What Augusta Means to Me? Golf architects discuss its influence

AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 10: A general-view of the 13th hole during the completion of the third round of The Masters at the Augusta National Golf Club on April 10, 2005 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images) David Cannon/Getty Images

What Augusta Means to Me? Golf architects discuss its influence

Courses

What Augusta Means to Me? Golf architects discuss its influence

Just as surely as Alister MacKenzie and Bobby Jones built Augusta National as an homage to the Old Course, so too have modern architects been influenced by the home of the Masters. No course, with the possible exception of Pine Valley or Cypress Point, has had a greater influence on the country’s golf landscape.

We put the question to some of the game’s most prominent architects: How has Augusta National influenced your work? Here’s what they told us.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - OCTOBER 13: A course scenic of the 18th hole during the second round of the PGA TOUR Latinoamerica 64 Aberto do Brasil at the Olympic Golf Course on October 13, 2017 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Enrique Berardi/PGA TOUR)

The 18th hole of the Olympic course in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Enrique Berardi/PGA Tour)

“While the aesthetic of Augusta National might not be exactly what we’re after, the principles behind it are 100 percent what we’re trying to create. … It’s a wonderfully playable golf course, but the level of precision required to score at Augusta National is off the charts. We see that every year at the Masters. It goes from a golf course that’s wide and forgiving to one where you’ve got to find the proper side of the fairway to get an angle where you can be aggressive. You have to navigate slope and contour and tilt and wind. And then once you get on the green, you have to find the proper quarter of the green to be in an aggressive mode. So from the standpoint of trying to build a golf course that is playable for all, yet challenging and demanding to score on, I think Augusta National is the perfect golf course. 

“Our first hole at the Olympic Course was basically a mirror image of hole No. 8 at Augusta National, with the mounds and needing to get the (proper) angle on your second shot. …

That (Olympic) course was heavily inspired (by Augusta National). It’s plenty wide but we were able to tuck pins and create hole locations where angles were relevant to get at them. Nowhere was that more evident than on the final hole with Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson. One guy chose the right angle to get at the pin and the other guy chose the wrong angle, and one guy makes birdie and wins the gold medal and the other guy doesn’t.”

Gil Hanse


DUBLIN, OHIO - MAY 30: A course scenic view of the 12th hole green during practice for the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide at Muirfield Village Golf Club on May 30, 2017 in Dublin, Ohio. (Photo by Keyur Khamar/PGA TOUR)

No. 12 at Muirfield Village Golf Club was inspired by its Augusta counterpart. (Keyur Khamar/PGA Tour)

“I love Augusta National. I love St. Andrews. Those have been my two favorite places in the game of golf. Why? They’re both exactly the same thing. You have freedom off the tee, which I think is the most fun place to hit the ball. (They are) second-shot golf courses, which means you need to put your tee shot in a place where you can play your second shot. And both courses have challenging greens. So that’s shaped a lot of what I did.”

Jack Nicklaus


“I think all of the risk-reward throughout the golf course made people more aware of that style of design. … I’ve always thought it to be the best risk-reward, decision-making golf course, hole after hole, of any championship golf course I’ve ever played. …

“I’ve always been a big fan of the (green) roll-offs and the false fronts, so that’s always been something I’ve tried to implement in my designs. If you don’t have the right spin on the ball, it’s kind of hard to hold the green. I had the luxury of growing up at Ohio State, playing that course, which was a MacKenzie course. That had a lot of that characteristic in it.”

Tom Weiskopf


“The 12th hole at Augusta was my model for the 17th hole at Danzante Bay. It’s a short par 3, it crosses the Sea of Cortez. The swirling winds gave me the idea of having a wide but shallow green. And of course, it’s protected by the slope of the rocks in front. …

“People seem to think you have to manufacture everything. What Augusta did is use the natural site conditions to create the challenge. That’s what I did at Pinehurst No. 7. The chipping areas and closely mown areas had all of these naturally elevated areas, much like Augusta. I looked at keeping those elevated surfaces because it requires an extra shot, it requires more thought, because the arc of the ball has not been completed, so you can have a little bit of a release.”

Rees Jones


“It’s really playable for the average golfer. You might shoot 100, but you won’t do it because you’re taking doubles or stroke and distance because you lost your ball. You’re going to do it because you five-putt. That playability is really appealing, and we’re seeing that more now than I’ve ever seen it in my career.”

David McLay Kidd


“It expanded my thinking on greens design. I grew up in the Northwest with basically small and flat (greens). And when you play the Masters, they have big greens, lots of interesting movement. It brought a whole new level of strategy into it for me. …

“There were times when we did holes at The Gallery (in Marana, Ariz.) where we were thinking of (Augusta National), like the 17th green on the South Course. It’s a par 5 that plays slightly uphill, and it has some roll in that green that is different. You really have to position your second shot a certain way. … If you’ve ever played 14 at Augusta National, wow, that green has got movement in it. And (No. 17 on Gallery South) has some of those elements.”

John Fought


“The biggest impact is how MacKenzie routed the golf course around the property and the sequence of golf holes and how they change direction every shot. It takes you from (one) landscape setting to (a different) landscape setting. I think the beauty of it is in the routing. … We strive to go from landscape setting to landscape setting on every project we undertake. And if we’re on a site that doesn’t have a variety of landscape settings, we create them.”

Steve Smyers


“I think about watching the tournament when I was a kid with my grandfather in the ’70s and ’80s. … Players had to hit great drives to be able to go for the green in two (on par 5s), and then they had to think about their layup shots. That’s not as evident now as it was 30 or 40 years ago. (No. 13) is one of the great holes, so I think back to what the golf course was like (years ago), because that’s more relevant for 95 percent of the golfers today. High-end amateurs and professionals are able to utilize technology, but the average guy doesn’t have the ability. He’s still playing a game that’s more akin to what ’70s professional golf was like, and making decisions about, ‘Do I want to challenge that? Do I have that shot?’ . . . That philosophy of ‘older golfer’ is still applicable to today’s players. They can’t get home in two all the time. They have to hit a great drive to even think about it.”

Mike DeVries

(Note: This story appears in the April 2018 issue of Golfweek.)

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