Augusta Announces Course Changes

November 03, 2008

According to Chairman Payne, greater flexibility in the face of adverse weather is the goal.

Augusta National will be shorter for the Masters next year -- but only by 10 yards on the scorecard, with the option to trim off a few more yards depending on the weather.

Despite some criticism that a longer, stronger Augusta National has taken away some of the excitement, chairman Billy Payne announced Tuesday only minor changes to the home of the Masters.

The back of the first tee was moved forward seven yards, primarily to help the movement of the gallery between the tee and the putting green. The official scorecard was changed from 455 yards to 445 yards.

An additional 10 yards was added to the front of the tee on the 450-yard seventh hole, and nearly 10 yards were added to the front of the 530-yard 15th hole, although neither hole required a change in the official length.

In both cases, Payne said it gave the tournament flexibility to move the tees depending on the weather.

"As we've done nearly every year since the inception of the Masters, we evaluate the golf course and make refinements we think are necessary," Payne said in a statement. "This year, only minor changes were implemented, and all were made in order to provide greater flexibility in the event of adverse weather conditions, which we have experienced the last couple of years."

In gusts up to 20 mph, Trevor Immelman won the Masters this year by closing with a 75, the highest final-round score by a Masters champion since Arnold Palmer in 1962. Immelman finished at 8-under 280.

The previous year in cold, windy conditions, Zach Johnson won at 1-over 289, matching the highest winning score at Augusta National.

That led to criticism that the Masters, known for final-round charges filled with eagles and birdies, had lost some of its appeal because of a premium on par. No one has broken 280 the last three years.

The club also rebuilt the greens at Nos. 1, 5 and 6 for agronomic reasons.

There were a few other cosmetic changes, some of which could affect competition. The club said there was significant landscaping behind the seventh tee to reforest an area that was left open when a storage building was removed in 2005.

Also, a couple of trees were removed from the right side of the 15th fairway, a spot where players could be kept from trying to reach the green with their second shots.

Payne said the club was on schedule to have its new practice facility ready for the 2010 Masters.