Once a Secret
Each spring Augusta, Georgia is transformed into a mecca for golfers and non-golfers from all over the world. Few other sporting events receive as much attention as The Masters. The club goes to great length to ensure the property is different each spring with attention to years past. Changes to the course take place on an annual basis, some subtle and of course others not as much. Augusta National has always done a good job of keeping changes a closely guarded secret but modern satellites and drones have made this more difficult. The club has made significant changes since the 2022 Masters Tournament. I have previewed these changes to the back nine below to illustrate what it will mean for patrons and television viewers at home.
Changes Making Headlines
Augusta National #11
The 11th has always been one of the toughest, most demanding and iconic holes at Augusta National. The opening to ‘Amen Corner’, the 11th is a long par 4 requiring length, accuracy and precision from tee to green. For 2023 the hole stretches to 520 yards by comparison to the 505 yards it has played since 2006. The tee shot has moved to the northeast of the property realigning the tee complex. This change has been made to accommodate the addition of a new tee for the 15th hole. The new tee complex on 11 straightens the hole so as to entice players down the right side bringing the trees into play. The trees have been thinned out and a larger portion of fairway has been reinstated allowing for escape shots on drives pushed right.
Augusta National #13
The Length Issue
The 13th hole is the final piece to ‘Amen Corner’ featuring holes 11, 12 and 13 at Augusta National. The severe dogleg, steep cambered fairway, and creek fronting the green make this one of the great risk reward par 5’s in the world. Modern day equipment, coupled with bigger, stronger golfers has reduced the original challenge laid out by Bobby Jones and Dr. Alister MacKenzie. Previously, golfers directed a drive to the corner or slightly around the dogleg. Nowadays long hitters, namely Bubba Watson and Bryson DeChambeau had begun directing their tee shot straight over the enormous trees left of the creek to the low side of the dogleg. Subsequently in 2014, Bubba Watson hit a 56 degree sand wedge into the green for his second shot!
Addition of New Land
The club recently had been working with their neighbor, Augusta Country Club, to purchase what was the clubs 9th hole. It was a shortish par 4 that ran behind the 12th green and 13th tee of Augusta National. This had long been the issue for making any significant change to the hole and restoring its somewhat lost integrity.
Thus moving the new tee back and slightly right will remove any option of hitting over the corner to the golfers left. The new tee will force the longer hitters to play out to the corner with a fairway wood while short to mid hitters will play a driver to the same position. The decision will again beckon whether to go for the green in two using a fairway wood or long iron as previously intended, or lay back to a comfortable distance with a wedge and playing the hole the ‘old fashioned’ way.
These changes at 13 are probably going to garner the greatest attention at this years Masters Tournament. I for one look forward to seeing the differences in strategy this year in comparison to the approach of the past 10 years or so.
Augusta National #15
Reviving the Risk
Modern power and distance are the contributing factors to lengthening the 15th. The hole has been easily reachable over the past two decades for most players. The hardest shot into this green is from the down slope over the pond for the golfers third shot. In recent years most players hit their drives to where they have a relatively flat lie to the green for their second shot. The addition of length may instead force more players to layup. This will result in fewer birdies and place precision on distance and spin control on approach. Controlling trajectory off such a steep down slope is difficult and the depth of the green, particularly to a left pin will make holding the green challenging. Along with the 13th, this addition of length will undeniably be an enhancement for the viewers and on site patrons.
As with every year, the countdown clock began on New Year’s with each night edging us closer to Masters week. There has been significant speculation as to whether Augusta National would allow LIV players to play the event. Undoubtedly they they have made the right decision in allowing those players to compete. I think the majority of us as golf fans are slowly growing tired of the cattiness between some of the games elite. As we edge toward Monday of Masters week we all hope the focus remains squarely on the golf course. With so many players in top form it is anyone’s guess who will come out wearing the Green Jacket. The changes Augusta National has made will surely provide the memorable finish on the back nine we are accustomed to.