Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Course Design of Augusta National

Augusta National Golf Club was originally a 365-acre indigo plantation. By 1857 it had become a plant nursery. At the height of the Depression the property was purchased by Bobby Jones, the brilliant amateur, and a friend of his named Clifford Roberts. Together they hired a Scottish golf architect, Alister MacKenzie, to design a course. There were American architects they could have hired, but Bobby Jones didn't want an American course - he felt they were too prescriptive. He wanted MacKenzie to design a golf course where every hole presented a problem or a puzzle for players.

Bobby Jones also wanted a course like St. Andrews in Scotland, with wide fairways, undulating greens, and bunkers that came into play only if a shot was mishit. He wanted each hole to look wide-open from the tee, and playable for any high handicapper, a hole that was a hard par and a difficult birdie.

Jones also borrowed ideas from Sara Bay in Sarasota, Florida, a course built by the American golf architect, Donald Ross, with elevated greens that required pinpoint approach shots on the slopes and crowns.

Together, Jones and MacKenzie created what today is called the Doctrine of Deception. Rather than holes where it seems clear what a player needs to do, they built holes where golfers think they have two or three chances, and therefore try a shot that is above their ability. And that's why the Masters tournament is so thrilling. The winner is always the player who can pull off the impossible shot. And playing the impossible shot is the only way to win the green jacket at the Masters.

Excerpt from the book The Caddie who won the Masters by John Coyne: