A new 13th tee at Augusta National? Aerial photos give us clues
Everything is changing in the world of golf these days, and it seems that even extends to Augusta National, where the 13th hole is under major construction.
Thanks to the flyover folks at Eureka Earth, we have new photos of the 13th, taken earlier this week, that show dirt being moved in the fairway and the shaping of a potential new tee box much farther back.
From above, it’s clear the fairway has been dug up, with a pipe trench extending through the middle of it toward the 14th tee. It’s unclear if the pipe had just been laid down or dug up. Augusta National does not comment on club operations.
The bigger deal with the 13th hole is, of course, a potential new tee box. The golf world has opined on how to change this par-5, which plays as one of the easiest holes on the course (according to par) during the Masters each year. This year, it was the 3rd easiest, behind only the par-5s on the front nine, Nos. 2 and 8.
No. 13 has been the subject of many questions lobbed at Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley in recent years. Just a couple months ago, at his annual press conference, Ridley was asked if the club had a timetable for changing the hole.
“Yeah, I mean, there’s no timetable,” Ridley said. “Nothing to announce at this time. That’s something that certainly we have considered and will continue to consider.
“Admittedly, and I’ve said this before, the 13th hole does not have the same challenges that it has historically, and, I mean, I can just remember as a young guy watching the Masters, you know, some of the triumphs and tragedies. And while we still have those, the fact that players are hitting middle to short irons into that hole, you know, is not really how it was designed.”
Ridley is right about the club choices. Players often will hit 3-wood off the tee box, like Scottie Scheffler did this year, with the hole stretched to a total of just 510 yards. If they are able to bend it around the corner well, only about an 8-iron remains. There is no reason to take driver out of the bag, especially with the trees and pine straw out in the distance.
Ridley admitted that the club’s hesitancy to change anything about the layout of the hole was because it’s “such an iconic hole” and one of the few where so much golf history has been made. But, he also admitted, “at some point in time, it’s something that we likely will do. We just don’t have anything to say about it right now.”
Well, it appears the club is now doing something about it.
Multiple photos from Eureka Earth show construction back beyond the teeing ground, and even a rectangular, white outline of what would sensibly be a new tee. According to those photos, a new tee would be roughly 30 yards or so behind the current teeing ground, which would force driver back into the hands of many players and turn offline drives into layups. Check out the photos below.
What does this mean for the 2023 Masters? Again, it’s way too soon to tell. The club makes a habit of sharing course adjustments in its media guides each spring. That’s where we were first introduced to a lengthened 15th hole, which made its debut this April.
The 15th played more difficult than it has in decades this year, with an extra 20 yards in total length, to reach 550 from the championship tees. All that meant was that players could not squeeze past the trees that jut into the left side of the fairway, nor could they sting iron shots between them for an approach that would hold the green. Instead, players found themselves hitting hybrids into the 15th green, or laying up for their second shots into a tricky, downhill third shot. As a result, not a single eagle was made on the 15th this year, and the hole played to an average of 4.9329 strokes.
All of that, and the photos above, speak to the abilities of Augusta National to adjust its course to the demands of the modern game, but also to do it on its own schedule. Don’t look for official word from the club until next spring. Until then, follow Eureka Earth for those long-range airplane shots. And watch this video about them below.