RBC Heritage

Harbour Town Golf Links



(Almost) Breaking 90

The bogey golfer's guide to surviving Augusta National

April 03, 2024

We are you. Somehow they let us play Augusta National—a couple of jabronis from New Jersey pulling down Magnolia Lane blasting a YouTube video of Jim Nantz Masters calls. One problem: CP was in shorts, and had to change. It was the day’s first bogey, and we hadn’t even hit a shot. After that, though, we were off. The whole experience was so cool, it still doesn’t feel real.

We are also not great golfers, or at least not compared to the guys who were just playing there. CP’s short game is scratch-worthy, and Steve ... well, he can lag-putt with the best of them. Other than that, it was an adventure. What's it like to actually play golf's most famous course as a hack? We figured you might as well learn from our mistakes in case you ever get the nod. Hey, you never know.

#1

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Christopher Powers, staff writer: Honestly, just blast it left and deal with the consequences. The last thing you want to do is block one O.B. right and set a horrific tone for what’s supposed to be the round of your life. That’s exactly what I did, flipping my wrists at impact and pulling it into the trees left of the fairway. From there, I punched a low-running 4-iron up near the green, chipped on and two-putted for my 5. Statement bogey.

Stephen Hennessey, dep. managing editor: CP was smart, keeping his punch low enough to escape the left trees. I stupidly ignored my caddie’s advice when he told me to play out sideways. I’m not one to hit an iron high, but for once I thought I had a window. At Augusta, you always gotta take your medicine.

#2

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SH: Don’t be afraid to wait until the tee clears on 3 to hit your approach at No. 2 way right. The angle for a chip to the right-hand Sunday pin was perfect from right next to the third tee box—and allowed me to get up and down for a pretty easy birdie.

CP: LOL, this guy. It was a preposterous up-and-down birdie from where he was. “Pretty easy” my a--.

#3

CP: Considering I made 7, it feels wrong to be advising anyone on how to play the hole. All I can say is I will never, ever make fun of a tour professional for not making birdie on this hole again. Television does not do this green justice. I still have nightmares about it.

SH: I'm pretty sure neither of us holed out. This green is so dang narrow. I’m really not sure how to play it—other than hitting it up on the little kicker slope right of the green and praying it holds on.

CP: WRONG^. I fought hard for that 7 and rattled the bottom of the cup.

#4

SH: The most mundane par 3 at Augusta National is still plenty challenging. The easiest bail-out is to hit it a little long and take the front bunkers—and a large number—out of play. If you take an extra club, you might have a treacherous chip down a steep embankment, but you ain’t gonna make 5 unless you really skull your next one.

CP: Or completely miss the center of the face and hit it about 30 yards short and left like I did. I was lucky to save 4. Leaves a nice uphill chip that you do not want to hit past the hole, leaving a scary downhill slider. Naturally I did exactly that but tapped the par putt lightly enough that I was able to save 4.

#5

CP: Make an agreement with yourself on the tee box: “This is a par 5, not a par 4.” This will make your eventual 5 much, much sweeter. It’s a beast of a hole, and it’s going to take two QUALITY shots to get anywhere near the green. I came up just short in two (driver-hybrid. WEAK. SAUCE.) and grinded out another 5. Sensing a theme? You should be.

SH: I’m with CP ... this is the most difficult hole on the course, and even the pros don’t hate a 5 at No. 5. The fifth green is probably the coolest on a course filled with intriguing green complexes. And there’s trouble to be found off the tee—the woods to the right are in play, as I unfortunately found out.

#6

SH: The sixth green can make every level of player look silly. If you’re short or long, you’re looking at a 4.

CP: Correct. First crispy iron shot of the day came on this hole, but it was pulled badly. We both somehow escaped with 4s.

#7

CP: Another green TV doesn’t do justice. We see this as an easy hole on Sunday because balls funnel into the hole for eagles or to tap-in range for easy birdies with that front pin. But pulling those shots off requires a level of precision that us 8-to-12 handicaps simply cannot fathom. Case in point, Steve hit what we all thought was a GEM of an approach and ended up a hair long in the back bunker and, understandably, he made a mess from there. I came up miles short, blasted a bunker shot over the green, chipped my fourth to about 15 feet and holed the putt for yet another gutsy 5.

SH: I'm not sure I’ve recovered mentally. My caddie handed me my putter, and we all thought I’d have about 12 feet for birdie. Nope ... I was in the back bunker and ended up making another newspaper 7. Although the tee shot on the seventh appears quite narrow from the tee on TV, the members’ tees didn’t feel as suffocating.

#8

SH: It’s funny—I’ve been watching the Masters religiously for 20-plus years and have watched dozens of others on YouTube. I felt like I knew how much room there is right of the green at the eighth hole, but I didn’t play the hole that way. There’s something about the uphill nature of the hole and golfers’ tendencies to aim at the flag that made me ignore the optimal strategy for a hacker. If you hit your approach anywhere up the right side (you can be as close to the ninth tee as you want), you’ll have a chance for an up-and-down with a good short-game shot. This is one where I really wanted a mulligan.

CP: Steve nailed it. I hit two quality shots but the second was a hair up the left side, nestling barely in the rough but leaving what appeared to be an inviting wedge shot in. Instead, rather than aim way right to set up a long birdie putt or a relatively easy chip, I took it right at the back-left pin and hit a tree branch, which knocked my ball straight down. Had to make a seven-footer just to save 6. I also wish I could have this hole back.

#9

CP: Hitting the fairway here is no issue. Hitting an approach shot that calls for a draw off a fairway that slants away from you and promotes a fade is a rather-large issue, however. I’d really like that second shot back, but fortunately got away with it by just half-shanking it up near the green and wound up making what is still my favorite up-and-down par ever. Shoutout to my caddie, Gibby from West Virginia, for telling me to not be afraid to hit the chip hard, past the pin, allowing it to catch the slope and trickle back down for a kick in.

SH: The approach here was another shot where the difference between the average golfer and a great golfer is magnified. If you’re off by three yards either distance or precision-wise, par will be really tough. CP’s short game can be like a scratch’s, and that was on display here.

#10

SH: I pictured myself needing to hit some sort of rope draw off the tee—which I’m incapable of—so I thought this would be a tee shot that would give me a trouble. But I think this is an easier tee shot for amateurs than the pros. If you only hit it 250-260 yards with your driver, you can swing freely. If you hit it 275 yards or so and you’re trying to play a mega draw, there’s definite trouble to be found. But for us mortals, it ain’t necessary to tempt fate.

CP: Funny enough, I hit a draw around the corner, a shot shape that has eluded me of late. Steve still outdrove me. Second shot found the massive bunker short and right of the green, which left me with a scary-long bunker shot that I thought I hit perfectly, but it just caught the front lip and rolled back in. This kicked off my worst two-hole stretch of the day, sadly (made double).

#11

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CP: Despite also watching this tournament religiously for 20-plus years, I thought I could go at the pin with a little draw on my second shot. I think you know what happened next. If I could do it over, I’d blast it a million miles right on the approach and try to hit the Larry Mize chip. Way more fun than what I did, though I did get to explore the little drop area and somehow didn’t chunk one back into the water (another double, though).

SH: I remember strutting off the 10th green after finally making a par and heading back to the 11th tee. Any time I’ve stepped foot here, I’ve walked the 100-plus yards or so to the back tees. CP’s caddie yelled: “Hey, champ. Stick back here.” The tee shot is mega-wide with the thinning of trees. Still, your tee shot needs to be up the right side if you want to avoid the water. As you read above, you want to avoid the water if you're one of us.

#12

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SH: We’ve all fantasized about hitting one of golf’s most famous tee shots. I bet you haven’t dreamed about hitting a shot a few yards in front of Rae’s Creek. That’s the position I found myself after completely chunking my 7-iron off the tee. Fortunately, I’m used to being in awkward spots on a golf course. My up-and-down from Spieth-land makes for the best story of my round. I couldn’t help but give a loud “Woooo!” and a Tiger Woods-esque upper-cut fist pump. The key to making a 3 is staying dry, and damned if I had done it the hard way.

CP: I hit the green in regulation and could have ascended to heaven right there. The sound it made when it pitched was crystal clear from back at the tee, and the ensuing par will go down as my favorite 3 ever. And yet, Stevie stole the stage completely with his par from Bananaland, USA. ‘Twas a sight to behold.

#13

CP: For my fellow short hitters not capable of taking it around the corner, this is yet another inviting fairway that you can hit with relative ease and then just let your caddie take over. Gibby told me to give him something between 180-200 yards in my second shot, so I punched a by-design low-screaming 5-iron up in front of the creek, wedged one on and two-putted for my par. Take a good long look back down 13 fairway and soak it all in after this. Home stretch time. Getting emotional thinking about it now.

SH: One of the eeriest moments of the round comes walking to the 13th tee. I’ve been coming to Augusta since my first Masters in 2014, and this spot is somewhere you never think you’ll ever stand. I'm with CP, after I soaked it up, the tee shot is one of the easier ones. The real strategy comes on the next couple of shots. I unfortunately bungled my stretch of three straight pars after chunking a lay-up. Needing to lay up twice at one of golf’s most famous par 5s ... throw it on my tombstone. I psyched myself out. Honestly, the approach if you were to go for it from 220 yards or so looks so impossible. I’d love to give it a go the next time.

#14

SH: I might’ve registered an Augusta first here. I sailed the green at 14, hit either a cart path or a mound and found myself nearly on the 11th fairway. My caddie, a looper at Augusta for 25-plus years, confidently said he’s never seen anyone 30 yards over the 14th green. Time for some history. I came up just short with my flop, but my 45-footer for bogey ran right into the heart. What a stupid game. The internal contours of 14 are so neat to observe up close. I got to experience every ounce of those undulations.

CP: Sneakily the wildest green on the golf course, as Steve pointed out. I was left in two, and Gibby basically told me to land the chip maybe a foot onto the green and let it roll out the remaining 50-plus feet. My chip landed short of the green, barely trickled on, and I three-putted from there. Wheels: off.

#15

CP: Again, the theme here is wide-open, inviting fairway, and then the thinking begins. Another fairway, another “Gibby, tell me what to do.” Same thing. 200-220 shot down the hill, which left me with about 120 in. I had pitching wedge in hand, but Gibby detected a slight breeze and gave me a 9-iron. Put that to around 40 feet and lagged it up there for another clinical par.

SH: You’ve seen on TV how severely undulating some of these fairways are. The 13th fairway was the biggest example of that, but you can get some extreme downhill lies in the 15th fairway. I wasn’t able to try to hit a choke-down 4-iron off that lie. I listened to my caddie like CP, laid up and got my par.

#16

CP: Fatted my tee shot and then had to scramble for 4. I wish I could have a lot of shots back, but there’s something about this one—where I didn’t even hit the green and get a chance to use that slope to the Sunday pin—that will stick with me.

SH: I wrapped up our match on this hole, so even with a mediocre tee shot and a 3, it’s one of my favorite moments of the day. It is a very difficult green to putt—with subtle breaks and undulations. I feel like no putt would be straight.

#17

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CP: Like No. 7, this is one of the tightest driving corridors on the course, and you don’t want to miss left like I did. Hit what I thought was a perfect 6-iron at the pin that caught nothing but tree branch and came straight back down. There is no good place to miss off the tee here. Fairway hit is crucial.

SH: We’ve seen many a bogey left of 17. Add CP to the list.

#18

CP: I literally hit the Spieth drive from 2018 here. Thought it was going to be fine and it clipped the very top branch of a tree down the left side and came crashing down. That’s the thing about the towering pines at ANGC—your ball doesn’t go right through them or kick out giving you the illusion of a “good break.” Every time I hit a tree, it came directly straight down, not advancing another yard. A painful yet emotional bogey followed for my final tally of 45-45—90.

SH: Even the members’ tees are suffocatingly narrow. If your tee shots start left or right, like mine and CP do, this is a terrifying shot. I'm usually an anti-tree guy—but I’ll give Augusta a pass.

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