The Challenges of a Western Wind at the Masters

Carnage for competitors, fun for fans at Augusta National


Today at the Masters will likely be one of the toughest rounds in recent memory, in spite of the heavy rain that softened the course earlier this week. The culprit? A strong wind.

Like many great courses, Augusta National has a routing that continually wheels around. Back-to-back holes rarely play in the same direction, so the relationship of the wind to the player is always changing. Plus, the property’s groves of tall trees make it difficult to get a feel for what the wind is doing in any particular spot. (This is famously the case on the 12th tee.)

The current wind is cool and generally coming out of the west. The holes that are into this wind will be significantly harder, but the downwind shots won’t be all that much easier.

Illustration: Cameron Hurdus

Let’s start with the former set of holes. Nos. 1, 3, 4, 8, 11, 13, and 15 will all have at least one shot that is substantially into the wind. Of these, the first, fourth, and 11th will stand out because they’re tough even in the calmest conditions. The green jackets were kind enough to select a forward tee position on 4 today, but 1 and 11 will play incredibly long. The other into-the-wind holes—3, 13, and 15—are normally great scoring opportunities. In a stiff western wind, however, players will find it more challenging to drive the third green and get home in two on the 13th and especially the 15th. So three of Augusta National’s easiest holes will become tougher, and two of its hardest holes could be downright painful.

Now, playing with the wind at your back is supposed to help, right? Not so much in the case of a western wind at Augusta National. Today’s downwind holes include Nos. 2, 5, 7, 9, 14, and 17. To zero in on a pair of these, 7 and 17 are among the narrowest driving holes on the course. The key is not necessarily to bomb it but rather to find the fairway and avoid a punch-out second shot. That demand doesn’t change a huge amount when the holes play downwind. On the seventh in particular, with its shallow green sited on a hill, a downwind approach is actually a disadvantage because the ball won’t stop as quickly and distance will be hard to judge.

The rest of the holes at Augusta National will feature a variety of crosswinds. On two of the par 3s, 6 and 16, the wind will be coming roughly off the left; on 12, approximately off the right. Hitting precise iron shots in a quartering crosswind is a real challenge, even for the world’s best golfers. Also, yesterday, we saw the 18th, with the wind blowing off the left, come mere decimal points from playing as the most difficult hole on the course. After finishing with a double bogey on this hole, Cameron Smith said, “I think most of us are right-handed golfers out here, and the wind blowing behind your back there is never really a nice thing. And the tee shot is so demanding there, you almost have to hug the tree line down the left. Even if you just start it right slightly, I think you’ll find yourself in those right trees and having to chip out.”

So if you’re a fan of carnage, buckle up. Today is your day. Sit back enjoy the fortitude, artistry, and ball-striking prowess that the second round of the 2022 Masters will require, and remember to thank the wind for exacting this test.

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