Changes to Augusta National's No. 5 receive mixed reactions
Players knew it was coming – the lengthening of the already challenging fifth hole at Augusta National Golf Club – just not when.
It has become a reality for the 2019 Masters Tournament.
Ever since a new Berckmans Road opened before the 2016 Masters, it was no secret that land where the old Berckmans Road stood would be used to move the tee back on No. 5 for various reasons, including fan logistics.
Photos: Masters Monday Practice Round
With the changes, the fifth hole, a par-4 that played as the sixth-toughest hole in the 2018 Masters with a 4.165 stroke average, has been lengthened by 40 yards. Now a robust 495 yards, it is the longest par-4 on the first nine and is tied for the second-longest on the course (No. 11 is 505 yards and No. 10 is also 495).
“I can’t believe No. 5,” said two-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw, who is retired from the tournament but played the course Sunday. “Wow. That tee is so far back there. But it looks like it’s been there forever. That is a monster hole.”
A number of players got their first look during Monday’s practice rounds before the course was shut down by storms, and their reaction was a mixed bag.
Jordan Spieth, the 2015 Masters champion, had already played the hole during a fall visit. There were only 26 birdies on the hole last year, and Spieth hinted that there will be fewer this year.
“It’s different. It makes it a little bit tougher,” he said. “You make four pars there, you beat the field by two strokes.”
Count 2013 Masters champion Adam Scott and 2009 British Open champ Stewart Cink among those who don’t have a problem with the changes.
“I like it,” Scott said. “I think it’s an improvement; I really do, I think it plays well. I like where the tee box is. I like now the way the hole looks off the tee better.”
“There’s nothing wrong with a hole not being a guaranteed green in regulation,” Cink said. “The short game is a big part of the game of golf.”
The two gaping fairway bunkers on the left side of the fairway would have been too far from the new tee to be in play. They were moved back toward the tee. A 313-yard drive is needed to carry both bunkers.
“I think in the past, if you hit it into the bunkers, you actually had half a chance of getting it up somewhere by the green,” Tommy Fleetwood said Monday. “Now you’ve got no chance.”
Fleetwood said you simply have to take on the bunkers.
“If you want to play short of the bunkers, that really makes the hole in my view, makes it a little bit too long,” Fleetwood said. “I think definitely it’s a bigger test of a hole for sure.”
There is no guesswork on what to hit off the tee now for all those except the longest of hitters, who might still hit 3-wood depending on the wind. The rest are going with driver to the uphill landing area.
“I like it now because now it’s not a question of what I hit off the tee,” Scott said. “Driver was in a tight spot for me; I had a very small target, and 3-wood made it much wider but it left me a longer shot in. I was always making a decision on that tee. Now that’s been taken away from me, and I’m happy about that.”
Fans also got their first look at the new No. 5 on Monday. It was a big hit for the foot soldiers who make the trek to the southwest corner of the course.
“The patrons will appreciate it,” Atlanta’s David Burdette, who has attended more than 30 Masters, said Monday while standing behind the fifth tee.
That’s because fans can now walk down the right side of the par-3 fourth hole and turn right near the green to a pair of walkways that will take them to an open greenspace area where the fifth tee is the centerpiece. Before, fans could not stand behind the fifth tee, plus it was close to the fourth green.
“I think it’s a great move, moving the tee box away from the fourth green. That’s going to speed up play,” Bryson DeChambeau said. “Overall I think it’s a great design change.”
Another change is that the grandstands that were to the left side of the fourth green are now behind the hole.
From a fan’s perspective, “You can see more golf,” Burdette said. “Now with the grandstands where they are on the fourth green, you can watch that and also turn your head and see the drive on No. 5. It offers you multiple vantage spots.”
Because so much foot traffic can now go to the right side of the fourth green, there is no longer a bottleneck to the green's left side as fans make their way to the fifth fairway. Another change is that fans can walk up the left side of the fifth fairway all the way to the green. Before, that was blocked off.
“That’s even nicer,” Burdette said.