By David Owen
Augusta National's 12th hole is just 155 yards long, for both club members and Masters competitors. Nevertheless, Jack Nicklaus once called it "the toughest tournament hole in golf," and Lloyd Mangrum said it was "the meanest little par 3 in the world."
The 12th was the hardest hole on the course to build. When an engineer saw that the plans called for a bunker in front of the green, he thought that the drawing must be in error, because the slope was so steep. The green was created by covering an exposed rock ledge with 5,000 cubic yards of earth, which had been excavated on the opposite side of the creek. During that process, two tractors and eight mules became stuck in the mire and had to be pulled out with long ropes drawn by all the other tractors.
Here's how it looked in 1935, the year of the second Masters:
The 12th green has always been shallow and treacherous; in the early years it was even more so. The right side of the green, where the hole is usually cut for the final round of the Masters, was enlarged in 1951 because, Bobby Jones explained, the hole had been "possibly a little too exacting." (The front right corner of the green had settled toward the creek, exacerbating the problem.) "I think we should build this up so as to provide the maximum level putting surface," Clifford Roberts, the club's co-founder and chairman, explained in a letter at the time. "To do it right, logs should be used the same as when we extended the front of the left side of the green. . . . Now that #11 is exacting such a surprising toll [because of the new pond] I wouldn't mind easing up a trifle on the boys at #12 green."
The creek in front of the 12th green was a factor in a match played by Roberts, Ed Dudley (the club's pro), Jerome Franklin (a local member) and Dwight Eisenhower shortly after Eisenhower had been elected president. Eisenhower's tee shot landed short of the green, and his ball ended up on a sand bar next to the water. "You can play that ball off the sand bar," Roberts said as they walked to the green. Eisenhower climbed down the bank to his ball and sank past his knees in what turned out to be quicksand. Two Secret Service agents jumped in after him and pulled him out by the arms. The match was delayed while the president went back to his cottage to change clothes. When he returned, he told Roberts that he would never again take his advice on any matter concerning golf. That's Eisenhower in the photo above, with Bill Zimmerman, Billy Joe Patton and Roberts, none of whom looks impressed by the President's swing.*
**Images: Augusta National Golf Club*