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