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PGA Tour pros hate new tee and changes to 16th hole at Memorial

Jason Day called the par-3 16th at Muirfield Village Golf Club “a stupid hole.” Jordan Spieth called it “not a great hole in pretty much everyone’s opinion that’s playing today,” and one caddy when asked about the changes that course architect Jack Nicklaus signed off on to the hole noted, “it was a crap hole before and it’s a crap hole now.”

Shots fired!

It’s important to point out that Muirfield Village, which Nicklaus built with help from Desmond Muirhead in the early 1970s, is widely regarded as one of if not Nicklaus’s finest layout of more than 400+ courses he’s designed worldwide and one of the most beloved courses on the PGA Tour. Still, it’s not too often that Tour pros publicly pan a design change, especially at Jack’s Place, where the tournament host has won more majors than any player that ever teed it up. But such is the case this week at the Memorial after Nicklaus added a new tee box this year that stretched the hole to 220 yards.

“I don’t like the 16th length. It’s just not really a hole that should be played at 220,” Day said.

The par-3, which requires a player to carry a lake to a green that even Nicklaus himself described this week as the size of “a postage stamp,” always has played tough: it was the sixth-hardest hole in 2022, and in tournament history it has played to an average of 3.16, the third most difficult hole. On Friday, with the back tee box in use and measuring 211 yards, it played to 3,347, the toughest hole at Muirfield Village, relinquishing just eight birdies while the field struggled to 38 bogeys, four doubles and one dreaded “other.”

“After we redesigned the hole prior to the 2013 Presidents Cup, it just didn’t play like I wanted or what the Memorial field liked,” Nicklaus said in describing the hole in this year’s Memorial tournament program. “The green wouldn’t hold shots, especially on the back left. It turned out that the left side pitched away from you, and that should not have been the case. So, we took eight inches from the middle of the green and added eight inches to the left. Now, although golfers are using the same club as before, the green runs towards them and not away from them, and thus holds shots better.”

During his pre-tournament press conference on Tuesday, Nicklaus elaborated on the new tee box – he also added another 20 yards to the 17th hole – and looked forward to its use.

“It’s probably downhill maybe 14, 15 feet. So it doesn’t play as long as the yardage says, but it’s a rather imposing shot to sit back on a tee and look down there and say, that little postage stamp is where I’m going to try to hit it from here? ” Nicklaus said. “To me, today it’s a driver, but not for them. They will probably have to go all the way back from an 8-iron to a 7-iron. But anyway, it’s pretty good.”

2023 Memorial Tournament

2023 Memorial Tournament

Jordan Spieth plays his shot from the fairway on the 13th hole during the first round of the Memorial Tournament golf tournament at the Muirfield Village Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Not if you ask Spieth.

“Well, 16’s just not a great hole in pretty much everyone’s opinion that’s playing today,” Spieth said on Thursday when the field made just five birdies all day at 16. “So you’re just trying to get a ball, get a putter in your hand for 2. It’s 203 yards adjusted into the wind with a firm green that runs away from you on both sides and has one shelf that you can land it into.”

“It’s just a small target,” Jon Rahm said. “That’s it.”

Even former Tour pro turned NBC/Golf Channel analyst Smylie Kaufman tweeted a dig at the much-maligned hole saying, “Besides the 16th for the most part the golf course rewards great shots and penalizes bad or just off shots.”

When two-time Memorial champion Patrick Cantlay, who shot 67 on Friday despite a subpar putting performance, was asked to name his best shot of the day, he chose his tee shot at 16, even though he ended up having to chip and scramble for a pair

“Believe it or not, I hit a really nice 6-iron on 16 that landed pin high and bounced over the green. But that might have been my best swing,” he said.

How did that look in the air?

“It looked great,” Cantlay said.

Did you think you were going to have to work that hard for a 3?

“Well,” Cantlay said.

And that’s the rub: good shots aren’t necessarily being rewarded.

Could it be that Nicklaus will hear the bellyaching and head back to the drawing board yet again? We’ll have to wait and see.

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek