Arguably the most famous stretch of holes in golf, Augusta National’s Amen Corner plays a key role in deciding the winner of the Masters.
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Comprising a trio of treacherous holes, Amen Corner is one of the most sacred places in golf. The pros fear it and the fans love it for the exact same reason – it never fails to create drama.
Little did he know it at the time, but when the legendary golf writer Herbert Warren Wind wrote the following sentence in a 1958 issue of Sports Illustrated magazine, “…at the farthest reach of the Augusta National course – down in the Amen Corner where Rae’s Creek intersects the 13th fairway near the tee, then parallels the front edge of the green on the short 12th and finally swirls alongside the 11th green,” he unwittingly created one of the most iconic and enduring phrases in golf.
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Wind claimed at the time that he had long been searching for a monicker that would appropriately describe the treacherous three-hole stretch tucked in at the far end of the Augusta National estate. Wind had considered a number of phrases that incorporated the word ‘corner’ but none felt quite right. “Amen Corner” was just perfect. Not only did it align nicely with one of the most frequently cited descriptions of Augusta National as a “cathedral in the pines”, it hinted at the golfer’s need for a little hope, faith and divine inspiration in successfully navigating the trio of holes.
Although Wind claimed that he’d been inspired by a jazz song he’d listened to while studying at Yale called “Shouting at Amen Corner” by Mezz Mezzrow, later research showed that he’d misremembered the name. The song in question was actually “Shoutin’ in that Amen Corner” by Mildred Bailey.
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While many use it as a blanket term for the 11th, 12th and 13th holes, Amen Corner actually starts with the approach into the 11th green and concludes with the tee shot at the par-5 13th, at which point the mentally weary golfer is redirected back out into the heart of the golf course.
In addition to its propensity to deliver excitement year after year, what makes Amen Corner so special are the open vistas. From the 11th fairway, one can glance right and watch the group ahead tee off on 12 and peer into the distance to see golfers walk off the 13th tee. It’s an open amphitheatre where the drama plays out right in front of you.
The 11th hole: White Dogwood – Par 4, 505 yards
Arguably the toughest approach shot on the course due to the pond and sharp slopes in front of the green.
The 12th hole: Golden Bell – Par 3, 155 yards
A standard 9-iron for the top players under normal circumstances, but the swirling winds mess with the mind.
The 13th hole: Azalea – Par 5, 510 yards
The ultimate strategic par 5 where the tee shot is everything. Rae’s Creek lurks menacingly and snaps up anything underhit.
Amen Corner’s famous bridges
The two bridges that traverse Rae’s Creek at Amen Corner each commemorate an important player and moment in Masters history.
Ben Hogan’s bridge, which leads to the left side of the 12th green, pays tribute to his record low score of 274 in 1953, while Nelson bridge, which crosses the creek in front of the 13th tee, honours Byron Nelson’s 1937 win.
What it’s like to play Amen Corner
How this writer and eight-handicapper took on Amen Corner in 2019… and lived to tell the tale
Hole 11 – White Dogwood
From the quiet of one of Augusta’s most secluded tee boxes, there’s no sense of the drama to come as you peer towards a fairway that tumbles up and down like a rollercoaster. The cambers and the left-to-right dog-leg camouflage your landing area, which is mildly unsettling.
As you walk over the final crest, the hole transforms from tree-lined to open-planned. And there it is, Amen Corner spread out in front of you in all its glory – the 12th tee and green to the right, and the par-5 13th stretching into the distance.
After a solid drive, I had 132 yards to the pin. My caddie handed me my 9-iron and told me to aim at the right edge of the green. “Everything will feed down to the hole.”
I did as instructed, the ball caught the right fringe and cruised down towards the flag. My 15-foot birdie putt grazed the hole and I tapped in for an easy par.
Hole 12 – Golden Bell
It’s difficult to articulate how surreal it feels to stand on the 12th tee. On the one hand, you’re acutely aware that it is one of the truly great holes – the scene of incredible historical heartache and glory.
On the other, it just seems, well, so innocuous. After all, how difficult can a slightly downhill 145-yard hole really be?
In true amateur style, I opted for a 7-iron in anticipation of a slight mishit. Instead I striped it to the back fringe, from where I three-putted down the slope. Still, what would Francesco Molinari and Brooks Koepka have given for a bogey the day before?
Hole 13 – Azalea
It was at this hole where I appreciated for the first time the vast disparity in length now between tour pros and amateurs.
Playing off the member tees, which were some 40 yards forward of the tips, I hit a best-of-the-day drive that barely made it to the corner of the dog-leg. A solid 4-hybrid up the right side of the fairway left me a 90-yard wedge into the green.
A slightly heavy approach saw my ball catch one of the slopes in front of the green and trundle down into Rae’s Creek. A 40-yard pitch to six feet enabled me to scramble a bogey.
I had taken on and survived Amen Corner with a very respectable score of two-over par.