Augusta National Golf Club has seen plenty of changes over the decades. The bunkers look nothing like they did when the host site of the Masters opened in 1932. Holes have been lengthened, ponds have been added to Nos. 11 and 16 and tees have shifted. The now-famous and ultra-speedy bent grass on the greens wasn’t introduced until 1980. Fairways have been narrowed, and a second cut of grass – almost rough, albeit on the light side – was introduced.
On and on. The chairmen in the green coats have always kept a close eye on making the course – which ranks No. 2 on Golfweek’s Best Classic Courses list – play the way they want. And, it appears, they are back at it with heavy machinery on the Alister MacKenzie layout.
Based on tweets by Eureka Earth at @EurekaEarthPlus, which feature detailed aerial photos, several holes at Augusta National have become worksites since Hideki Matsuyama wrapped up his Masters title in April.
The club has not commented on what work is underway. And while it looks as if several holes might feature new tees or fewer trees, it’s also possible the club has other plans. It’s likely that nobody except the members will know for sure until after the work is done.
It appears the par-4 11th has lost many of the trees to the right side of the downhill fairway. For decades the area was wide open, allowing players to bail out to the right off the tee and still reach the green from a position that could provide a strategic advantage when attacking some hole locations. In 2004, then-ANGC chairman Hootie Johnson had trees planted in the righthand landing area, severely narrowing the fairway and limiting strategic options while making the hole much more difficult. https://twitter.com/EurekaEarthPlus/status/1405100631547842562 It appears, based on the images provided by Eureka Earth on Twitter, that many of those trees are now gone. Will they remain gone? That’s yet to be seen, as Augusta has shown the capability and willpower to introduce – or possibly in this case, re-introduce – trees. Also interesting is the lack of grass and the absence of water in the pond short and left of the green. That pond surely will be refilled, but it begs a fun question: Who got to keep all the balls they found in there? Here's guessing that tally didn't include any range balls mis-struck by nervous members who reached deep into the pockets of their golf bags before trying to navigate the water.
Speaking of trees, there appear to be two new pines way behind the current 13th tee box. Why does it matter if trees are planted behind the tee? It’s possible the two trees were planted as future obstacles to prevent players from intentionally driving left off what could be a new tee box on a longer No. 13. https://twitter.com/EurekaEarthPlus/status/1404138503345221643 In 2017, Augusta National purchased that swath of land from the neighboring Augusta Country Club – the land actually was part of a hole on the neighboring course, and Augusta Country Club was forced to reroute its layout to accommodate the land sale. There has been considerable speculation that Augusta National will lengthen its 13th, one of the easiest holes on the course. In recent years, powerful players have been able to blast balls over the trees that protect the dogleg-left hole, sometimes hitting it far enough around the corner to leave a short iron or even a wedge for the second shot to the green.
It also appears work is being done on the par-5 15th, another of the easiest holes on the course where longer-hitting players can approach the green over a pond with a mid-iron. It’s hard to tell from the photos, but there could be a new tee box on No. 15 that lengthens the hole. The work appears to be pushing dirt almost all the way back to the 11th fairway behind the 10th green. https://twitter.com/EurekaEarthPlus/status/1404817591189786634 Or … it could be much ado about nothing. Only the club knows for sure. But judging from the aerial images, it appears likely the players are in for at least a few changes next April.