Behind the Curtains at Augusta National
Has designed golf courses for over 30 years collaborating with other professionals to produce 23 new golf courses, and renovate 15 existing courses in 5 countries. Based in the United States and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Golf course architect for 25 years – located in Richmond, VA. Member of the ASGCA since 2006, retired as U.S. Army Lt. Colonel. Notable award-winning designs and renovations include Kinloch Golf Club, The Old White, Country Club of Florida, Ballyhack Golf Club, Independence Golf Club. www.georgegolfdesign.com.
Has been a golf course architect since 1989, a member of the ASGCA since 2004 and lives just outside Toronto. www.Andrewgolf.com.
Member ASGCA, in practice since 1983 and has done renovation work at more than250 golf courses. Has designed 20 new golf courses while providing renovation services to over 250 courses specializing in Donald Ross, A.W. Tillinghast and Charles Banks courses. Architects GC, and restoration of Llanerch CC, are examples of his work. www.kayandsmithdesign.com.
First question: Founder Bobby Jones and course architect Alister MacKenzie patterned the creation of Augusta National Golf Club after many of the qualities found at The Old Course at St. Andrews which both men respected immensely. Has the movement in recent years away from the original intent sought by Jones and MacKenzie been a good or bad thing from an architectural dimension?
MORAN: The ideas embodied in the ancient qualities of the Old Course are important. The further we move away from those ancient ideas the less we may enjoy our present pursuits.
KAY: It’s both. The ‘risk and reward’ is not as much as they intended it but they could have never imagined how good these players would be come both in talent and in equipment improvement — including the maintenance improvements made.
MANDELL: When I think of Augusta National, I think that MacKenzie’s course is long gone and what remains is “The Masters Course”. It is tough to keep a golf hole relevant in terms of angles when everyone hits 300 yard drives. I have no problem extending the length of the hole to give some challenge and restoring the possibility of a long iron as an approach on a par four. But I am not in favor of narrowing holes with trees as a defense. Why we wonder why every club in America is overgrown with trees I’ll never understand and now it will only get worse as more and more greens chairmen see the narrowing of Augusta.
ANDREW: It was originally a course full of width and options. Competitors had the opportunity to play for positions that made certain pin locations much easier to access. For many of the holes, the addition of rough and trees have removed these options. Those holes are less compelling to watch.
KAY: I would return to all fariway cut. It would allow the balls to roll more into bad areas and as well as make the course more strategic.
GEORGE: Yes, I would stay with the “second cut” for aesthetics, the potential for strategy, and playability. The “second cut” adds more definition to the course and could be the result of a flyer lie, which could bring about an additional half-shot of difficulty into the recovery.
MORAN: Rough introduces lines on the land which can cause an unattractive look if they are straight or create a uniform width of fairway. The natural resources unique to the property should be better used for strategic effect as opposed to an unnatural, artificial line of rough.
Discuss the choke points with planted trees introduced in recent times — most notably at the par-4 7th, par-4 11th, par-5 15th and par-4 18th. Has Augusta National overdosed on tree inclusion dimension and does such usage push aside the Jones/ MacKenzie position that wider fairways encourage different angles of attack?
MORAN: Jones would approve of the narrow fairway at hole 7 which he recognized as adding challenge to the hole. The narrowing of hole 11 has taken away the distinctions between different angles of approach to the green. The large grouping of trees at 15 is excessive and has diminished the exciting play there. Having just one tree on the left side within a fairway corridor restored back to what existed many years ago. The tee shot on hole 18 is a freak show. Watching it is like reliving dreams every golfer has where unnatural conditions conspire against you while trying to make a tee shot.
MANDELL: Yes. Absolutely. Don’t like any of it. It is to combat a power game and for the Masters Course, how can you blame them. Remember, the Jones / MacKenzie Augusta is no longer.
GEORGE: Overall, the course has been reduced to marching down the center and hitting the same old shots. With the old width, occasionally we would see some interesting and downright crazy recovery shots being attempted. Ruins the original MacKenzie intent.
ANDREW: It was a massive over-reaction to scoring. Not only were the plantations out of character with the design, but they also fail to respect the original intentions for the course. Where they impinge upon play, the trees should be removed and the corridor widths returned.
KAY: I’m split both ways on this question. I like the wider design but with the forgiveness of the golf clubs and golf balls today maybe it makes sense. the holes are still fairely wide.
Jones and MacKenzie both believed “ground game” options– where players can use the bounce of the ball on the ground –should be available when favored by a player. Can the concept of a “ground game” really have relevancy for the world’s best players who generally prefer to fly their ball from point A to point B?
MORAN: Yes, but do the following: 1) restore the original greens that had narrow wings; 2) restore or enhance the undulations in front of and through these narrow plots of putting surfaces; and, 3) maintain a tight cut surrounding the greens.
Best hole at Augusta National and why?
GEORGE: Easily the 13th. Provides so many options to play and rewards a heroic second appropriately.
M. James Ward, a member of Golf Writer’s Association of America (GWAA) and past member of Met Golf Writer’s Association (MGWA), has reported on golf’s grandest events since 1980 in a variety of forums.