The 2024 Masters was an instant classic. For four days, golf fans were treated to a spectacular display of championship-level golf. The best player on the planet asserted his dominance on the course, and off-the-course drama remained mostly out of frame. The Masters rocked because the tournament showcased what makes the sport special: the golf itself.

Following a compelling week of action, one could be tempted to think that men’s professional golf is in a healthy state, PGA Tour-LIV schism notwithstanding. After all, the golf shots were delightfully challenging, the winner finished only eleven-under par, and the leaderboard was stacked with elite flushers. See? Testing the best players in the world is still possible! But the opposite takeaway is actually the correct one: the 2024 Masters put the need for a rollback on full display.

Prior to the 2022 Masters, Augusta National unveiled a new tee box on the par-5 15th hole, extending the hole by 20 yards. Before the 2023 Masters, Augusta spent a reported $25M purchasing neighboring land and spent more clearing trees and constructing a new tee box that lengthens the famous par-5 13th hole by 35 yards. 

In advance of the 2024 Masters, ten yards were added to the par-5 2nd hole. These are just three of the dozens of changes made to the golf course throughout the years.

Augusta National doesn’t spend millions of dollars because they’ve always disliked how the course has tested professional golfers, leading them to try and rectify the mistakes of old. No, the reason Augusta expends inordinate resources on modifications is to preserve the sanctity of one of the greatest designs in the history of golf. Otherwise, distance gains due to modern technology and increased athleticism would reduce Augusta National to a pitch-and-putt contest, like has happened to too many of golf’s historic venues.

The 2024 Masters was decidedly not a pitch and putt. Long irons were required. Following his win, Scottie Scheffler relayed that he hit multiple 3-irons on Sunday, an increasingly extinct species in professional golf. He hit a 4-iron into 13, a shot that would likely have been with a 7-iron a few years ago. On Friday, Tiger Woods pulled lumber on 15 and executed one of the most daring and impressive shots of the tournament. Would you have preferred to watch him hit a 6-iron?

Moving forward, make sure to bear in mind what was required to make the tournament such a compelling examination of golf. Remember that the extreme lengths to which Augusta goes to provide a championship-caliber golf course are responsible for producing a leaderboard stacked with world-class players. Remember that 99% of golf courses have neither the land nor the money available to replicate Augusta’s efforts to keep pace with modern distances.

When people loudly and fiercely oppose an equipment rollback, remember that most of them have a financial interest in maintaining the status quo. When people insist that driving distances have increased due to athleticism alone, remember that parsing out exactly where to attribute the distance explosion doesn’t actually matter at all. All that matters is restoring the game back to appropriate dimensions. Fundamentally, those people are suggesting that there is no issue with watching the most athletic golfers of all time tackle golf courses that require less and less athleticism.

When people insist that growing up the rough and narrowing the fairways is the solution to challenging the modern golfer, remember that they’re advocating to remove the skill of controlling the golf ball on the ground. Remember that they’re arguing against the very principles that make Augusta National the test that it is. Remember that those suggestions dull the sport and reduce creativity and skill, a modern phenomenon often lamented by Tiger Woods, one of the greatest players to ever touch a golf club.

And remember that there is a sensible solution: reining in equipment. You don’t have to take it from me, or even Tiger for that matter. Take it from Fred Ridley, Chairman of Augusta National, the host of the most successful golf tournament in the world. 

From his pre-tournament press conference

“Adding distance to the Augusta National golf course has become standard operation over the past two decades. For almost 70 years, the Masters was played at just over 6,900 yards. Today the course measures 7,550 yards from the markers, and we may well play one of the tournament rounds this year at more than 7,600 yards. I’ve said in the past that I hope we will not play the Masters at 8,000 yards. But that is likely to happen in the not too distant future under current standards. Accordingly, we support the decisions that have been made by the R&A and the USGA as they have addressed the impact of distance at all levels of the game.”

The Masters has been the most successful tournament in golf for a myriad of reasons, but chiefly among them is the club’s commitment to tradition. The Champions Dinner, the pimento cheese sandwiches, the green jacket; all of these traditions establish a unique bond between the tournament and the people who eagerly await its arrival each year.

But when telling the story of Augusta National, it’s imperative to also include the parts where Augusta shells out millions of dollars moving heaven and literal earth to preserve its history and ensure that the golf course doesn’t suffer the same fate as many of its peers. That’s become an important tradition at Augusta too.  

Shrink the driver heads. Stop promoting “fargiveness” as if it’s a good thing, at least at the professional level. And rein in how far the golf ball travels. Then golf fans might not have to wait a full 361 days to watch the best players in the world compete on a true championship-level test, an annual wait that’s sadly now a tradition unlike any other.