“Eleven is basically a new hole,” said Rory McIlroy in his Tuesday press conference at the 2022 Masters, and he’s not wrong.
The recent work on the 520-yard 11th hole is part restoration, part renovation. The tee shot is more reminiscent of the hole’s origins thanks to the expanded fairway width, but the changes around the green still show the club is interested in “protecting” a score. The 11th has been a hot topic of discussion in the lead-up to this year’s Masters because we rarely see such a drastic overhaul of a hole from one year to the next at this tournament.
The view from the tee shot on the 11th is wonderful. The tee has been moved back and to the left a little bit. Gone are the constricting trees that signaled players in one direction and one shot shape—a fade. Now players have the ability to hit either a draw or a fade and could even favor one side of the fairway over the other.
The tee shot the 11th hole at Augusta National
From that point on, the changes become somewhat hit or miss. The three remaining trees on the right side of the fairway are a bit silly and appear intended to introduce a rub-of-the-green element. I’m not sure why a centerline bunker wouldn’t have sufficed, as it did in the old days.
It’s clear from the earthwork in front of the three trees that the club wanted to create a spine in the fairway that diverts drives either right or left. The angle from the right side, now that it’s available, is far better than the one from the left. It’s a well-conceived concept, but the execution isn’t perfect. The work created an artificial bowl that will funnel all shots right of the three trees into a catch basin. It’s a weakness in the design, and not one that cameras will pick up on easily. This small, disappointing lack of attention to detail runs counter to how meticulously Augusta National presents the rest of its brand and operation.
The right side of the fairway on the 11th hole at Augusta National
To be clear, my misgivings about the trees are a small critique of what is, on the whole, a massive improvement.
Up near the green, the lowering of the short grass area right of the putting surface will make a more difficult recovery for those who bail there. This should reduce the impact of the mounds right of the green. These mounds used to be able to shoot balls onto the green, but now it seems like they will stall out in this depression or bound into the water. The hollow is particularly deep toward the back right of the green, about six feet below the putting surface, and will be in play consistently for the back-left pin. This recovery is very tough, easy to put in the water with a little bit too much steam.
To the right of the 11th green at Augusta National
The change should make recoveries around the green more difficult, but after seeing it in person, I question whether it will make the hole more interesting. On one hand, it puts a renewed emphasis on the approach, which is Augusta National’s calling card. The increased depression will make players feel like they have to take on the green now, and that bailing right isn’t as attractive an option. On the other hand, the recovery shot is likely an auto-lob wedge as opposed to an opportunity for creative bump-and-runs. Plus, the new surrounds are a departure from history, specifically from one of the great Masters moments, Larry Mize’s chip-in to win the green jacket in ’87.
Courtesy of Masters YouTube
How the hole will work in tournament play will be fascinating to watch. It’s undergone a complete transformation. Last year, it was taxing off the tee, requiring a great drive for a chance to hit the green. This year, it may be more benevolent at the start, with a driving area analogous to premium economy seating on an airplane. At the green, though, the bail-out option has introduced a different escalation of stress that may not always yield an interesting test.
More Masters coverage from The Fried Egg team: