Minor changes make course play shorter

Tuesday, November 04, 2008
By
From Staff Reports

For the first time in 28 years, Augusta National Golf Club is getting shorter instead of longer.

Billy Payne, the chairman of the Augusta National Golf Club and Masters Tournament, made the announcement in a news release Tuesday.

Officially, it's not much shorter -- 10 yards on one hole -- but tees were extended on two other holes which could make them play nearly 20 combined yards shorter.

The only change to the scorecard is on No. 1, where the back of the tee was reduced by 7 yards to "improve patron circulation between the tee and practice putting green," according to the release.

A gold tee marker, which is roughly in the middle of each tee and used to measure the holes, was relocated, and the hole is now 10 yards shorter, the release said.

That would make No. 1 play 445 yards and change the total yardage of the course to 7,435 yards.

The last time the course was shortened was in 1981, when it went to 6,905 yards after playing at more than 7,000 yards starting in 1974.

Starting with the 2002 Masters, 460 yards had been systematically added to the course, so the change in direction is welcome news to players like Larry Mize, 1987 Masters champion and Augusta native.

Mize, who has made just one cut since the yardage was added in 2002, isn't a long hitter.

"All the changes sound real good," Mize said from his Columbus, Ga., home. "Making more room for the patrons on No. 1 is great. That hole can lose 10 yards and still be a good hole."

The tees that were extended were on the seventh (by 10 yards) and 15th hole (by "8 or 9," according to the Augusta National statement).

"That's perfect," Mize said when told the course could play about 29 yards shorter in 2009.

Mize particularly likes the change on the par-4 seventh hole. The tee marker wasn't relocated, so it will still be listed at 450 yards, but at least it can play shorter with the extension of the tee.

"That's the best change," Mize said. "I think No. 7 was a little bit too long. For the hole it was, it was stretched too far."

Mize wasn't the only one forced to hit 6-irons into the elevated green that requires a high, soft approach.

"When you lengthen a hole, you have to make sure you still have the correct shot into the hole," Mize said.

The changes to the tees on Nos. 1, 7 and 15 will give the tournament committee the option of making those holes play shorter in the event of inclement weather. The course didn't have that option in 2007, when horrid weather produced a winning score of 1-over-par 289.

"This year, only minor changes were implemented and all were made in order to provide greater flexibility in the event of adverse weather conditions, which we have experienced the last couple of years," Payne said.

"I think he's on the right track," Mize said of Payne. "Just where they have the option of making adjustments. That's great."

When the home of the Masters Tournament re-opened Oct. 16 for member and guest play, the changes were obvious.

Aerial photos taken by The Augusta Chronicle last week confirmed those reports.

Practice rounds for the 2009 Masters start April 6, and the talk no doubt will surround the change on No. 7.

The criticism never died down after the seventh hole was lengthened from 410 to 450 yards in 2006.

As expected, the added yardage increased the difficulty of the hole. In 2005, when it was 410 yards, its average score was over par -- 4.134 strokes -- but it was only the 12th hardest hole on the course.

With the new yardage in 2006, it became the sixth toughest hole, playing to a 4.215 stroke average.

In 2007, it was the 10th hardest hole (4.295) and last year it was the third hardest (4.252).

The Augusta National release also revealed that greens on Nos. 1, 5 and 6 were rebuilt for agronomic reasons and heating and cooling systems installed.

Also, the release stated that 4,500 more parking spaces located west of Berckmans Road would be available for the 2009 tournament. That's in addition to the 2,500 spaces used last year.

Payne also said "significant progress" has been made on the practice facility that will open for the 2010 Masters.

Reach David Westin at (706) 724-0851 or david.westin@augustachronicle.com.

'DOWNSIZING' OF MASTERS

Here are the changes made to Augusta National Golf Club for the 2009 Masters Tournament, according to a statement released by the club.

NO. 1: Back of tee reduced 7 yards to improve patron traffic flow between the tee and the practice putting green. Tee marker relocated and Masters scorecard changed from 455 yard to 445 yards. Green rebuilt for agronomic reasons and a heating and cooling system installed.

NOS. 5-6: Greens rebuilt for agronomic reasons, and heating and cooling systems installed.

NO. 7: Significant landscaping completed on the rear of the tee to reforest a large area which was left open because of the removal of a tournament storage building in 2005. An additional 10 yards added to the front of the tee without necessitating a change in length to the hole.

NO. 15: Eight to 9 yards added to the front of the tee, and a couple of trees removed on the right side of the fairway. Scorecard yardage remained 530 yards.

In this StoryLarry Mize (Stats | Bio | Photos)