The Masters is held every April at Augusta National in Georgia – and yet every year the same questions seem to pop up about the first major.
As a result, we decided to tackle one of the most common questions there is….
How hard IS Augusta National?
Last April, 89 of the world’s best golfers arrived at Augusta with high hopes of taming the greens, blitzing the par 5s and slipping on the green jacket. But by the end, 23 of them had recorded at least one round in the 80s and just six of them were under par.
So what gives? Why is this picture-perfect and seemingly rough-free layout so tough to score on? We divided the challenge into four key sections and asked a selection of experts to reveal the truth.
Do the tee shots at The Masters drive golfers crazy?
If you can set the ball off fairly straight and hit 280 yards, then the answer to our opening question appears to be a straightforward no.
“Augusta is generally quite generous off the tee,” says Francesco Molinari, and Jason Day agrees. “If you’re driving well, the fairways are wide in comparison with normal tour events,” says the Australian.
But what if you can’t set the ball off straight and hit 280? Well, then you may have the odd problem.
“Anyone who is a right-handed slicer could easily cart a few tee shots into trees near the tees,” says BBC Radio 5 Live analyst Andrew Murray. “The 9th and 18th are good examples; if you start the ball too far left, you’ll hit the trees and your drive will go no more than 40 yards.”
And the problems don’t end there. “The elevation changes will also cause regular golfers some big issues the pros never seem to face,” believes Murray. “For example, if you don’t hit a good one off the 1st, you’ll beleft with a blind second shot to a green that is still miles away. And if you slice one up the right of the par-5 13th, it’ll hit the slope and not go anywhere, leaving you a long second just to get into position for your third shot.”
Are approaches at Augusta National a big issue?
Jason Day calls Augusta “a second shot golf course” and his fellow Australian Adam Scott shares this opinion. “If you are a little bit off with your iron play, you are going to have a really long day on the greens, putting from long range and not giving yourself a lot of chances,” reveals the 2013 Masters Champion.
This might not sound too bad, but Scott isn’t finished. “Also, if you make mistakes in the wrong areas, there is disaster waiting to happen on every shot,” he warns.
And if there are disasters waiting to happen on every shot for the world’s top professionals, imagine the kind of card-ruining nightmares that must be lurking for the average golfer. Actually, don’t imagine them. Sit back and grimace, as Murray describes them for you.
“If you don’t have the spin control that the top guys have, there is potential trauma on every hole,” he states. “Take the 3rd. On the telly it looks like a really innocuous hole, but unless you pitch it on the tabletop green with a proper shot it will run through the back and you’ll be left with an extremely tough chip onto a green that runs away from you.
The 7th is the same. It might look easy when the pros play it, but if you’re a regular Joe going into that shallow green with a 5-iron you’re going to end up in the front bunker or over the back all day long.
The 10th is another green mid-handicappers have little chance of hitting with the club they’ll be playing in, and I also need to mention the 15th. Wherever you lay it up, you will be playing off a downslope to a tabletop green. Because of this, anyone who doesn’t catch the ball perfectly will either chunk it into the water or thin it over the back, and both of these things bring a double, triple or even quadruple bogey into the equation.”
Is the short game a real struggle in The Masters?
Former Masters and Open champion Zach Johnson possesses one of the best short games in professional golf, and yet even he reckons there are spots just off the green at Augusta where “you will not get it up-and- down”. “There is de nitely a place you just can’t miss it on every hole,” concurs Dustin Johnson, while Adam Scott simply says: “If you miss on the short side, then you’ll be chipping back down to 40 feet and trying to avoid a three-putt double.”
Blimey. If Adam Scott can only get the ball to 40ft, what would happen to a regular club player who short-sided themselves at Augusta? “You would not be able to keep the ball on the putting surface,” believes Murray. “Because of the slopes and the rmness of the greens, even chipping from not bad spots is nigh on impossible for most ordinary golfers.”
“The par-3 6th is a really good example. The green has three levels and one of them is a tiny plateau at the top right. If the pin is up here and you get on the wrong side of the slope your ball will run right down and off the front of the green. From here you can chip or putt up the slope. Whichever method you choose, if you hit it too softly it’ll come back to your feet, and if you hit it slightly too hard it’ll go over the other side of the green. It’s a nightmare.”
Will putting at Augusta National send you loopy?
We’ll start this section with good news. Due to the purity of the greens, the world’s top pros actually make more 3-10ft putts at Augusta than at other PGA Tour events. Now for a double helping of bad news.
First, the world’s elite golfers make far fewer putts of 10ft and over at Augusta than at other PGA Tour events. Second: “Augusta is built for people who are comfortable on very, very fast, undulating greens and the average amateur golfer just has absolutely no idea how to putt on these kinds of surfaces,” says Murray.
“Club players near me think the greens at Stockport are fast when they get to 10 or 11 on the stimpmeter, but that’s child’s play,” he continues. “At Augusta the greens run at 14 on the stimp, are exposed to the wind and have a few VW Beetles buried in them. Because of this putts from long distance are almost impossible to judge, making things incredibly tough for the average Joe. The rst time they played here, I reckon most 14 or 15-handicappers would three-putt 10- 12 times and throw in a couple of four- putts too. It really is brutally tough.”