(Note: This story appeared in the March 23, 2017 issue of Golfweek.)
The Augusta experience.
What’s it like? We asked some Golfweek course raters who have played Augusta National to tell us about it
It’s almost time. In a few days, the golf world will be consumed by Masters week hysteria. It’s arguably not the biggest major of the season, but it is the most anticipated and the most watched.
With that in mind, we asked some of Golfweek’s course raters who have posted ratings on Augusta National to share their thoughts on the course. With one exception, these raters played Augusta National as guests of a member. Golfweek raters evaluate courses anonymously.
It is hard to separate the history and build-up to playing Augusta from the reality. The experience was probably the best of my golfing life but the course is not in my top five.
The par 5s are all-world and I often think about how I played them. I found the par 3s a little disappointing. The biggest surprise to me was how insane the greens were. I knew they were contoured but I four-putted No. 14 after hitting the green in regulation. Also, No. 10 is brutally hard, hitting that green from the angle and distance an amateur has to hit from is extremely difficult. Same thing with No. 9.
Generous fairways and member tees made for a fun day. It’s quite hilly, which you can’t see on TV, but that is usually the first thing people say that visit there.
Everything about Augusta is amazing and I dream about my trip there often.
– Anonymous Maryland rater
The experience at Augusta exceeded my already-high expectations.
I was especially impressed with the golf course itself. I found it to be one of the best golfing experiences I have ever had by far.
I was certainly surprised by the elevation changes; they were much more dramatic than I anticipated from what I had seen on TV. I thought the routing presented a fluid, natural lay of the land that took advantage of the natural topography and prevailing winds. It challenged you at every turn to think through the options presented.
I was really impressed with the width it presented, and precision it required. Bunkering was massive, visually stunning and intimidating both from the tee box and around the greens. The contouring of the greens and challenges and options around the greens are second to none.
It was a truly joyful experience.
– Anonymous California rater
Playing Augusta National is a reverential experience.
We’re talking chill bumps and sensory overload as you soak it all in. It truly is hallowed ground and it’s impossible not to be a little overwhelmed as you walk the surprisingly hilly fairways and hit the shots you’ve seen for so many years on TV.
For me, anyway, playing Augusta National lived up to my expectations. Every day at Augusta National and at the Masters was a gift.
If I had to pick a favorite hole, it would be No. 13 — the breathtaking view standing on the tee, that second shot that lives in infamy, then being humbled by a green that has befuddled the best golfers in the world for eight decades.
My favorite par 3 is No. 12 — no, wait, No. 16. That Sunday pin at No. 16 is one of the most exciting shots on the course.
There are no bad holes at Augusta, but there are a couple I find less interesting than the others. No. 7, the 450-yard par 4, is a ho-hum tee shot.
The trio of bunkers guarding the entrance to the green, and the elevated green itself, are what make the hole. No. 8 just doesn’t have the personality, or the oomph, of the other par 5s. Besides No. 7, the only other par 4 that left me not pinching myself is No. 14. That said, No. 14 has one of the most complex and merciless greens on the course or anywhere in the world, for that matter.
That is saying something, considering that No. 14 has no bunkers; the only other green with no bunker is No. 8.
Underrated holes, if you ask me, are No. 5, the dogleg par 4; and No. 10, the where several thrilling playoffs have concluded.
All in all, I can confirm that experience of playing Augusta is to die for.
— Joe Logan, Ambler, Pa.
(Logan is the former golf writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer. He twice won the media lottery, allowing him to play Augusta National Monday after the Masters.)
The total experience is unsurpassed.
To be able to play the course where they host the Masters was unbelievable. It’s bigger, bolder and a lot more undulating than you would ever be able to determine from watching television.
It’s a wonderful golf course in spectacular condition – almost too nice.
However, it is far from the best golf course I have played. As a student of golf architecture and someone who loves to find old photos and aerials of classic courses, I am amazed at how much the course, especially the greens, have changed since their original construction.
A golf course architect friend sent me drawings of the 18 original ANGC greens, and I cannot help but think that although some holes have been improved (like No. 16), many holes might be better with the original wilder green contours and shapes.
Other items that have been lost but are still visible are an old fairway bunker on No. 14, which would improve the hole in my opinion. In addition, the conditioning and shapes of some of the features give an unrealistic impression of what a golf course should look like. Bunkers with those edges and greens with tournament speed make the average golfer think their course at home should look the same.
I loved playing there, but take away the Masters Tournament and the course is just a very nice, extremely well-conditioned golf club.
—Anonymous Iowa rater
I have been fortunate enough to play Augusta on three occasions and have attended 27 Masters tournaments. To say the course is amazing is selling it short, but I feel a lot of that is the history of the place.
The condition is 10+ and walking with a caddie and playing is one step short of heaven. I do feel that holes six and 11 were actually better before they were lengthened, the green at 6 is too severe for a long-iron approach and unless you can carry the hill on 11 you cannot even see the green, much less reach it.
The course is now made for long hitters and takes many players out to the field. I am still amazed Zach Johnson won there.
—Anonymous Alabama rater