Ian Woosnam, former Masters champion and world No.1, shares the secrets of taming Augusta National – and reveals how you can add these key shots to your game.
Hitting The Draw Off The Tee
If you want to do well at Augusta, a powerful and reliable draw off the tee is an absolute must. I’ve always hit a nice high draw, which for the Masters was perfect, though with the modern equipment it’s very hard to not hit dead straight! A hole like the 10th is really demanding and you’ve got to nail the draw or else you’re in the trees. Here’s how I do it.
Before you start
I was always taught to tee up on the side of where the trouble is. If you want to hit a draw, like at the 10th, where it’s so bloody tight and you really have to whip it round, you have to get far right on the tee to help get round the corner.
Maintaining height is crucial for any shot, but when you’re trying for a wide, low arc it’s essential to keep your head still.
Rotate your arms
Rolling the hands over to release the clubhead helps maximise the distance on the shot and ensure the draw. It should feel like a
shot you might play in squash or tennis.
For me, this is the most important part – it’s all about the stance and the ball position rather than anything complicated like toeing the club in. I aim the clubface where I want the ball to finish and the feet and shoulders out to the right. Take it away on the inside and simply swing along the line of the feet.
I try to look at the back of the ball as it promotes a wide swing, brings the hips forward and makes me come in shallower.
High or low
For a low draw, move the ball back in your stance (above); for more height go forwards. It’s about keeping it simple.
Wind puts the gust into Augusta; I work around it by teeing it higher downwind and lower, to penetrate, when hitting into it.
Swing within yourself at all times. If you have missed the fairway, be realistic about what you can do from the rough. The average body is not supple enough to swing as hard as Tiger. I see so many amateurs hit their ball in the rough and stride in holding a 3-wood when I’m thinking 9-iron.
Controlled Iron Play
The par-3 12th at Augusta is a classic because it can be so pivotal. It is certainly a shot that troubles us pros because you know that if you get it wrong it can easily be the start of some serious problems. It’s all about choosing the right club and controlling the flight. You might not ever get to play the hole, but the principles of how to play it well hold true for any short hole that has plenty of trouble lying in wait.
With that swirling wind, it’s hard to judge. I may take one club more and try to hit under the wind to control the flight a bit better. The trouble is that you then can’t hit a full shot, which you want to do to get the spin on it. But that is a trade-off, and you will accept it running on a bit in order to remove some of the doubt about the shot.
Though you want to control it, I wouldn’t want to play a punch shot. I would just go down the grip a bit, maybe an inch, to keep the flight down a little bit to help it penetrate the wind and not be as affected by it.
Drive down hard on the ball and keep the body moving through impact – it’s very easy to ease off on short shots like this.
I like to play all standard shots just inside the left heel so I get the same consistent flight with all the irons.
If I want to hit one a bit lower I may move it back a tad, although it then won’t pitch as far and I may have to reclub accordingly.
Too many amateurs just hit off the ground on a par 3. At Augusta, the tees are like most greens, but everywhere else it will make life a little easier to sit the ball on a tee. That way you can really get into the back of the ball.
Augusta secrets no. 1
At the 12th I just aim over the central bunkers no matter where the pin is. If you go long or short at least you know you’re in one and not anywhere else. At least that way the worst you are looking at is a bogey four.
Augusta secrets no. 2
When going in with irons it’s crucial to leave yourself below the hole, That could mean if it’s a 5-iron distance, going in with a 6 and missing short right to stay under the hole. That thought was key to me winning.
There are so many holes at Augusta where a great drive can leave you with a nasty stance for your next shot. The 2nd, the 8th, 9th, 10th, 11, 13, 15… To do well there you really need to know what you’re doing. Here, I’m using a ball-above-feet situation to show you how to handle these tricky shots.
Take it easy
It’s crucial you stay balanced and rhythmic on these shots. So choose one more club than you need, grip down slightly and swing really smoothly. Turn the shoulders, but try to keep the lower body still.
Remember to aim right as a flatter swing will promote a draw.
Feel like your weight is slightly back on your heels and try to stand tall, keeping the head high throughout. People have a tendency to dip into the ball and then end up hitting it fat.
When the ball is below the feet simply do the exact opposite: Keep weight forward, grip higher up the club, swing more upright and don’t come up on the ball. Aim left to compensate for the fade.
Augusta secrets no.3
At a place like Augusta I always tell myself that if I make a birdie I’m allowed to bogey one hole. You’re playing against par in the Majors most of the time, and level or a couple under wins these days.
You could get a shot like this one on so many holes at Augusta; it’s just like what faces you at the 2nd if you’ve gone big and left when the pin is front and right. It’s down-grain, down-wind and very tricky. If you pitch in the fringe it might not release so you have to go all the way and try to stop it.
I try to keep the clubface open through impact and beyond – that naturally leads to an abbreviated followthrough. If the clubface was a mirror, you should be able to see your face in it after you’ve hit the shot.
The simple idea is that I point the club where I want the ball to land. Everything else – feet, knees, shoulders – is wide open and pointing left of the target. The ball is forward in the stance. This promotes a high shot.
Ideally you are trying to cut across the ball and put as much spin on it as possible. A tight lie demands a clean hit so make sure your grooves are clean. Swing smoothly and confidently; try not to get too steep on the ball. You want to try to slide the blade underneath.
The bounce on your wedges is crucial to this sort of shot. I got to the Masters last year and had to change all the bounces because I had too much. I would normally have 6, 7, or 8 degrees but I went down to 4 at Augusta because the lies are so tight. That helps me nip the ball off a tight lie.
Augusta secrets no. 4
If you are going to miss the green, put it where you can get up and down – Augusta has some flags that are unreachable with a chip. I find it hard to resist going at the flag; you need discipline to play away from them.
These photographs were taken near Ian’s house at Royal Westmoreland in Barbados, one of the premier golf resorts in the Caribbean. Villas, many of them owned by sporting celebrities, can be rented from as little as £155 per night and properties on the estate can be bought from US$515,000. For further details, please visit www.royal-westmoreland.com or call 01524 782503.