Augusta National’s 5 hardest shots, according to Arnold Palmer

arnold palmer hits a wedge shot during the 1977 masters

Arnold Palmer played in 50 Masters over the course of his career.

Getty Images

Golf instruction is ever-evolving, but the best advice stands the test of time. In’s new series, Timeless Tips, we’re highlighting some of the greatest advice teachers and players have dispensed in the pages of GOLF Magazine. Today, we look back at our April 1986 issue where Arnold Palmer shares the five shots that gave him the most difficulty around Augusta National — and how to hit them. For unlimited access to the full GOLF Magazine digital archive, join InsideGOLF today; you’ll enjoy $140 of value for only $39.99/year.

AUGUSTA, Ga. — It’s early in the week here at Augusta National, but the course already looks to be breathing fire. Conditions are lush, temperatures are mild, and the forecast is breezy. If things hold up, we could be in for a stern test in the race for the green jacket.

Even in the most favorable scoring conditions, though, Augusta National is no walk in the park. If your ball finds the wrong spots, a big number comes into play quickly.

Arnold Palmer knows this well. He played in 50 Masters’ during his illustrious career, and even after all those reps, there were still shots around the property that gave him fits.

In the April 1986 issue of GOLF Magazine, he shared five of the shots that gave him the most trouble — and gave some advice on how to hit them. Check them out below.

5 hardest shots at Augusta National

In my 30 years playing the Masters, I’ve faced my share of hard shots. Today, when preparing for my annual attack on Augusta National, I look back on the toughest of these and play them over in my mind and during practice rounds. It’s a habit all golfers should adopt. 

I’ve boiled these “toughest tests” down to five shots. All are good examples of shot-making and strategy, the sort of challenges you’ll face wherever you play. So even if you never take on Augusta, let me show you how to handle five situations with mastery.

Tee shot on No. 13

13th tee box at augusta national
The tee shot on No. 13 requires a draw around the corner. Getty Images

Augusta favors the right-to-left player, but nowhere is a draw as important as off the 13th tee. To hit the curving drive, aim your body and the clubface where you want the ball to start its flight. Take the club back inside the target line, allowing your left forearm to roll over and your right elbow to tuck quickly into your side.

Coming down, shift your weight to your left foot. For more hook, release your hands in the hitting area more quickly. 

Downhill lie on No. 10

If the 10th were shorter. I’d lay up with a long iron. But at 470 yards, I hit the driver, which usually leaves me with a medium iron off a downhill lie. 

To hit a downhill shot, put most of your weight on the “lower” foot (the left one). Setup square with the ball played opposite your right heel. 

Swing the club back to three-quarters, then pull it down into the back of the ball. The ball-back position sets the hands ahead at address, delofting the clubface; so take one less club than normal. 

Long bunker shot on No. 16

arnold palmer hits a bunker shot from behind the 16th green
The bunker shot behind the 16th green always gave Arnold Palmer fits. GOLF Magazine

Facing a long bunker shot is tough enough, but put water behind the pin and a downhill slope in the middle of the green and you have a real test. 

Instead of focusing on the pin, I aim for a spot a few feet over the bunker wall. I know that if I hit this spot, the slope will roll the ball to the cup. 

Play the ball forward in your stance and set up open. Place your weight on the right side and swing the club up to halfway. Pull the clubhead down so it hits the sand about an inch behind the ball. 

Chip from behind No. 9 green

When you face a tricky, downhill chip and the greens are lightning fast, grab your sand wedge: Take a short stroke, loft the ball halfway to the pin and let it roll the rest of the way. 

Stand open for a better perspective on the hole and play the ball off your right toe, which encourages you to pick the club up quickly and catch the ball early in the downswing with a sharp, descending blow. Swing slowly and keep your body quiet; let your arms control the clubhead back and through. 

Uphill lag putt on No. 5

michael campbell hits a putt on the fifth green at augusta national during the 2010 masters
The fifth green is one of the most difficult on the course. Getty Images

How would you play a 50-foot, uphill putt on the undulating green of No. 5? Start by analyzing the putt from all angles. Take your time and give it a thorough look. 

Instead of a dead-handed stroke, put a little wrist into the action. On the way back, keep the wrists firm and swing the putter low to the ground with a pendulum stroke of the arms and shoulders. On the way through, allow the right wrist to break, snapping the blade into the ball.

Zephyr Melton Editor

Zephyr Melton is an assistant editor for where he spends his days blogging, producing and editing. Prior to joining the team at GOLF, he attended the University of Texas followed by stops with the Texas Golf Association, Team USA, the Green Bay Packers and the PGA Tour. He assists on all things instruction and covers amateur and women’s golf. He can be reached at