The mythology that radiates from the coverage of the Masters would rival some of our own most famous fables but prior to celebrating his 85th birthday at the start of this month, Gary Player had an interesting way of describing the unique atmosphere around the Georgia layout.
“There is absolutely nothing humorous at The Masters,” says Player. “Here, small dogs do not bark and babies do not cry.” Well, Mr. Player, not only that but with no patrons present this year either, even the famous Augusta roar as it bounces through the pines will be absent from this rather unique November Masters. However, that’s not to say that with crowds lacking, the task at hand becomes any easier for the class of 2020 taking aim at the coveted Green Jacket.
“You start to choke at The Masters when you drive through the front gate,” says Hale Irwin, who unsurprisingly, never won The Masters. While Fuzzy Zoeller went one step further, believing that the walk to the first hole of The Masters is, “the greatest natural laxative in the world.”
Indeed, few, if any golf courses brings rivals together quite like Augusta National. On its meticulously manicured fairways on Masters week, you’ll find golfers young and old perusing its tree-lined hallways as they trade notes and tales of yore around this ever-evolving masterpiece. Designed by Bobby Jones and Alister MacKenzie, Augusta has welcomed a stream of legends to Magnolia Lane since its opening in January 1933 and you only have to read through the thoughts of some of the game’s masters who have travailed its lands to get a sense of its folklore.
And where better to start than with the great Bobby Jones who explains here, the thinking behind the original design:
“We want to make bogeys easy if frankly sought, pars readily obtainable by standard good play, and birdies - except on par-5s - dearly bought,” said Jones. It’s a testament to the foresight of the architects that despite technological advancements, these principals stand true to this day with only minor tweaks.
There’s no doubt that this year’s November date will ensure the course plays longer than ever before but the sub-air systems under Augusta’s putting surfaces mean the greens will play as slick as tournament officials wish to make them, regardless of the weather.
“You definitely use a lot more imagination on the greens here than the majority of courses we play because of the lack of rough around the greens,” says our own Darren Clarke, recent winner on the Champions Tour. “You can lob it up, bump it up. Do whatever you want, just get it up there somewhere.”
That’s because the bentgrass of Augusta’s slippery slopes are among the fastest in the world, more often than not registering 13-15 on the Stimpmeter. “At Augusta they bikini-wax the greens,” reckons Gary McCord, which makes approach play and strategy crucial to getting it around the treacherous track.
So then, who better to close the book on how best to navigate your way around Augusta than the master of The Masters, Jack Nicklaus, who won six green jackets from 1963-1986. We read constant speculation about the type of golfer that wins ‘round Augusta; they hit the ball high from right to left, can land their approach shots softly on a six-pence, chip like a demon and putt like a dream. For Nicklaus?
“I hear players saying that it doesn’t suit my game – it’s not supposed to suit your game! You’re supposed to suit your game to the golf course.” And if you overcome that hurdle, Jack, that mental block of believing you can be a Masters champion on this intimidating but pristine proposition, what then?
“My best advice would be to put the ball in the middle of the green on every hole and find out what type of breaking putt you have after that. There’s only four pin placements – you’re not going to be very far away.”
Listen to our Masters preview Podcast featuring James Sugrue, Paul McGinley, Graeme McDowell by clicking the cover below or click HERE