Augusta National’s most anticipated course change will come later rather than sooner

The 13th hole at Augusta National is iconic for a number of reasons. Not only is it stunningly beautiful, with its green framed by a multitude of azaleas and four gleaming white-sand bunkers, its risk/reward opportunity is also pivotal. The 510-yard par-5 comprises the final leg of Amen Corner, and presents as excellent an opportunity for a birdie or even eagle as it does for a disastrous bogey or worse — a supremely consequential decision for players coming down the stretch, especially on Sunday.

But in today’s bomb-and-gouge era, the decision of whether or not to go for the green in two has become a lot less taxing, as many players can reach the green in two with a mid-iron — or even a short iron! — instead of a fairway wood. That’s not what course designers Bobby Jones and Alister MacKenzie originally intended, and Augusta National’s desire to stay true to their vision has resulted in a not-if-but-when scenario regarding the lengthening of the 13th hole.

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The club already has the land to do it, but making a major change to such an iconic area of the course is not something ANGC’s leadership takes lightly.

“I’ve been reluctant thus far to make any major changes regarding adding distance to the golf course,” Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley said in his annual pre-tournament press conference on Wednesday. “I think sometimes when you do that, I mean, I think there are unintended consequences that come out of that. The scale and the scope of the hole, it changes when you add distance. It changes more than just adding distance.  The look of the hole changes. And the design philosophy of the hole changes. And that’s something that we have always and I have always been very focused on is maintaining the design philosophy of MacKenzie and Jones.

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“Having said that, I think we are at a crossroads as relates to this issue,” Ridley continued. “And all I can say is that, as it relates to our golf course, we have options, and we will take the necessary action to make sure we stay relevant. But as it relates to the 13th hole […] It still provides a lot of drama, but its challenge is being diminished. We don’t think that’s good for the Masters. We don’t think it’s good for the game. But the issue is a lot larger than Augusta National and the Masters. We have options, as I said, we can make changes, but not every golf course can.”

While Ridley didn’t commit to any specific changes that are currently in the works with the 13th hole, regardless of what Augusta decides to do, Ridley was definitive about one thing: Nothing is going to happen before next April’s Masters.

“Our season is underway, and we would not make any changes in [the time period between now and April 2021],” Ridley said. “Beyond that, I wouldn’t speculate.”

Jessica Marksbury

Golf.com

As a four-year member of Columbia’s inaugural class of female varsity golfers, Jessica can out-birdie everyone on the masthead. She can out-hustle them in the office, too, where she’s primarily responsible for producing both print and online features, and overseeing major special projects, such as GOLF’s inaugural Style Is­sue, which debuted in February 2018. Her origi­nal interview series, “A Round With,” debuted in November of 2015, and appeared in both in the magazine and in video form on GOLF.com.