Monday, 8 April 2013

Is Augusta National Perfect?

The Mackenzie Plan for Augusta with reversed nines

Conceptually the golf course is brilliant Not only does it create grand theater for what can be argued the best tournament of the year, but also it’s very friendly and accommodating to the members who enjoy the course during the winter.

Is it architecturally perfect then?

The 1st green, the 3rd hole, the 4th hole, the 5th green, the 7th green, the 9th hole are all worthy of architectural study. Each is a standout and offers unique ideas to be either adapted or adopted in their entirety. But I’m not fond of the 2nd green, the 6th green, 7th tee shot or the finish of the 8th hole. Nothing horrible about each, but there nothing that impresses me either. And yes my quibbles are small.

Augusta National reminds me of Pebble Beach architecturally. When its great, it is without peer, where it is not great, it is occasionally bordering on disappointment. The history of both courses makes many of the faults irrelevant to the shots that have been played there.
 
The amazing 14th green is my favourite feature
The 10th hole, 12th, 13th, 14th are some of the “very” best golf has to offer. Twelve through fourteen has a realistic argument for the best stretch of holes in golf. In fact the back nine from ten to sixteen may be the most famous stretch in all of golf for good reason. Walking this stretch during the event is a must in a golfers life.

I’m personally not a fan of the 11th, 15th or 16th but that’s my personal bias against pond holes. I think Trent Jones let the course down with his alterations. I also think Tom Fazio has altered many holes with planting, tinkering and added length to the point that Augusta is not as good as when he began his work there. Sorry, but that’s my honest opinion.

The finish is the weakness for me and feels very much like a fight to get back to the clubhouse elevation. The 17th “had” a nice tee shot before planting, but is far too tight now. The green is interesting but the surrounds are weak. The 18th is a slog. It begins with a ridiculously tight chute that climbs as much as the 10th drops and is a grind up to the green, which I will say I is the one part I do like.

If you go through detail by detail, such as the bunkering, you realize it isn’t perfect. But when you watch the Masters and the wonderful event it produces it’s easy to get seduced into believing that it is. As I said at the outset, conceptually it is perfect and that proves that the philosophy of what you design is far more essential than golfers and architects think. It “is” the foundation of greatness.


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