In preparation for the 2022 Masters, Augusta National has undergone significant architectural and philosophical changes. The general theme of these changes is a step back from penal golf and a greater embrace of the strategic principles represented by Alister MacKenzie and Bobby Jones’s original design.
Since the 2021 Masters, the club has added length to the 15th and 18th holes, but we’re more excited about two other anticipated alterations:
- As announced in this year’s media guide, an overhaul of No. 11, one of the holes that had become most disfigured over the years
- The rumored restoration of short-grass areas that had been lost to the Tiger-proofing of the course in the early 2000s
These changes should lead to a more dynamic range of scores and recovery options, and competitors’ shots are likely to find places we haven’t seen in years.
The big one
Four years ago, we discussed how No. 11 at Augusta National evolved between the 1930s and the early 2000s. The hole was once a long par 4 with a wide fairway and several options of attack. For many pins, the preferred angle was from the right side of the fairway. Over the years, however, the club filled in that half of the corridor with trees. (Remember Tiger Woods finding a small alley in those trees on his way to victory in 2019? At least he had the perfect angle.) As a result, players were forced to go left, the less advantageous route. From there, they were often satisfied to aim their approaches safely to the right of the green and hope for an up-and-down. The outcome was a restricted spread of scores: fewer birdies and fewer doubles or worse. This is not a recipe for entertaining golf.
For 2022, however, the width of the hole has been restored thanks to massive tree removal. According to aerial footage from Eureka Earth, No. 11 appears to have 15 to 20 yards more room on its right side than it did last year.
🚨More Significant Changes🚨
No 11 – White Dogwood – Par 4
2021 yardage: 505
2022 yardage: 520
1934 yardage: 415
“Masters tees moved back 15 yards and to the golfer’s left. Fairway recontoured and several trees removed on right side”
— Eureka Earth® (@EurekaEarthPlus) February 22, 2022
The restoration of this preferred angle could lead to more birdie opportunities while also tempting players to bring the water into play on their approaches. More variety = more fun.
Read more about the changes to No. 11 with notes from the ground.
Short grass galore
Augusta National’s standout trait, aside from its brilliant greens, is its dramatic topography. For decades, the course’s fairways were massive enough to match the scale of the hills they were draped across. The abundant short grass caused offline shots to keep rolling, farther and farther away from ideal approach angles. But around the same time the 11 fairway became clogged with trees, acres of short grass were replaced with rough (sorry, “the second cut”).
According to what we’ve heard from the grounds, the club has restored a lot short grass for the 2022 Masters. This change could have a particularly large impact along the right sides of the corridors at Nos. 9 and 10. These areas are significant because they are bailout zones that see a lot of action. In recent years, the second cut has stopped balls from rolling through these zones and into worse and worse positions. In this way, the rough acted like a bumper on a bowling lane. Now that the bumpers have apparently been removed, the consequences should be fun to watch.
I’m especially excited to see the effects of short-grass expansion on the ninth hole. This is a demanding tee shot, as the fairway slopes hard from left to right, calling for a right-to-left shot shape. But starting in the early 2000s, the rough along the right side prevented weak drives from bounding farther down the hill to the right. The second cut also reduced spin on many approaches, which, as Greg Norman can tell you, is an advantage when you’re hitting into a green with an immense false front. What makes the second shot into No. 9 so stressful to play and compelling to watch is that players must marry distance control with spin control in order to avoid zipping off the front of the green and into an awful place. The short rough mitigated that challenge. But this year, players may not get this benefit as often after missing to the right off the tee. I expect to see some spectacular recoveries that lead to birdies as well as misjudgments of spin that result in bogeys or worse.
As for No. 10, the farther right you go off the tee, the more you flirt with settling among the trees. Good drives hug the left side with a right-to-left shape—an uncomfortable shot for today’s right-handed power faders. But before this year, it wasn’t as important to hit a strong tee shot on the 10th hole because the second cut frequently stopped balls short of the trees. With that rough reduced, substandard drives are freer to tumble down the huge slope and into trouble
Although these alterations may go unnoticed by the general audience, they will be significant to the players, many of whom have voiced their opinions on the changes. The design changes also signal an encouraging shift in Augusta National’s ideas about course design and setup. This, in turn, is potentially an important turning point for the broader golf world. No club has more influence on popular notions of course presentation than Augusta National. So if the home of the Masters acknowledges that options, angles, and short grass make for a better test of golf than rough and trees, perhaps other courses will, too.
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