Golf’s power hitters are destroying traditional golf courses. But did Augusta National make the right move by purchasing additional land to expand its most famous holes?
“It had to be done,” says Australia’s Major Champion and CBS commentator Ian Baker-Finch.
“You should have a great drive and a great second to get to a par 5 in two. The distance of the ball and the way these guys are playing it now, unfortunately that’s the problem with modern golf, they have to change all the venues to suit the equipment and the athleticism of the players.”
The world’s best players had gotten so strong that they could take the driver off the tee and hit a low iron like an eight or nine into the green on their second shot over Rae’s Creek.
It was not in the spirit of Masters co-founder Bobby Jones, who envisioned all of Augusta National’s par 5 holes being played, giving all players a chance to hit the green in two. Jones wanted players to play – and recently the Stars were holding a pair of aces on the 13th.
But that should change in 2023.
Instead, players are expected to use a mid-to-high iron on their second shot if they want to hit the green in two shots, which requires a precise shot down a bank that was the scene of Adam Scott’s famous hanging incident Ball in his green jacket was won 10 years ago.
Player reaction to the move this week has been mixed.
Many have welcomed the change, but others have suggested that the extra distance has taken the excitement out of the hole, as most players simply pull the driver out of their bag at the tee rather than having to weigh and shape a wood with three or seven weights around the corner from the old starting point.
There is also an expectation that many more players will not risk a second shot on the green and be stranded close to the water, especially with the wet and cooler weather forecast for the tournament.
“There will be fewer threes and sevens on 13 and there will be more fours and fives,” said five-time winner Tiger Woods. “I think that’s probably the best way to describe the hole.”
Woods’ voice carries weight, no matter the topic. And he was open about debate over a proposal by the Royal & Ancient and the US Golf Association to introduce a separate ball that will limit the distance players can hit in professional golf.
“I still think it’s very similar to baseball with aluminum bats and wood bats,” Woods said. “You can make a difference in golf ball and tennis has the same. You go to different events, they have different balls. The public doesn’t really know that, but the players do.
“The boys are becoming more athletic. Each will grow bigger, stronger, and faster over the generations.
“Not every golf course can be like Augusta National and move property and move holes back. There are only a limited number of courses where you can do that and we still want to be able to play the old, traditional, great courses.”
There is evidence that the 13th hole has become a feeding frenzy for the likes of Woods, Rory McIlroy and Cameron Smith.
In the history of The Masters, since hole-by-hole records have been kept, no hole has been easier than the 13th hole. In 2019, the field’s par-5 average was 4.47, the lowest in the tournament’s history. Last year, the players recorded a 4.85 scoring average with six eagles and 91 birdies.
It became way too easy to birdie and way harder to bogey.
“I think it’s going to be a good change for sure,” said Australia’s world No. 6 Cameron Smith. “The guys who can throw it up with Driver could get it over the corner but now it’s a whole different hole for guys who hit it wide.”
It’s not the first time Augusta National has felt the need to alter a par 5 hole to keep up with the modern game. Just last year they added 20 yards to the par 5 at number 15.
But this is the most significant change they’ve made to a hole in modern times.
“I played with them two weeks ago [world No.1 and defending champion] Scottie Scheffler,” said Fred Ridley, chairman of Augusta National. “He put a five iron in the hole one day.
“Although I think you might be right that the data will show more players will hang up, I still do [think] a large number will choose the green in two. I think it’s going to be a much more challenging and a lot more exciting recording.
“And I’m definitely looking forward to having someone competing on Sunday with a three-iron or a four-iron or even a hybrid who’s hitting the 13th rather than an eight-iron.
“I think overall it will prove to be the right decision.”
Sports news, scores and expert commentary. Sign up for our sports newsletter.
https://www.smh.com.au/sport/golf/power-hitters-are-destroying-historic-golf-courses-the-masters-has-a-radical-solution-20230406-p5cyih.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_sport Golf’s power hitters are destroying traditional golf courses. But did Augusta National make the right move by purchasing additional land to expand its most famous holes?