Club TFE Tour Guide: The Pros of Jack’s Place

The positives of Muirfield Village, a shot that showed Yuka Saso's brilliance, 2020 Muirfield madness


Welcome to Club TFE’s Tour Guide, where we tackle both the serious and unserious from the world of pro golf on a weekly basis. There’s a major on the horizon, but first we have a stalwart PGA Tour stop in Ohio to discuss, which we’ll try to do without poking the Golden Bear.

You’re reading a free preview of Tour Guide, a weekly Club TFE a feature looking at the world of pro golf, focusing on course details, players to watch, swing analysis, and the occasional light-hearted romp through golf history. Interested in access to Tour Guide, all of our Club TFE content, a 10% discount at the Fried Egg Pro Shop, and other perks? Click here to join!

What Muirfield Village Gets Right

By Joseph LaMagna

Muirfield Village Golf Club is one of the best tests on the professional golf schedule. 

When people describe setups and how courses test particular skills, the conversation often fixates on one or two defining characteristics of the golf course being analyzed. For example, people tend to cite thick rough as the reason that a golf course like Muirfield Village rewards driving accuracy. The reality, though, is that all facets of a golf course’s design must align cohesively to produce a robust test. 

While it is true that, when holding all else constant, increasing the length of the rough increases the importance of driving accuracy, that notion tends to be extended in ways that quickly become inaccurate. “We need to shrink fairways and grow thick rough” is one of the golf world’s worst conclusions. Thick rough does not necessarily indicate that driving accuracy is paramount. Many golf courses fail to provide a strong test of driving accuracy despite gratuitous use of thick rough. A golf course with no fairways at all would barely test a player’s ability to hit the ball straight. Within a similar vein, replacing short grass areas with thick rough can actually reduce the extent to which players must hit accurate drives, especially where thick rough then impedes a ball from rolling into a more troublesome area as the architect intended.  

Muirfield Village, a golf course notorious for its thick rough, does still place a premium on driving accuracy about as well as any other golf course on the professional circuit. Instead of focusing solely on the thick rough, let’s consider how the entirety of Muirfield Village’s design, including its use of thick rough, elevates the importance of driving accuracy in two distinct ways.

First, at this golf course, there is a significant difference between the penalty associated with a narrow miss and the penalty associated with a wide miss, a fundamentally important attribute of a proper accuracy test. The fairways at MVGC have enough width that players can find them consistently with a well-struck tee shot. The hit fairway percentage often lands somewhere between 60%-65% at MVGC, a higher figure than the PGA Tour average. When you’re offline by a narrow margin, you’ll typically find thick rough. When you’re offline by a wide margin, you’ll often find a more penal hazard like a creek. Both the 2nd and 18th holes, with a creek down the right and left respectively, are strong examples of this design feature in action.

As you can see in the ShotLink plots above, there is a strong correlation between the width of a player’s miss and their score on the hole. 

The second way in which Muirfield Village rewards accuracy is more subtle. On many holes, the golf course effectively forces golfers who miss the fairway to lay up. How? The greens at Muirfield Village are small and sloped in such a way that short-siding yourself presents a nearly impossible up-and-down recovery. In fact, there is not a golf course on the PGA Tour that is more difficult to recover from short-sided locations around the greens, especially from greenside bunkers. 

On top of that, hazards often cut off fairways between the approach shot and the green, so running a shot up to the green is not an option. In those situations, trying to hit an approach shot from out of the rough all the way up to the green comes with a high degree of danger and very little reward, since it is nearly impossible to hold the greens from the rough in firm conditions. Plus, judging one’s distance can be unpredictable from gnarly rough so golfers who choose to take on this risk can easily come up short of the green and find a huge penalty. Firing a ball over the back of the green results in a tough up and down, but coming up short is typically even more costly. Thus, the course frequently forces your hand into laying up, creating a significant difference in the expected score of a player who must lay up versus one who can go for the green. The penalty associated with the thick rough isn’t the length of the rough itself, but rather the way the rough interacts with the rest of the design. 

Holes like Nos. 3, 9, and 17 are blatant examples of where a hazard and/or a dramatic elevation change obstructs players from running shots up to the green or leaving themselves in a favorable position short of the green. You don’t want to be short of these greens. Those are not options on these holes.

Other holes like the par-5 seventh impose a similar dynamic, but in a less overt fashion. On the seventh hole, missing around the green in the wrong location presents a very challenging up and down. Players must think twice about where they want to leave their second shots before attempting to go for this green in two, whether they’re positioned in the fairway or in a rare good lie in the rough. This hole gives elite ball-strikers the opportunity to create significant separation from the field, as two well-struck shots put you in a much more favorable position than if you’ve made a mistake on either the tee shot or the approach, as seen in the plot below. 

Chart of second shot dispersion on the par-5 seventh hole at Muirfield Village Golf Club (ShotLink)

Before withdrawing from the final round of the 2021 Memorial Tournament with a positive Covid test, Jon Rahm had gained 21(!) strokes to the field and was leading the tournament by six shots through three rounds. Billy Horschel, a consistently accurate driver on the PGA Tour, won the 2022 Memorial by four strokes. Muirfield Village allows in-rhythm players to separate themselves from the field. 

But the best case study of who Muirfield Village rewards (or fails to reward) might be Bryson DeChambeau. Prior to packing on muscle and speed, DeChambeau won the Memorial Tournament back in 2018. At the time, DeChambeau was an above-average driver in terms of accuracy. Bryson really started picking up speed and distance in 2020, becoming wildly inaccurate with his driver in the process. In the three Memorial Tournaments he played between 2020 and 2022, Bryson missed two cuts, including one cut by seven strokes, and he finished T-18 in the other appearance. Poor results by his standards. Sprayers like DeChambeau need not apply on this golf course. 

In summary, Muirfield Village is a proper, championship-level examination of professional golf with thick rough. But it is not a proper, championship-level examination simply because of its thick rough. Its ability to test the best golfers in the world and reward accuracy off the tee stems from the quality of its design and how all of the course’s design elements interact with one another. With clever design, you can build a golf course full of thick rough that rewards accuracy, or you can build a golf course with zero rough that rewards accuracy. While I personally prefer golf courses like Pinehurst and Augusta that require players to control the ball on the ground and offer opportunities for clever recovery shots, Muirfield Village is an excellent version of an aerial execution test. Of course, much of this is rendered moot when the golf course plays wet and soft. The next soft golf course I see that provides a stern test for the best professional golfers in the world will be the first. 

So if you watch the Memorial Tournament this weekend, keep an eye on the extent to which accurate drives are rewarded and consider the variables involved that provide that reward. And when commentators or talking heads attribute the importance of accuracy at MVGC strictly to the merits of thick rough, remember that thick rough alone is not enough to place a premium on driving accuracy.

One Shot From Last Week

By Will Knights

I’ll be the first to raise my hand and say I thought Yuka Saso was dead in the water on Sunday at Lancaster. Minjee Lee dominated the first 90 minutes of the final round and it looked like Yuka’s bacon was cooked. Her comeback, highlighted by an amazing birdie on the par-4 15th, is one I’ll remember for a long time.


The 15th hole at Lancaster is one that we showcased multiple times leading into the U.S. Women’s Open coverage because of its reverse camber fairway and perched green. With the ball well above her feet, Saso hit a towering long iron that landed softly and rolled out to the back pin, a shot that very few in the field would have been able to execute. Her high ball flight was a perfect match for the severe greens at Lancaster. Very few had the speed required to tackle those conditions. With this one shot, Saso proved she was a step above the rest at the U.S. Women’s Open.

Memory Lane: 2020 Madness

By Jay Rigdon

2020 exists as a sort of pocket universe, where time has no meaning at all. Does it feel like two decades ago? Yes. Does it feel like yesterday? Also yes. If you can bridge that gap and think back, you might recall that the PGA Tour double-stacked events at Muirfield Village in July of that year, playing the first and only Workday Charity Open one week before the Memorial proper. It was a fascinating look at the impact of setup on scoring, with Collin Morikawa winning the first event on a relatively softer Muirfield Village with a score of -19, while Jon Rahm won on a more traditionally difficult setup the very next week with a score ten shots worse. 

But we’re not going back in time for a reasoned analysis of course setup! No, we’re here to document what was maybe the peak of insufferable Bryson. He’s had a bit of a face turn since then, thanks in part to absence but also in part to a more mature approach to life on the golf course. It’s hard to imagine the same Bryson we saw angrily shame an adult into giving a ball to a kid at the PGA doing what he did at Muirfield back then, but here we are. 

Much was written on this incident at the time (including by me), but way too many of those clips and videos have either been DMCA’d or otherwise nuked into oblivion. Some, though, remain to this day. So, while we can’t show you many clips of Bryson’s caddie rushing to block the camera after he made a 10 at No. 15, we do at least have this recording of someone’s screen showing Bryson at peak petulance:

Again, this isn’t to pile on Bryson anymore! He still says outlandish things, and there will always be a touch of “doing my own research” to a lot of his vibe. But a bit of maturity and some legitimately charming YouTube content goes a long way towards erasing one of my dominant lockdown memories: Bryson DeChambeau, arguing with a rules official about the definition of a fence.

Tour Guide is a weekly Club TFE a feature looking at the world of pro golf, focusing on course details, players to watch, swing analysis, and the occasional light-hearted romp through golf history. Interested in access to Tour Guide, all of our Club TFE content, a 10% discount at the Fried Egg Pro Shop, and other perks? Click here to join!