The 81st Masters / Augusta National Golf Club
5th and 14th Holes
by Matt Ward
AUGUSTA, GA. — So much of the storyline for any Masters revolves around some of the most iconic holes in all of golf. The phrase “Amen Corner” is mentioned countless times highlighting the trio of holes commencing with the super demanding par-4 11th — followed by the devilish par-3 12th sandwiched between — and concluding with the risk/reward par-5 13th providing anything from eagles to double bogeys.
Lost in the discussion are two holes that comes at exactly the same point on their respective sides — the par-4 5th and 14th holes.
Each provides a clear strategic dimension that forces all competitors to think long and hard before making any final decisions.
Founder Bobby Jones and architect Alister MacKenzie modeled Augusta National after The Old Course at St. Andrews and both of the holes feature vexing putting surfaces — among the most demanding when playing Augusta National. Interestingly, both holes allow players to bounce approaches on — reminiscent of the ground game option found at The Old Course — although most players prefer the predictability in flying the ball over the front portion of each green.
MAGNOLIA – 5th Hole
455 Yards / Par-4
Tucked away from view is one of the most challenging holes at Augusta National. For many who attend the championship in person its likely few take the time to sample the entire hole because of its relative isolation from the others.
For many years — the 5th — named Magnolia — played to a max of 435 yards. There were bunkers to carry on the inside elbow on this uphill dog-leg left hole.
In 2003, under the watchful eye of architectural consultant Tom Fazio those bunkers were moved 80 yards further down the fairway meaning the new carry is now a robust 315 yards. In addition, those same bunkers were deepened — you go in now — you don’t always exit so swiftly.
The historical average of 4.26 places the hole as the 5th most difficult in the Masters. Amazingly, Jack Nicklaus eagled it twice from the fairway in ’95 but no cameras were operating to catch the moment for perpetuity.
The green has a massive false front — approximately 6 feet of height — which must be carried to have a realistic opportunity for a birdie putt. The edges of the green also feature fall-offs so any pushed or pulled approach can leaves a perilous chip or pitch shot. The green is often firm once you get beyond the front false front but the landing area is no more than 7-8 yards to assure one’s ball remains on the green. There is one small bunker at the back of the green — Jones later added — and it’s there really to keep players from having their approaches roll off the embankment into even more trouble.
The best advice when playing the 5th — avoid taking an unnecessary risk. For most players a four round aggregate score of 16 for the week is music to their ears.
Most players opt for a three-metal club to stay short of the fairway bunkers but that increases the distance for one’s approach.
MacKenzie sought to replicate the theme of the famed Road Hole at The Old Course with the creation of Magnolia. Those competing for a green jacket need to pay close attention because while birdies can happen it’s more likely those playing the hole will tread carefully and keep momentum building in their round with the smartest of plays.
CHINESE FIR – 14th Hole
440 Yards / Par-4
Lost in the epic nature that the two par-5’s on the back nine at the 13th and 15th provide is the 14th hole. Players who leave the 13th with a birdie or eagle want to sustain their momentum and the hole can both clearly keep a solid round going and, at the same time, can derail such a move for any player not fully appreciating the unique demands it presents.
The fairway bends left but the ground moves right — a reverse camber hole. Players often eschew hitting driver simply because the need to move the ball from right-to-left is easier to accomplish with a more lofted 3-metal club instead of driver. In addition, the turn point of the hole can mean shots hit to the right will often scamper deeper into the rough and tree line on that side.
The 14th is the only hole at Augusta National with no bunkers. For many years the hole played at 405 yards but when changes were brought forward several years ago additional length was added.
Chinese Fir resembles the 6th at The Old Course at St. Andrews and much of that similarity deals with a putting surface that is easily at the top of the charts at Augusta National.
The green features a cruel false front that must be totally respected on the approach. Anything hit remotely short will be pulled back and the likelihood in escaping with par from that position is nearly nonexistent. In addition, the green is tilted from left to right. The key is lofting the ball over the false front, yet soft enough to finish near the hole.
Over the years the hole has played to a 4.17 scoring average — making it the 8th most difficult hole.
The 14th often provides a crucial point in sustaining momentum gained from the 13th hole — and leading into the final par-5 at the 15th. Those who have won the Masters fully realize keeping one’s focus is an absolute must when playing Chinese Fir.