03/24/2016

Augusta National has always been the home of the Masters. Much of what makes the country club so great remains the same now as it was in the early to mid 1900’s.

But every so often the course itself goes through an uplift. Some change is naturally inspired. Two years ago an ice storm forced the removal of the famed Eisenhower Tree. Other changes offset the trends of the time, namely dominance.

Tiger Woods obliterated Augusta in 1997 to the tune of 18-under. Woods unknowlingly doomed himself in his press conferences. When asked about his advantage, Tiger rightfully pointed out that he had wedges and nine irons into greens where most guys had longer irons. In other words, he could reach the par-fives in two–easily at that.

Sure enough, Augusta soon lengthened the course and narrowed the fairways. The term “Tiger-proofing” was born.

Now a similar change is reportedly underway.

According to report by Golfweek, Augusta National is working on a deal with its neighbor Augusta Country Club to purchase land adjacent to the 13th hole. The plan is for number 13, a 510-yard par-five, to be extended by 50 yards. It’s not the first time the hole was tinkered with. In fact, 13 started as no. 4 and was 480 yards in 1934. By 1987, the hole had gone through various adjustments and played 465 yards in that year’s Masters.

The newest change is by far the most drastic. While the trademark dog leg stays, the 50 yards challenge the big bombers of the modern game.

And, as of now, the early responses aren’t positive. Following the third round at last month’s Honda Classic Billy Horschel called the potential changes, “the dumbest thing in the world.” Horschel went on to say that he feels 13 is a great hole as it stands. “Golf is going in the wrong direction by adding length to the golf course.”

Augusta insists the changes are meant solely to add more area around the 12th green for the purpose of a service road. The additional yardage is merely an opportunity to take advantage of more land.

But the inspiration for the uplift is obvious to anyone who’s watched the Masters the last two years. Jordan Spieth set scoring records on his way to the Green Jacket in 2015. Before that, Bubba Watson drove his tee shot over the trees to leave himself a wedge into the green on Sunday in 2014. That drive was iconic, the lasting image of Watson’s second Masters triumph. It also set a trend. The dog leg was rendered obsolete as the longest hitters chose the high, hard route over the layup.

The extra 50 yards may not take the strategy out completely. But it will require golfers to gamble. Either way, the scoring average is short to jump a bit.

The Masters has never been and will never be an easy tournament. Augusta, though, can beaten. That fact doesn’t always sit well with the powers that be. They want major championship to be synonymous with difficulty. These changes are just another example of the club’s overzealous efforts to maintain a higher standard.

It’s a storyline worth watching as more players will be asked about it in the coming weeks.