Sunday, 26 December 2010

12th hole at Augusta National

The Masters is never won on the 12th hole at Augusta National, but is lost there every year. So what makes this little hole so special? When you see the hole from the tee, the hole appears benign and invites a player to play aggressive, yet the hole is as much about restraint as it is about accuracy. The pond may be the hazard we all are drawn to think about, but it’s actually the green site is which makes the hole.

First the green is set at a subtle diagonal to play, where the further right you aim right, the longer you need to carry the ball. The green also happens to be incredibly narrow, so that a player must hit absolutely the correct distance on the line they chose to find the putting surface. When you add in that the green is fairly flat, you now begin realize that the shot has no room for error despite appearing to have room.

What further complicates the hole is the back bank is covered in vines, where balls have actually been lost at The Masters, and the bunkers which players rarely get up and down from since the water beyond intimidates the recovery shot. With the exception of the central bunker, all play short unless your name is Fred Couples, ends up spinning back into the water. Shaving this bank was essential to developing the all or nothing nature of this shot during The Masters.

So when it comes right down to it the player can only hit a great shot to succeed, and this is where the swirling winds created by the backdrop of enormous pines make club selection and wind calculation hard. Add all this confusion and indecision to the shot, plus The Masters and this adds up to be the best single tournament hole in golf. No wonder this has become the most copied par three in the world, we fall in love with it all over again at every Masters wishing we could try the shot ourselves.

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