Going for the green in two at Augusta National’s 13th hole used to cause indigestion for golfers.
The final leg of Amen Corner is considered the ultimate risk-reward hole. Hit two good shots, and a Masters competitor can walk away with birdie or eagle. Hit one poor shot, and he can make bogey or worse.
The premise of the hole hasn’t changed since Bobby Jones and Alister MacKenzie designed the course in the early 1930s. Byron Nelson and Arnold Palmer each hit woods onto the green and made eagle in the final round of their first Masters victories.
But the hole has become much easier in recent years thanks to advancements in golf ball and equipment technology. At 510 yards, most players can reach the green in two with a 3-wood off the tee and a mid-iron second shot.
That concerns Augusta National’s leadership, which wants the course to play true to its Jones-MacKenzie roots.
“There’s a great quote from Bobby Jones dealing specifically with the 13th hole, which has been lengthened over time, and he said that the decision to go for the green in two should be a momentous one,” Augusta National and Masters Chairman Fred Ridley said Wednesday. “And I would have to say that our observations of these great players hitting middle and even short irons into that hole is not a momentous decision.”
Augusta National acquired land from neighboring Augusta Country Club last summer, and it could push the tee box back on the iconic hole.
The 13th hole is the second-easiest in Masters history. But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t caused heartburn for those in the Masters hunt.
Amateur Billy Joe Patton found the tributary of Rae’s Creek in 1954, and he missed out on the Sam Snead-Ben Hogan playoff by a shot. Curtis Strange found the water in 1985 and lost by two.
Even with a middle or short iron in their hands, players still have to execute the shot.
“The second shot, you forget that green’s not that big and water is right there and a gully on the left is just off the green,” three-time champion Nick Faldo said. “If you’re 15 feet off line, your landing spot, you can end up in the creek. So it looks like a bad shot but it’s not even close to a bad shot.”
Faldo famously hit a long iron off the pine straw at No. 13 to set up a birdie in his 1996 win. Through the years, the goal at the short par-5 has always been the same.
“You know 13 is a great opportunity, somehow you’ve got to make a 4,” Faldo said.