Nicklaus planning renovation of Muirfield Village after 2020 Memorial
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Written by Ben Everill @BEverillPGATOUR
The origins of Muirfield Village Golf Club
Jack Nicklaus is set to oversee a renovation next summer of Muirfield Village, home of the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide.
All 18 greens will be re-done and length will be added to parts of the course. The scope of work could be increased as the 79-year-old World Golf Hall of Famer creates his final game plan.
It is the first significant change at Muirfield Village since 2011 when the par-3 16th was re-designed ahead of the 2013 Presidents Cup.
Next year’s renovation will commence after the 2020 Memorial Tournament, which takes place the week of June 1-7.
“Jack is going to touch up the golf course. He is going to redo all the greens starting July of 2020 and we will be ready to go for the 2021 Memorial Tournament,” said Nicholas LaRocca, the general manager who has been at Muirfield Village since 1997.
“This fall we are adding three new back tees on the par-3 eighth, the par-5 11th and the par-5 15th which will add distance to the course ahead of the 2020 event. Jack might also do some light tweaks in other areas of the golf course, but he has not put pencil to paper on any of that yet … He will do so this fall.”
LaRocca said there is still plenty of planning and decision-making to be done but expected the work to be completed quickly in 2020 before the Ohio winter hits full gear.
“Right now we are developing a plan for all 18 greens that will be rebuilt. We are trying to work out what we will put on the bottom, if we are going to put any new systems underground and we haven’t determined which turf we will select to seed,” he added.
“We will seed pretty quick July 2020 to be done by Aug. 15, the proper time to get things done in this region to have proper grow in.”
Nicklaus opened his signature course in 1974 and has been hosting the Memorial Tournament since 1976 as one of the premier stops on the PGA TOUR. In 2014, the tournament was elevated in status (as was the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard), with the winner receiving a three-year exemption.
The list of winners is an esteemed one where along with Nicklaus (twice) the likes of Tom Watson (twice), Hale Irwin (twice), Greg Norman (twice) and Tiger Woods (five times) are amongst those to have hoisted the Muirfield crystal.
One player yet to win is Jason Day, despite the fact he is a member at the course. Day and his family live nearby, and the Australian 12-time PGA TOUR winner sometimes uses the facilities to practice or play a few rounds.
“I’m sure whatever changes Mr. Nicklaus makes to Muirfield Village will be for the better. The golf course is already one of the best prepared we play on the PGA TOUR and it’s clear Jack is mindful of maintaining the historical significance of the property while keeping things modern for the members, TOUR players and the fans,” Day told PGATOUR.COM.
“New greens will mean some new challenges, and a bit more length in places will certainly test the TOUR players. It has always been a great second shot golf course and no doubt it will continue to be that type of challenge.
“I’ve been lucky enough to make a home in the area and have been welcomed into the Muirfield community by Jack and those at the club, which has been great. I love the place, but I haven’t had the best results in the Memorial Tournament in the past so maybe the changes will help me fix that.”
LaRocca says the membership is excited by the news, particularly as it could be the last set of changes Nicklaus himself will be extensively involved in on the property. The 18-time major winner will turn 80 in January.
“The members here are awesome, they embrace this,” LaRocca said. “They love that Jack is here and doing it and they are all excited about the changes. It’s all very exciting for us.
“Muirfield Village is like the Mona Lisa. It’s a masterpiece. It’s Jack masterpiece in the game of golf. How can you possibly improve on a masterpiece? And yet Jack and Barbara Nicklaus continually find ways of doing that. Every year there is something new, not because anything was wrong; just to make it better. Their commitment to excellence is amazing.”
Earlier this year, Nicklaus talked about his philosophy on design at Muirfield Village.
“Through the years I have made a lot of changes, some for the sake of the members, some to improve the spectator experience, and some simply to make the golf course a better and stronger test. Like any designer, I want the course to show well, and be able to hold up against the game’s best players, so I have tried to find ways to preserve shot values,” Nicklaus said.
“I think all golf courses are in continual evolution. I do,” he added. “Muirfield Village has been that way. You see something that can make it better and you go do it. But Muirfield Village is intrinsically the same golf course. You could go through the golf course and compare what it was when it opened and where it is today and you’d think the difference was night and day. But done over time you don’t notice it.”