When this “stupid”, “terrible” hole came under criticism, Jack Nicklaus took action

The redesigned 16th hole in the Jack Nicklaus design at Muirfield Village.

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During the second round of the Memorial a year ago, Jason Day's tee shot on the watery par-3 16th hole at Muirfield Village went just wide to the right and landed in a greenside bunker.

Day, a Muirfield member, was not happy with the result.

I'm not entirely happy with something else either.

“You stupid hole,” he muttered, and the Golf Channel microphones picked up his whooshing sound.

By chance, the famous designer of the course and tournament presenter Jack Nicklaus was in the locker room and helped to comment on the action.

“Did he say 'stupid hole'?” Nicklaus said.

The remark hung in the air for a moment before Nicklaus chuckled.

“Can we turn the volume down?” joked announcer Terry Gannon.

More laughter.

“No, I think he might be right,” Nicklaus said.

In fact, Day was not the first player to criticize the 16th hole. Just that same day, Nicklaus had lunch with Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth, and the par 3 was a hotly debated topic.

“Jordan says, what a terrible hole,” Nicklaus recalled during his Friday visit to the range last year. “Well, I listen to that. You know, maybe it's Is a terrible hole. So how can I make it better? My goal here is to have 18 of the best holes possible, which, as I said, are firm, fast and fair. Nobody is going to complain about that. But if it's not fair and too difficult, then they have a problem. As I said, I listen to it, I react to it, and no golf course is perfect.”

The problem with hole 16 was that there wasn't enough landing space: it was too difficult to hold. As Spieth said after his first round last year, “It's 203 yards long, facing into the wind, with a solid green running away from you on either side and a plateau for you to land on.”

The result was shockingly low green-in-reg percentages. In the second round last year, of the 118 players in the field, only 30 (or 25.42%) hit the green. The following round wasn't much easier, with only 28.79% of the 66 players who made the cut hitting the green. Cumulatively for the week, only 32% of tee shots landed on the putting surface, making it the second most difficult green on the course, which is highly unusual for a par 3.

Nicklaus studied the data and, he said this week, he had a realization. “I sit there and think, 'Maybe it's not the shame that has to be ashamed, but me.'”

“So I was trying to figure out the best way to change that hole without ruining it, and I came up with the idea — we came up with the idea of ​​moving the tees about 30 yards to the right. Since that was no longer our maintenance area, we could move the tees to that area. That gave us a little bit more of a leeward hole, not so much over the water, but more down the water. I said, 'Well, you know, a lot of balls could come in from that front bunker, or we can give them the front of the green — I can give them the front of the green.'

Jack Nicklaus speaks to the media prior to the Memorial Tournament presented by Workday at Muirfield Village Golf Club on June 4, 2024 in Dublin, Ohio.

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“So basically I gave the players the bottom part of the green and the front part of the green, but the last two-thirds of the green I left as it was before – I didn't change it at all. That means you can play a shot now and get the ball in the front part of the green pretty easily, you can probably get it to where you might have a 20-, 30-foot putt for a birdie, and that's OK. I think a lot of guys would have been pretty happy to get away with 3 last year.

“But if you want to challenge the hole and challenge a pin position back left or back right or middle left, you're probably going to have to hit the ball a little bit further into the green, and you can leave it in front of the pin, make the long putt, that's fine, or you can challenge it. So I didn't want to give the hole away, but I also wanted to make it so there was really a save.”

Players seem to be OK with that (so far!). Xander Schaufelle called the hole “fairer now,” adding that by removing the front right bunker, players can now “be as defensive as they want without kind of faltering on a 50-yard pitch shot. So I think you're going to see a lot of balls land in that little area there, especially around the front two pins.”

Viktor Hovland said the wider part of the green was more inviting from the tee, but the large bunker to the right of the green seemed deeper to him. “It's a very difficult bunker shot for the back right pin,” he said.

Collin Morikawa noted that the area where the front-right bunker used to be is now a run-out, but “not as drastic as I thought it would be, so you can actually putt or chip across the green.” He added, “It's still a difficult tee shot. You're still hitting a 7-iron, 6-iron or 5-iron, depending on the wind, into a small, narrow green that doesn't have a lot of depth. Even with the change in angle, it's still a difficult tee shot. You can't get away with a bad shot out there.”

This has been confirmed in the first round and a half this week. On Thursday – with a pin in the front right – less than 40% of the 73 players hit the green. On Friday – with a pin in the front left that was dangerously close to the water – only 8 of the 37 (21.62%) players who had completed the hole at the time of this writing had found the putting surface from the tee.

Nevertheless, players' strokes are increasing and decreasing more frequently. A year ago, the hole averaged 0.364 strokes over par, making it the second most difficult hole. This year, the average score is still over par, but only just, at 0.019. Ten holes are more difficult to play.

Mission accomplished? Let's give the players a few more rounds to think.

Alan Bastian Publisher

As managing editor of, Bastable is responsible for providing the editorial direction and voice of one of the game's most respected and visited news and service sites. He wears many hats – editing, writing, ideating, dreaming of one day breaking 80 – and feels privileged to work with such an incredibly talented and hard-working group of writers, editors and producers. Before taking the reins at, he was features editor at GOLF Magazine. A graduate of the University of Richmond and the Columbia School of Journalism, he lives in New Jersey with his wife and four children.