How Augusta National is setting the attention of players at a distance

When it comes to great championships, the creation of golf course matters. The course history of the players who have won there.

Arnold Palmer Cherry Hills Ben Hogan in the Mirror. Tom Watson at Turnberry.

Tiger Woods, Wayne, Pebble Beach, St. Andrews, Walla Walla and Augusta National when he won four successive titles in 2000-1 called “Tiger Slam.”

But Augusta National Golf Club, the host of the Masters, is different from the rest. It was originally created by two great ones: Dr. Alastair Mackenzie and Bobby Jones, great enthusiasts. He is the only Major to be played on the same course year after year. And their champions return as members this week. Sing the song birds and blooming Azleas.

There is only one problem: Modern professional golfers are moving the ball so far that classic golf courses are dominating and some are struggling to find ways to stay relevant and challenging.

Just two years ago, Bryson DeChambeau dominated wing football, considered one of the toughest places in the championship to win the United States Open. He shot it as far as he could, and then let it sit on the green. The US Open’s strong, high defect had little effect on him (though he was the only player to finish evenly).

Now, the days of players like Jane Sarzen, who won the Masters in 1935, beat Wood in the par-5 15th Green. But the fear is that instead it would be a pitcher to kill someone like Woods-7-Iron in the same green, much easier club to kill.

Augusta National is aware that Masters transfers golf. Maintaining a course from clubbing and ball hunting that helps players increase their distance is crucial. Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles, another classic course, its future as a major site was questioned earlier this year when, at Genesis Innovation, players drive to nearby Fairways to get an easier route to Green. Did.

So how does Augusta continue to challenge national players and stand up to golf balls that go and spin at high stops, and drivers who launch those balls at 330 yards and beyond? It is a combination of technology and psychology.

“Augusta National is growing in depth with justice where they can,” said Ben Crane Shaw, 1984 and 1995 champion and a prominent golf architect. “Subtle changes have been well thought out.”

For such a historic course, Augusta National brings many changes each year. This year, he tallied the 11th and 15th holes, which have become less strategic with players pushing away, and 18th, waiting to swallow any good shots with his big bunker.

The included distance is around 50 yards for the three holes, if the tees are to be pushed back. The goal is to change how the players pass those holes. This is not a new problem.

“There has been a long debate on Augusta National since Bobby Jones and Alastair Mackenzie designed the course,” said Joe Bowden, a local doctor, longtime volunteer and member of the nearby Augusta Country Club. “The first year the Masters was played in 1934, the course length was 6,700 yards. This year the course will officially measure 2022 yards for 7,510 tournaments.

There is still a limit to the length. As a magnificent Augusta to watch and experience on national television, this is not at all far-fetched. Along Washington Road, Magnolia Lane is just as spectacular as a commercial route; Established neighbors; And Augusta Country Club, National, as its neighbors call it, is the only place to go in the second largest city in the state.

A few years ago, the club went so far as to buy a nice hole from the Augusta Country Club, so it would have room to dig its 13th hole. In a letter to its members, the then president of the Augusta Country Club noted that Augusta would rebuild part of its 8th and 9th holes as part of the National Deal.

Yet the club can also adjust the speed of the fairways and the green at their discretion, depending on how they water them but in which direction. “People don’t think how fast it can accelerate or slow down a course,” said a former assistant golf professional in Augusta who requested anonymity because employees were asked to talk about club affairs. not allowed. “But it’s a lot bigger than you think.”

For a club that regularly adjusts their angles and hole lengths, there are more amazing things that they can do and still stay true to the original intent of the course. Michael Hertzhan, who designed the 2017 US Open site Erin Hales, points to several things that the club can do to mute the impact of distance and still be consistent with Mackenzie’s designs. One is to keep the trees in play. They can also be used to block shortcuts that players can take. “There are only two dangers that make a big difference,” he said, “of trees and water.

The other is to think differently about bunkers. There are twice as many bunkers, 44, as before when the course was made, but only 12 are Fairway bunkers. Of those, only three are in the top nine where the championship is usually decided, and two of them are at 18.

“The Fairways are basically bunkers equipped,” said Herzhan, who advocates for the bankers to enter the Fairways, known as Cross Bunkers. “Mackenzie didn’t cross the Cross Bunkers. If someone wants to strengthen it, they can use Cross Bunker or more Bunker in Fairway. You can try hitting the big drive and threatening it or hitting a small club and hitting a tall iron.

Of course, all that classic courses are fighting for is technology: a ball that flies farther than when colliding with a driver that makes it spring like a trampoline. It’s a problem the two governing bodies of golf are addressing, with an update released in March. Observers think it is time to make changes to the equipment.

Golf Course Architect and Observer, Geoff Shackelford, said that with a lot of respect for the players, it has nothing to do with who is pushing the ball. “You put the technology in the hands of those who are 10 years old, and they are going to come back. Technology that is 30 years old – they will really go back.

“There are many things Augusta can do to make it harder,” Shackelford added. “It’s not going to be irrelevant, but it does add some charm when you’re out there doing something we know.”

Shackelford noted that previous attempts to bring the distance back were met with resistance, but that did not happen until the March announcements from the American Golf Association and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club. Technology, he said, is difficult to stand out as a player. “It probably silences the extra special abilities of some super elite players.”

The length, though, can be misleading on Augusta. Greg Norman was one of the longest players of his era. When he found himself in a play-off with Sue Bellister in 1987, the short play made for a wild three-shot, and Larry Mays, a relatively short hitter, seemed to have the advantage over Norman.

But that’s not how it ended. On the second playoff hole, enter the inning for the bird to win the table playoff.

“With his length, Greg was an advantage,” Mays said. “Thank God golf is longer than the longevity. Long-range hitters are not always winners.

Still, Mays said he, too, would be in favor of the USGA, addressing what it did at a technology distance.

“I know it’s difficult to bring it back,” Mays said. “But I hope golfers don’t hit it anymore for 20 years. I’m hopeful that Augusta will still be relevant. It’s a special place and a special event.

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