The Changes in Augusta: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
There is no tournament or field with more magic than the Masters at Augusta National. The popularity of this tournament is no accident since nobody protects its product so fiercely - either with the control of the television broadcast, buying land around it, the exclusivity of the club and the changes they make to the field.
What makes Augusta a good course?
ANGC has plenty of strategy in most of the holes and magnificent greens as you have to remember that there is no excellent hole without an excellent green .
Usually, depending on the flag of the day, there is a good side of the fairway and a bad side of the fairway. Same with the greens - there is a good side and a bad side to chip or putts.
But the best thing is the holes that give birdies a chance and make a last minute comeback in the back 9 - an advantage of 5 strokes entering the last 9 holes is not safe in Augusta.
A bit of history
Augusta National is the field to which most changes have been made to through the years. The dumbbell formed by Dr. Alister Mackenzie and Bobby Jones designed the field in 1934 and four years later the changes began and have been constant to date - some without being made public.
Mackenzie's original intention and Jones was to transport the old country style of St. Andrews to the United States. As a priority they sought to provide ground play and options from different angles in the wide fairway holes to challenge the best players and at the same time provide "playability" to the high handicaps.
One of the principles of the Doctor was that a high score should be the result of a bad angle and not of hazards or lost balls. In the same way, a good score should be the result of choosing an appropriate route with the best angle to the flag of that day.
With this in mind, it is curious that Augusta has become the antithesis of what St Andrews is still today. The first is the most exclusive field in the world, the second is public. ANGC is a field that favors the aerial game, the old field has the ground game as an option. In Augusta National has a perfect look with green grass, flowers and birds singing (although it is said that the TV artificially adds them) while in Scotland retains its medium yellow look with firm and fast terrain.
Yes Well the role of technology has been discussed from the beginning of ANGC - until Mackenzie was a proponent of limiting the team in those times - the reaction to this technology has been unfortunate in some cases, especially in the last 20 years.
We are going to the good, the bad and the ugly of the evolution of Augusta National:
The strategy perseveres in key points
I dare say that the 13th hole is the best in the world. The risk-benefit of the hole and the angles offered in the starting shots represents the best entertainment year after year.
The field asks the players who want to take so much risk. The closer you get to the trees on the left, the better angle to the green and the more level lie.The changes were also due to advances in technology and focused on lengthening certain holes, reducing fairway widths and growing the rough.
Why do they benefit long hitters? Because the rough stops the balls that previously rolled towards the trees and hazards. A narrow and long fairway always gives an advantage to who can hit farther since statistically it is better to have a sand wedge from the rough than iron 5 from the fairway.
Adding distance was a necessity due to technology issues and players every time stronger. Reducing the width was a hasty reaction that has stolen the strategy to the field.
The 17th hole has no strategy
One of the holes where these changes are most noticed "to test of Tiger "is par four 17.
Originally, Mackenzie envisioned a hole where he had to play on the right side of the fairway to get the best angle.
Today, this hole lacks strategy since it only offers a route from tee to green because of the narrow fairway and the green: the center.
Eliminating angles from hole 11
Responsible for these changes was Robert Trent Jones in 1952 when he added the puddle and eliminated the best angle to attack this green. Today it is unrecognizable.
Mackenzie's intention was to offer a better angle by embracing the right side of the fairway - especially if the flag is located on the left side of the green. Today, with the puddle and the narrow fairway, the best angle was eliminated and most of the approaches err far from the lake on the right as it is almost impossible to find an ideal angle with the tee shot.
hole 15 offers less heroic shots
If Jack Nicklaus had hit the hook he hit in '86, he could not have tried to go to green two and we would not have had that famous eagle putt with the mythical "Yes Sir ! "By Verne Lundquist.
Bobby Jones said that on that hole he always wanted to offer an incentive for all players to try to reach the green in two shots regardless of his tee shot.
Today, the narrow and the trees that they added to the hole does not make it possible since bad shots result in a safe punch-outs.
If you are not going to limit the team, it would be good to restore the width and add a bunker in the middle to make to the players to choose a side and see more approaches and putts of eagle for the brave ones that do it well.
Elimination of the original Bunkers
Speaking of bunkers, Mackenzie's specialty, he liked to set traps in the middle of the fairway for this same reason.
It should be mentioned that Mackenzie was an expert in camouflage since he learned this discipline in the army. The art and flash of its bunkers have been eliminated almost completely.Over the decades, how many members of different clubs in the world have demanded that their fields resemble Augusta?
Trying to replicate the green pastures and the perfect conditions of Augusta is unsustainable and the direction wrong that modern golf needs. Golf needs more fields that welcome more yellow grass and firm and fast terrain as well as "playability" for everyone - in the end this was the original intention of the course.
The last years of Doctor Mackenzie
For many the best architect in history, Mackenzie died poor and did not receive a dime for his work at Augusta National. The bad economy, the result of the Great Depression and the Second World War, is largely responsible for the lack of payment.
What does the future hold?
The Masters is the best candidate for a limited flight ball to return to the roots of the original design.
Current Chairman Fred Ridley has expressed how he will seek to restore some of the original design spirit of Mackenzie and Jones to the field - for sure the technology will be part of the discussion.
Image source: Golf Digest, where you can see all the changes over the years