in the background
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

The bunkering at Muirfield, both positionally and stylistically, is among the best in all of golf
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

Such artistry!
(Photo Courtesy of Matt Schmidt)

Enjoying a glass of wine in the clubhouse after an amazing lunch, with jacket and tie absolutely mandatory (from left: yours truly, Andrew, Ed, Matt S)
(Photo Courtesy of Matt Schmidt)

The lads enjoy a post-round beverage on the beautiful patio at Muirfield
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

The glorious view afforded to those sitting on the patio just off the 18th green in front of the clubhouse at Muirfield
(Photo by Now on the Tee)

Smiles a mile wide after enjoying one of the great experiences in world golf (from left: Andrew, Steven, Dan, Ed, yours truly, Howard, Chris and Matt S)
(Photo Courtesy of Matt Schmidt)