Nine things to know: Augusta National Golf Club
November 08, 2020
By Cameron Morfit, PGATOUR.COM
- A scenic shot of the clubhouse during the 2015 Masters. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
There’s magic in those Georgia pines.
With astonishing regularity, the home of the Masters Tournament provides moments so poignant as to strain credulity. Think Jack Nicklaus winning at 46 in 1986; Ben Crenshaw, then 43, capturing the ’95 Masters after burying his lifelong coach Harvey Penick; and Tiger Woods’ victory at age 43 last year.
Here are nine things about Augusta National Golf Club, home of the Masters.
1. Everything and nothing stays the same
As Fenway Park or Wrigley Field are for baseball, Augusta National is a sort of cathedral of golf. There’s a timelessness about it. The towering Georgia pines, the spectacular canvas of flowers (azaleas, pink dogwood, etc.), the wildly undulating terrain – it never changes.
But it always changes. The club reversed the nines in 1935, the year after Horton Smith win the first Augusta National Invitation Tournament, which wasn’t called the Masters until ’39. The pond at the 16th hole was built after the damming of a stream at the 11th in ’50. And after Tiger Woods went 18 under to win by a dozen shots in 1997, the course gradually went from less than 7,000 yards to almost 7,500.
“Well, Augusta National has been at the forefront of trying to keep it competitive, keep it fair, keep it fun, and they have been at the forefront of lengthening the golf course,” Woods said early this year. “Granted, they have the property; they can do virtually whatever they want. Complete autonomy. It's kind of nice.
“But also, they have been at the forefront of trying to keep it exciting,” he continued. “As the game has evolved, we have has gotten longer, equipment's changed, and they are trying to keep it so that the winning score is right around that 12- to 18-under par mark, and they have.”
2. A November Masters will bring big changes
Jimmy Demaret dressed in yellow for Easter Sunday when he won in 1950. We’re a long way from Easter this time around. Thanksgiving is more like it. Will it be cold, the way it was when Zach Johnson won in 2007? And if so, what type of player will that favor?
With no patrons on site, the Par 3 Contest wouldn’t have been the same and has been cancelled.
With less daylight, players will be sent off the first and 10th tees.
And in a neat new wrinkle designed to bring new audiences to the Masters and golf, the tournament will host ESPN’s College Game Day from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Nov. 14, before third-round coverage. The studio will overlook Ike’s Pond and the ninth green of the par 3 course.
“When exploring ways to showcase a fall Masters, we were drawn to the concept of hosting College GameDay at Augusta National to introduce the Tournament to a new audience and provide even more anticipation and excitement to the event,” Augusta National Chairman Fred Ridley said. “We appreciate the collaboration with ESPN, our longtime broadcast partner, for this first-of-its-kind opportunity.”
3. There’s a proud amateur tradition
Bobby Jones, the consummate amateur, co-founded the club (with Clifford Roberts). And as per tradition, this year’s field will include a robust lineup of amateurs from around the globe, including U.S. Amateur champion Andy Ogletree and runner-up John Augenstein; Latin America Amateur winner Abel Gallegos of Argentina; Asia-Pacific Amateur champion Yuxin Lin of China; U.S. Mid-Amateur champ Lukas Michel of Australia; and British Amateur champion James Sugrue of Ireland.
Fun fact: Then-amateur Bryson DeChambeau was just one off the lead as he stood on the 18th tee Friday in 2016, but he triple-bogeyed the hole and ultimately finished 21st. He turned pro the next week.
4. It combines the best of old and newGary Player and Jack Nicklaus during the First Tee ceremony at the 2019 Masters. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player will be the Honorary Starters this year as Augusta National honors its past champions. Winners come back for life, spinning yarns about the old days at the Champions’ Dinner.
More history: The clubhouse dates to 1854 as a private home and is believed to be the first concrete house built in the South. Fruitland Nurseries, which was bought as the future Augusta National Golf Club site in 1931, billed itself as the “South’s oldest nursery,” dating to 1856. The course was closed and used to raise cattle and turkeys for three years during the war effort of World War II.
On the other hand, Augusta National has always been a place to identify the game’s next wave, from 21-year-old mega-talent Tiger Woods in ’97 – still the youngest ever to win – to Tianlang Guan, who was just 14 when he became the youngest to make the cut in 2013.
5. It’s consistently innovative
Longtime network partner CBS used just six cameras, covering only holes 15-18, in its first tournament broadcast in ’56. Nowadays the network uses 75-100 cameras to cover all 18 holes.
The ’66 Masters was the first tournament to use a stop-action technique seen only in football; 2001 gave us the first golf telecast to use HDTV; and the 2010 Masters was the first major sporting event produced and presented in 3D on television and the Internet. Ancillary feeds like “Masters on The Range” and “Amen Corner” broke ground, as did the club’s 2019 commitment to capture every shot on camera.
And speaking of innovations, the state-of-the-art press building, which opened in 2017, features white columns and gray stonework; a huge atrium with skylight; grand staircase; a wall of windows opening up to the driving range; 350 seats; and men’s and women’s locker rooms. It’s a far cry from the reporters’ old tent and Quonset hut, and even a far cry from the press building that one reporter dubbed it “our Taj Mahal” when it opened off the first fairway in 1990.
6. The architecture is revered
Dr. Alister Mackenzie of Scotland was the original architect and brought design concepts inspired by some of the classics in his home country, including the Old Course at St. Andrews. He would design masterpieces from coast to coast – Cypress Point in Monterey, California stands out – and spanning the globe. (This in an era in which globe-trotting was not easy.)
Tom Fazio helped the club add yardage and trees for the 2002 Masters, and more wrinkles arrive seemingly non-stop. The newly lengthened fifth hole played to nearly 500 yards and elicited copious bogeys last year. The par-5 13th will reportedly get a new back tee, although it may not be ready yet.
The club considers every detail – Bobby Jones, for example, initially disliked the fairway bunkers at the fifth hole – adjusting on the fly where needed. How it might adapt after DeChambeau makes his mark this year, assuming he does, is anybody’s guess and one of the dominant pretournament storylines.
7. Every hole has a story, and a nameJordan Spieth tees off on the 12th hole at the 2015 Masters. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
It was dubbed “the shot heard ’round the world” when Gene Sarazen made an albatross (2) at the par-5 15th hole in 1935. He won a playoff the next day and said the shot wouldn’t have meant anything without the title. He’s probably right. Jeff Maggert made the first albatross at the 13th hole in 1994, and Louis Oosthuizen made an albatross at the second hole in 2012.
Both shots were soon forgotten relative to Sarazen’s.
More storytelling: Augusta National co-founder Clifford Roberts and renowned sportswriter Grantland Rice hosted a private train party for the official opening of the club in 1933. Herbert Warren Wind, another sportswriter, coined the term “Amen Corner.”
Oh, and every hole is named in a sort of homage to the old nursery: Tea Olive for the first hole, Pink Dogwood for the second, Flowering Peach for the third, and so on. The most famous is arguably Golden Bell, the short, par-3 12th hole, where club selection is key and train wrecks are not uncommon, often separating the winners from the also-rans.
8. Guile is rewarded
First-timer Fuzzy Zoeller won the tournament in 1979, but he’s the only newbie to don the green jacket. More often than not, players require seasoning to grasp the course’s intricacies. Veterans sometimes turn back the clock at Augusta National: Jack in ’86, Tiger last year. You also get compelling sidebars like Bernhard Langer making the cut last year at age 61. Don’t count out Phil Mickelson, 50.
The flip side is the near-misses that tug on the heartstrings, like 48-year-old Kenny Perry bogeying the last two holes to fall into a playoff, which he lost to Angel Cabrera, in 2009. More agonizing still was veteran Greg Norman’s collapse as he lost a six-shot lead and Nick Faldo won in 1996.
9. Youth is irrepressibleTiger Woods celebrates winning the 1997 Masters. (Stephen Munday/Allsport/Getty Images)
Woods was 21 when he won in ’97. Jordan Spieth was a marginally older 21 when he won in 2015, tying Woods’ 72-hole scoring record of 18-under 270. They’re the two youngest winners ever.
It helps to be too young to have scar tissue.
Conversely, as with the oldies, the kids have suffered their own wipeouts.
A shellshocked Spieth made a quadruple-bogey 7 at the 12th hole and lost the ’16 Masters in his title defense. Brandt Snedeker, then 27, shot a final-round 77 to finish T3, four back of winner Trevor Immelman, in 2008. Rory McIlroy, then 21, shot a final-round 80 to lose in 2011.
Ah, well, maybe tears are inevitable at Augusta for both the winners and the losers. The trick is just being young enough to survive it and come back next year – or in five months.