Several Augusta residents driving down Berckmans Road have reported a massive construction effort underway on the western border of Augusta National Golf Club.
The Forecaddie knows this is hardly shocking news given a January reveal of plans filed to work on a 23-acre area. Given that the club is still open for member play through the end of May, the initial outer landscaping effort is an inevitable precursor to lengthening the 455-yard fifth hole once play ends for the season. Permits called for – are you ready – 119 trees to be planted to shield the course from the repositioned Berckmans Road.
Of most interest to The Man Out Front will be the handling of the fifth hole strategy. A backwards move of the tee to the right could change some of the dogleg left characteristics envisioned by architects Alister MacKenzie and Bobby Jones.
They originally wanted a drive taking on fairway bunkers and hugging the left side to gain a huge reward both by shortening the hole and providing a better angle to most hole locations. Those who played out to the right faced a longer, more awkward approach. The Road Hole was their model for the strategy.
The Forecaddie has combed around the area in question and has no doubt the new tee will be a beautiful one when separated a bit from the fourth green and set amidst some of Augusta National’s more exotic trees. The angle will change, however, so TMOF expects some re-grading to maintain a similar look to the current tee shot and will not be shocked to see a repositioning of fairway bunkers to recapture some of the strategy lost by modern distances. TMOF also has heard from many players that the incentive to take on the bunkers is no longer in existence after Tom Fazio’s last reworking in 2002.
New chairman Fred Ridley has reiterated his devotion to the original architects and now we’re about to find out her serious he is in retaining their vision.