Au­gusta’s next change?

Leaked plans sug­gest Au­gusta Na­tional is pon­der­ing an­other course change. Here’s all you need to know.

Golf World (UK) - - THE SPIN -

1 What are they changing – and why?

Pre­lim­i­nary site plans have been filed propos­ing the 5th tee on the 455-yard, par-4 hole is pushed back an es­ti­mated 20-30 yards, across Old Ber­ck­mans Road. This would ex­tend the hole to 475-485 yards and present a sterner tee shot. Such a change – which at this stage is just one op­tion Au­gusta Na­tional is con­sid­er­ing – would help al­le­vi­ate con­ges­tion at the 4th green and cur­rent 5th tee box, which at present sit just a few yards apart. And of course it would stiffen the hole’s de­fences. Not­ing that the club had taken con­trol of the western bor­der where the 4th and 5th meet, Au­gusta chair­man Billy Payne spoke of the op­tions the club now had. “It gives us some way to ex­pand or lengthen some of those holes... and all of them are un­der re­view.”

When Fred Ri­d­ley re­placed Payne as chair­man last sum­mer, he noted that “Old Ber­ck­mans Road cer­tainly gives us some op­por­tu­ni­ties and op­tions, and we are look­ing at those.”

2 Why did the 5th take pri­or­ity?

Au­gusta Na­tional pur­chased Old Ber­ck­mans Road and closed it to traf­fic in 2015, open­ing up the op­tion of length­en­ing the hole. If the club does change the 5th, it would be the club’s first ma­jor change since the length­en­ing of six holes in 2006. The 5th was not amongst them, hav­ing been re­vamped in 2003 by mov­ing the tees back 20 yards and ex­tend­ing the two fair­way bunkers by 80 yards to bring them in play. Cur­rently the hole needs a 315-yard drive to carry the left-side bunkers, mean­ing most golfers could no longer shorten the hole by play­ing to the left. The hole plays as the fifth tough­est in Mas­ters his­tory, and was also the fifth hard­est hole at the 2017 Mas­ters, but in re­cent years the ap­proach to the green has needed lit­tle more than a short iron in for many. Rus­sell Hen­ley’s ea­gle in the fi­nal round at last year’s tour­na­ment will have con­firmed what Au­gusta al­ready knew, par­tic­u­larly as he took driver, 7-iron.

3 What’s likely to change next?

Hav­ing pur­chased land from neigh­bour­ing Au­gusta Coun­try Club, Au­gusta Na­tional now has room to ex­pand around Amen Cor­ner. In its his­tory, the 13th (Aza­lea) has been length­ened three times, most no­tably in 2000 when an ex­tra 25 yards were added. In 2016, AGNC Chair­man Billy Payne ac­knowl­edged that 13 was be­ing care­fully con­sid­ered for fur­ther work. “We cre­ate plans look­ing into the fu­ture, when we be­lieve that the shot value of cer­tain shots, prin­ci­pally, has been im­pacted by how far the ball is now trav­el­ling,” said Payne. “As a con­se­quence, 13 is one of those holes we are study­ing.” We’d ex­pect them to add as much as 60 yards to the hole, tak­ing it to a more ro­bust 570 yards.

The deep fair­way bunkers cur­rently re­quire a carry of 315 yards around the dog­leg – add up to 30 yards on top if the plans go ahead. Though cur­rently at the plan­ning stage, if agreed, work should be­gin on May 1 and should be com­pleted by early Novem­ber. The plans don’t cur­rently in­di­cate any change to the 5th green, whose large humps make it one of Au­gusta’s trick­i­est. Mag­no­lia – plays as an up­hill, dog-leg left hole and is Au­gusta’s fifth hard­est hole – both his­tor­i­cally and based on last year’s event. With the tee boxes moved back 20-30 yards, Old Ber­ck­mans Road would need to be re-routed be­hind the new tee box.

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