AUGUSTA, Ga. — On a day when Masters chairman Fred Ridley revealed the launch of a digital initiative that will allow fans the ability to see nearly every shot from every player hit at the year’s first major on web and mobile devices, he also reaffirmed the fact that patrons won’t be able to indulge in this largesse on the grounds of Augusta National.
If you haven’t heard by now, cellphone are not allowed on the golf course at the Masters. Nor will they be any time soon.
“I think that’s something that does set us apart,” Ridley said. “I think our patrons appreciate our cellphone policy. I know that we have now become an outlier, if not the only outlier in golf.
“I don’t believe that’s a policy that anyone should expect is going to change in the near future. I can’t speak for future chairman, but speaking for myself, I think we got that right.”
During much of his 40-minute chairman’s press conference, Ridley took time explaining things the club is not likely to do, at least in the short term. Most notably anticipated plans to lengthen the par-5 13th hole—enabled thanks to the acquisition of land adjacent to the hole that previously belonged to Augusta Country Club—are on hold, pending the result of the USGA and R&A’s Distance Insights Project that is attempting to explore, and potentially address, the impact of distance on the game
However, parsing Ridley’s words, it’s not hard to envision a time when the 13th will be stretched, as aerial images already suggest the first steps of moving the tee box back and to the left have begun.
“Admittedly, that hole does not play as it was intended to play by [Bobby] Jones and [Alister] MacKenzie,” Ridley said. “The momentous decision that I’ve spoken about and that Bobby Jones often spoke about, of going for the green in two, is to a large extent, no longer relevant.”
Lengthening the course is one way to address the potential impact increased distance has had on the way competitors play Augusta National. A “Masters” golf ball another one often thrown out, competitors being required to play a ball that presumably wouldn’t fly as far. Ridley, however, tamped down that possibility.
“That’s been a topic for a long time,” he noted. “I think it’s very unlikely that we would ever produce a Masters ball. There are a whole lot of reasons for that, but I think you can be pretty assured that that’s the case.”
Ridley reiterated, in the wake of the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur, the club’s delight in how the championship’s debut played out. “What I’m not sure I fully anticipated was the emotional response, which was something that I’m still really glowing about,” he said. However, asked if the initial reaction might lead to the possibility of another women’s event for professionals being played one day at Augusta, Ridley noted that the club’s efforts would remain focused on amateur initiatives.
“By promoting women amateurs, the future stars of the Ladies Professional Golf Association, we’d like to think that that is something that’s going to benefit them, as well, and I think that the LPGA would agree. So that’s the track we are going to continue to take.”
Two other tidbits of note: The club in conjunction with city and state officials, will begin a multi-year project shortly after the Masters that will including the digging of a tunnel under Washington Road north of the course that will allow for the creation of a pathway to what will be the site of a state-of-the-art television and digital compound. Ridley also noted that discussion continues regarding the creation of an exit off Interstate 20 that would lead more directly to Masters patron parking.