Memorial Tournament patrons accustomed to something new and different about Muirfield Village Golf Club won’t be disappointed this year.
The amphitheater at the picturesque finishing hole will have an enlarged rustic backdrop, owing to an extension of the clubhouse atop the spectators’ mound behind the green – the latest major improvement at Jack Nicklaus’ storied tournament.
That expansion – which includes a bridge connecting to the adjacent Pavilion, plus a two-story dual-purpose building near the front of the clubhouse – is the only obvious new amenity. Features on or near the course that are geared to patrons, several new last year, will continue. Some will be tweaked.
Generally out of public view but still significant is the rebuild of most of the interior of the clubhouse, which is virtually a signature on the embankment above the 18th green. Most of the inside was renovated, with numerous changes, including converting the dining room into a less formal gathering place. The pro shop, a shopping mecca for many tournament-goers, remains intact.
The upgrade will be far more obvious on the exterior. One big change is permanent towers for television crews and adjacent sky suites, both of which had previously been in temporary structures covered in dark green fabric. The expansion carries on the traditional rustic exterior architectural features that blend the building into its natural surroundings.
A new overhead walkway between the clubhouse and the Pavilion signals subtle changes that many patrons will experience. In particular, the Pavilion will have an expanded role this year, tournament spokesman Tom Sprouse says.
Previously, clubhouse passes had allowed patrons to view the finishing hole from the clubhouse balcony. Now passes for clubhouse access are gone and have been replaced by Pavilion badges that are sold individually and in badge packages.
At the Pavilion, which is similar in size to the clubhouse space that used to be accessible, visitors will have a great view, Sprouse says. Food and beverages will be available for purchase; Pavilion passes include a $25 food and drink allowance.
The overhead walkway creates a tunnel over a heavily used ground-level patron pathway between the Pavilion and the clubhouse. The walk had been a favorite spectator spot to see players and perhaps get an autograph as they left the scoring tent and stopped in a small outdoor area by the Pavilion for television interviews. That interview “scrum,” as Sprouse describes it, is being moved into the Pavilion, meaning players will have to go outside to greet fans.
Tournament officials will designate other places where patrons may seek out players. Moving the up-close player viewing area will do away with the crowds that built when more popular players were moving through.
Guests of approximately 40 corporate hospitality hosts in Golden Bear Village, moved from off-course to an area between the 10th and 18th fairways last year, will be treated to food and other goodies provided by Cameron Mitchell Catering, brand new to the tournament this year. The clubhouse kitchen continues to provide concession-stand food and beverages.
Last year, the tournament introduced an all-encompassing social media center in a tent near the concession area at a busy pedestrian intersection along the 18th fairway. It offered tables plus social media devices. This year, concession service is being returned to a walkup tent and the social media center is being converted to a nearby walk-up stand as well. The change, Sprouse says, makes both more “patron-friendly.” Organizers are considering adding another social media site on the course. Both would complement a similar center tournament presenter Nationwide Insurance offers off the course near the main entrance. In conjunction with the effort to engage patrons in social media, trivia contests with prizes are returning as well.
The large panels portraying past tournament winners mounted along the main entrance walkway, which were introduced last year, will return. Last year, Tiger Woods won the Memorial for the fifth time and tied Nicklaus’ career win record.
Traditionally, tournament host Nicklaus orders changes each year to the course, which first opened in 1974, two years before the first Memorial Tournament. These adjustments have ranged from simply redoing traps or greens and moving streams to rebuilding holes entirely. Last year, the practice facility was rebuilt. The last big on-course change was the redesign and rebuilding of the par 3 16th hole two years ago, which Nicklaus felt was needed to create three interesting finishing holes.
But there were no changes to the course this year, which means Nicklaus deems it ready for the high-caliber play it will host from May 27 to June 2 for the Memorial – and again Oct. 1-6 when the Presidents Cup arrives, bringing with it a dozen of America’s best players to take on a dozen top international players from countries other than Europe.
Presidents Cup tickets are offered at special prices for Memorial Tournament badge buyers. The Cup’s web site says the Memorial, which is offering tickets through June 2, had sold more than 7,000 by March 1. Tickets are $210 for a weekly pass or $360 each for access to the Captain’s Club for the week.
Weekly Memorial patron badges are $155. Pavilion access for the week costs $235. Ticket packages start at $1,000 and top out at $8,500. Admission is free for children ages 12 and under with a ticketed adult.
Because the Memorial draws visitors from afar, it offers travel packages for six hotels, each of which includes a two night stay, a patron badge and a $25 food and beverage card. The Crowne Plaza Downtown is adding two tickets to the Arena Grand movie theater and a $25 gift card to use in Arena District restaurants. That package costs $386 and is the most expensive hotel package. The least expensive is $272 at the Comfort Inn Polaris, followed closely by the Hyatt Place Worthington at $276. Chase Suites Hotel, at $304, is the only hotel in Dublin to offer packages.
Duane St. Clair is a contributing editor. Feedback welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.