Why Muirfield Village’s double-header will be a fascinating study in course setup

Muirfield Village golf Club

In a PGA Tour season of weird, one-off instances, the biggest oddity might be consecutive events at the same course. That’s set to happen in July at Muirfield Village with a Workday-sponsored event held immediately prior to the annual Memorial tournament. How could the same course play differently for events held just days apart? We’re about to find out.  

The first event, which is expected to be named the Workday Charity Open, is a replacement for the canceled John Deere Classic. It will likely play slightly easier than the Memorial tournament thanks to slower green speeds and slightly shorter rough.

The PGA Tour informed players Friday that the greens during the Workday event will run at a speed of about 11 on the Stimpmeter while the Memorial greens will run about 13 or 13.5. That jump is undoubtedly a significant one for the players, but also for the course setup. The memo issued by the Tour Rules Committee clarified that slower greens offer an increased amount of plausible hole locations. More hole locations simply allows the committee a greater range of variability with teeing grounds and intended angles for players as they hit into greens. In sum, it’ll likely lead to easier putting conditions and fewer three putts, but it will present Muirfield Village in a slightly different way than Tour fans are used to seeing it and Memorial regulars are used to playing it.

The difference in rough length will not be quite as significant, but the Workday event will have it cut to 3.5 inches while the Memorial will feature grass in the 4-inch range. These differences should work to dispel any concerns that the two events will play the same.

The Workday event is classified as an “open” event and will feature a 150-player field. With 60-ish players making the cut, the Workday event will feature the traffic of roughly 420 rounds over four days, posing quite the test for maintenance staff to provide a mint-conditioned course each day. The Memorial tournament will have 120 players (many of them duplicates) playing just days later. Four hundred and twenty rounds worth of divots from similar layup positions make the teeing ground decisions particularly interesting for the second tournament. Naturally, the same tournament staff will run both events. 

In order to keep the course in top shape, it will be off-limits to play on each Monday of the tournament weeks. While the driving range and practice facilities will be open, the course will not even be available for players to walk. Though part of that exists for chemical spraying on the course, the other part is “operational” as the Tour memo put it. Consider that day similar to the 30-minute break between Golf Channel and CBS broadcasts known as the “coverage gap.” The second event is sponsored by Nationwide and Monday will also serve as a change-over day for various things like on-course signage.

What can we truly expect from multiple course setups? It will be difficult to tell until the final stats are analyzed. But if players make a greater percentage of putts from 10-15 feet on a lower Stimpmeter rating, would you be surprised? We will finally know what the difference of two on the Stimpmeter really means for the best players in the world. Those types of conclusions, at least for one course, won’t be anecdotal any longer.

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