There are plenty of them, places of longing, with which the average golfer would like to measure himself. One of them surely being Augusta National Golf Club. Anyone who doesn’t have a “bucket list” in this regard, as it’s called, probably lacks the sense of dreamy longing. Many of these flags on the golf globe are certainly attainable – if the appropriate travel budget is available, no pandemic is currently grounding air traffic and blocking the joy of travel, one has a lucky hand in a starting time draw … And so on.
Experience before result?
For many, Augusta National, where the 87th Masters is currently being held, is probably high up on the leaderboard. So, assuming there was a chance for the once-in-a-lifetime pleasure of a round of the legendary course behind Magnolia Lane – and there is – how would “normal mortals” fare on the Major turf between hole 1, “Tea Olive,” and 18, “Holly”? Or would the result not matter anyway, because the experience outweighs everything?
Colleague Auf der Heyde and his birdie at the 16
That was the case for our colleague Peter Auf der Heyde. The South African, who has been reporting on-site from the Masters for Golf Post for many years, was one of the chosen few at the traditional “after-work” golf for media representatives in 2013 and was allowed onto the course of the Augusta National Golf Club on Monday after Adam Scott’s play-off triumph over Angel Cabrera.
“On the first hole,” Peter writes of that day of all days, “I felt like Scott [in the playoff] on the tenth.” And when the mid-handicapper shot birdie on “Redbud,” the par-3 16th, from the tournament tees moreover, “none of the world’s best golfers would have beaten me on that hole, because there was no hole-in-one in the four rounds.” By then, at the latest, the overall score was a minor matter anyway; even today, Auf der Heyde “merely” goes into raptures when asked about 2013. So it doesn’t help.
High 90 on a perfect day
Let’s perhaps quote the playing professionals instead of the writer. The answers are unanimously sobering. At “Golf.com” Jason Day once said in 2018: “Someone with a 15 handicap? If you’re in a really good mood, everything goes according to plan and the weather also plays along, then maybe a mid to high 90 is in there. But for that, everything really has to fit.” Of course: “Under tournament conditions, an average golfer will never crack 100 – no chance! Something between 100 and 105 would be possible, I would say. On a bad day, more like 110,” added Adam Hadwin at the time.
Incidentally, the worst Masters round by an active player “ever” was completed by US amateur Charlie Kunkle in 1956. The self-taught golfer needed 95 strokes for the par-72 layout on the final Sunday and finished the tournament with a total score of 340 (52 over par). By comparison, then-winner Jack Burke Jr. of Texas had a 289-stroke total.
“The breaks are huge”
Augusta National’s green complexes in particular are a brutal touchstone, their enormous undulations and false fronts, as well as the undulating surface contours, forming the true defensive bulwark of the vaunted terrain. “It’s mainly the chipping and putting that counts,” Nick Wright noted for Today’s Golfer. The 8.1 handicap journalist played Augusta two years ago and says, “The breaks on the greens are tremendous.”
On 16, where Peter Auf der Heyde had holed out from 40 centimeters to win the shot six years earlier, Wright aimed for a break of 1.2 meters and had to be corrected by the caddie: “Better aim for three meters!” The player did as instructed and felt he was “putting 90 degrees off the hole.” Nevertheless, the ball ran straight into the target with a clean curve – also for birdie.
Speed control is the key at Augusta National Golf Club
“The most difficult thing for mid handicappers is the uneven lies around and on the greens,” says equally Rickie Fowler, who would be playing his eleventh Masters this year, meanwhile has slipped to world number 95 and therefore has to watch. “Even if you play the ball ‘in regulation’ in the middle of the green, the par is by no means certain,” he said. “A good putt can still end up 1.5 to 1.8 meters from the hole – and then converting those is no fun at Augusta, and certainly not a given.” Speed control is key on the greens, he said, and three-putts should be more the norm for amateurs and already a success.
Hardly bad locations – but the bunkers…
For all that, the course itself, with its sweeping fairways, is “pretty benign from the members’ tees,” judges Nick Wright: “With a little precision, it’s easy to keep the ball in play. There are hardly any bad lies, even off the fairways, in the ‘second cut’ or even in the pine litter.” Dr. Alister MacKenzie, the mastermind behind the congenial creative duo with Bobby Jones, wasn’t big on rough; he wanted to see a weak shot punished not by ball loss or chopping, but by an awkward angle of play; that philosophy holds true to this day.
Moreover, the Scottish architect was stingy with bunkers for cost reasons, but the twelve in the fairways and the 32 around the greens are really something despite the innocent-looking white sand. Literally. The hazards are deep, and it is often difficult to see over the edge from the bottom of the fairway; it is not unusual for a sideways escape shot to be the better option.
The real genius of design
What impresses everyone who experiences Augusta National Golf Club is the ondulation and expansiveness of the terrain. On hole 10, for example, the tee is 34 meters above the green.
And although holes 1 and 18, 2 and 8, and 3 and 7 run almost parallel, it is almost a “day trip” to Amen Corner and the wonderful “Golden Bell” (hole 12) as the centerpiece.
You don’t have to favor Parkland golf to still state that the Masters course is a perfect course: full of beauty and tranquility, varied and strategic, spiced with “risk-and-reward” options, well dosed with water. “The most striking feature, however,” says Nick Wright in “Today’s Golfer,” “is the fact of offering golfers of any skill level the appropriate challenge. In this, in particular, the real genius of its design is revealed.”
Game with highest scores per hole
The 8.1 handicapper shot a fine 81 in his round – from the Members Tees; he found the course “manageable and well playable.” Nevertheless, the “bunkered” portal had the fun of extrapolating the worst possible round at Augusta National. For each hole, the highest score ever played in Masters history was picked out – Ernie Els’ 9 on hole one in 2016, for example, Henrik Stenson’s 8 on the fourth in 2011, Tom Weiskopf’s 13 on the 12th in 1980 or Sergio Garcia’s 13 on the 15th three years ago.
No matter on which hole, the “worst case” was everywhere at least 7 strokes, and in total a notional round score of 169 comes out. In words: one hundred and sixty-nine. 78 for the first nine, 91 for the second, 97 over par. At least to underplay that should be doable.