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Deep Dive

The changes at Augusta National's 11th hole, explained

April 07, 2024

The par-4 11th was named “Dogwood” for the 155 white dogwood trees that lined the fairway when the course opened in 1933. Along with holes 10 and 12, the 11th was cut through the pines on the lowest, most forested section of the property to the south.

Augusta National’s seventh and 11th are the most altered holes compared to their originals, not counting the par-3 16th, which was built new in 1948 to replace the MacKenzie/Jones original. Over the past 20 years, the 11th has served as the club's crash test dummy, used almost like a science experiment to sample different ways to continually rebut the advancement of the modern professional game. The changes are also meant to maintain its historical status as the course’s first or second most-difficult hole in relation to par (with a 4.303 stroke average, currently besting the par-4 10th by .004 strokes).

The origins of Augusta National’s 11th hole

The hole MacKenzie and Jones designed was a mid-length, dogleg right par 4 that played 76 feet downhill to a green set in the crook of a stream that fed into Rae’s Creek. The tee was set on the knoll behind the current 10th green, near to where the current 15th tee was extended in 2022.

MacKenzie built a cluster of small bunkers in the center of the fairway modeled after the Principal’s Nose complex at St. Andrews’ 16th hole. Players of the day had to fade drives around the dogleg, choosing to either play to the high side of the bunkers on the right for a shorter, downhill approach to a semi-blind green (obscured by high mounds) that ran away from the shot, or play to the low side of the fairway leaving a longer but clear approach over the often dry stream bed, back into the tilt of the putting surface. MacKenzie believed this was the preferred way to play the hole.

The fundamental changes to Augusta’s 11th hole

What changed? Most everything. By the time the club hired Robert Trent Jones to modernize several holes after World War II (including construction of the new 16th), players’ drives were clearing the fairway bunker and nearly reaching the putting surface.

Jones made two major modifications to toughen the hole. The first was to dam the stream in front of the green to create a pond, a stroke now irrevocably lost for those who hit into it, whereas before it was possible to recover from the creek bed. The second was to shift the tees down into the wooded valley left of the 10th green, lengthening the hole to 445 yards while creating an uphill drive that would not chase as far. MacKenzie’s fairway bunkers were removed.

Watch our in-depth breakdown of the 11th hole

The remodeled 11th went from an afterthought to the third longest par 4 at Augusta National and a hole that began to instill fear in players who now knew their chances of winning the Masters on the final nine could melt away here with one hesitant swing. It’s said that Amen Corner begins with the second shot on 11, but there might never have been an “Amen Corner” without Trent Jones’ changes.

More modern changes to Augusta’s 11th hole

For as difficult and palm-sweating as the hole became, it wasn’t without strategy. The fairway was typically 60 yards across—more like 90 yards if you measured from tree line to tree line—and players could try to push drives up one side or the other to get an angle into the green they felt would take the water out of play based on their normal shot shape. The 11th was tough but roomy, allowing players to impale themselves on their nerves or poor decisions.

In 2002 the club, feeling it was playing too short at 445 yards, began lengthening the hole, shifting the angle slightly to promote a left-to-right drive. Over the next four years the yardage of the 11th increased first to 490 and then to 505 yards. To force accuracy on a hole that used to encourage players to use its width, over three dozen pine trees were planted in the right rough reducing the fairway to a mere 35 yards across. Strangely, if players hit the ball extremely right, they might find it in an alleyway that offered a clear shot to the green.

Prior to the 2022 Masters, the tee was shifted once again, pushed 15 yards back and to the left to straighten the tee shot. Many of the trees on the right were removed, though three lone pines remained in the widened and flattened fairway beginning at 350 yards out. The mounds short of the green were adjusted, and the traditional bail-out area to the right was lowered and the shoulder of the green accentuated, making recoveries from there more challenging.

How Augusta’s 11th hole plays today

If the club insists the 11th remains one of the most challenging par 4s on the course, the continued lengthening of the hole is necessary. Historically players hit over the pond and into the green with 4-, 5- and 6-irons, and the integrity of the approach shot—one of the most treacherous and demanding in championship golf—depends on competitors needing to use longer clubs, at least 7-irons and not 9-irons or wedges.

The greenside adjustments, including extending the corner of the pond 10 yards into the fairway, have made recovery shots more exacting. One of the most famous shots hit at the Masters was Larry Mize’s pitch-in from the bail-out area right of the green in the 1987 sudden death playoff against Greg Norman. His ball landed short of the green, bounced again on the collar and then rolled into the hole. Playing from that same position now requires the ball to be nipped and lofted onto the green, and if it doesn’t check it can tumble into the water beyond.

All the alterations have reinforced 11’s status as one of the most difficult and psychologically intimidating holes on the course. But they’re also a tacit admission that the club has yet to find the right architectural recipe to off-set distance gains. The hole continues to perform its role, but the cosmetic surgery shows.

MORE AUGUSTA NATIONAL DEEP DIVES:

Hole 7
Hole 15
Hole 18