clubs. The letter was sent without delay and a few days later he
received a reply allotting a starting time - in mid October! Tim did
not mention the reason for our visit, but I doubt that it would have
made any difference. Jack Nicklaus won the Open at Muirfield but no
exception was made when he tried to get a game for one of his
I was not disappointed when we finally got out onto this magnificent
course and I can say that, in my opinion, its number one rating in
Britain (2003) was fully deserved. The course was originally laid out by Old Tom Morris on
land described by ‘Andra’ Kirkcaldy as nothing but “an auld watter
meadie” (water meadow), but Tom Simpson and Harry Colt found it
fertile ground for their talents and, following the changes they
made in the twenties, Muirfield has evolved into one of the world’s
most renowned championship courses. The front nine goes out
clockwise with the back nine running anti-clockwise inside it, so
the wind comes from all points making for a fair test, but a stiff
one with deep bunkers and severe rough to contend with. When I
returned the greens were still being cut with hand-mowers and,
although under treatment at the time we were there, were still some
of the best I have played on. I took a lot more strokes than I did
in 1935, but I’m glad I went back. It was a nostalgic visit for me
full of so many memories. Two things had changed – that bunker on
the 17th had gone and this time I was welcomed in the clubhouse to
experience the famous Muirfield cuisine – real home cooking. It was
altogether a wonderful day.
Muirfield inspires good players to play their best golf. Sometimes
it frustrates them as Tiger found out on that wild, wet Saturday in
2002, but he will be back to try again to add his name to the famous
list of Muirfield champions and to soak up that very special
atmosphere. Tom Watson, Muirfield’s 1980 champion, summed it up
“I love the place. I love the feel of it.
The smell of it, the taste of it.
I love the turf, the feel of my spikes in it.
I love the people.”
After Watson’s victory he and Ben Crenshaw celebrated that evening,
then went out on the course accompanied by a piper, to test their
skill with hickory shafted clubs and guttie balls. It did not go
down well with the Club’s legendary irascible secretary, Captain
Paddy Hamner, who issued a stern admonishment. As I said, no
exceptions are made at Muirfield, but I suspect that Tom Watson’s
affection for the place is undiminished.
Muirfield, Royal Portrush and Royal St George’s, are my three most
My trips with Tim included a good many visits to Brancepeth Castle.
He had been at the 70th anniversary dinner and had surprised me with
the gift of a set of Ben Sayers woods inscribed with the details of
my Irish Open title. Tim was as fond of the place as I was and had
joined the club as a country member shortly before he died. His
ashes were scattered by the tenth tee, where my brother Charles also
found his last resting-place. Within 12 months my wife Paddy passed
away. Her ashes were divided, some taken to the woods by the third
hole at Bridgnorth, where she had brought my tea out to me over 60
years earlier, and some to Brancepeth to join Tim and Charles.