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The Masters course guide: Breaking down Augusta National in 2021

The Masters course guide: Breaking down Augusta National in 2021

If it felt like the Masters just happened, well…it did! Last year’s festivities at Augusta National Golf Club were postponed from April until August because of the coronavirus pandemic. Normally there are 12 months and three other majors in between every Masters tournament; this time around there were only five months and a grand total of zero other majors played in between stops in Augusta.

Will the course play a lot different in the spring than in the fall? Can Dustin Johnson dominate the same way that he did in November of 2020, when he donned the green jacket for the first time? Will Bryson DeChambeau be able to overpower the course, something that he tried and failed to do last year?

Those are questions to which we won’t know the answers for absolute certainty until Sunday evening, but this course guide may be able to provide some clues as to what might be in store for the week. In case you aren’t familiar with Augusta National or simply need a refresher, let’s take a look at what the course will have to offer for the first major of 2021.

Dustin Johnson and Tiger Woods at The Masters

Eyewitness account

I have been very fortunate to be among the fans who have seen it in person (the “patrons,” of course), attending not every year but at least more often than not dating back to 1998—when Mark O’Meara slipped on the green jacket following a winning birdie putt on 18. What always strikes me the most about Augusta National is the undulations—especially on the greens. Going through it hole by hole in my head, 16 of the 18 greens are either two-tiered or at least violently sloping in one direction. Literally, the only two that are flat (and even then “flat” is simply a relative term compared to the precipitous nature of the other 16) are 11 and 12. Of course, 11 and 12 are already terribly tough propositions even without befuddling greens.

Anyway, the bottom line is that iron play at Augusta National has to be incredibly precise in order to get balls close to the hole…and to stay close to the hole. Anything even a few feet off could roll in any number of awful directions depending on pin placements. For example, on 3 and 9 anything short will roll many yards back into the fairway. On 15 anything short often rolls into Rae’s Creek. The story is similar on 13, although if you land it on the green there it should hold. On 10 anything left of the green is down the slope and dead.

For obvious reasons, neither I nor anyone else was in attendance in 2020. That made for a most unusual Masters. Gone were the famous Sunday roars that all but tell players and fans alike what is happening around the course in the absence of leaderboards (there are some leaderboards—still run by hand as opposed to electronically—but not many). Fans will be back in at least a limited capacity this year; it won’t be the same as normal, but if nothing else there will be more of an atmosphere than there was last fall.

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Key holes

Amen Corner (11, 12, and 13) is the most famous stretch in golf. Sure, it’s aesthetically pleasing to the patrons. Much more important, however, is the fact that it is a nightmare for the players. Although 13 is a birdie and even eagle opportunity, it also has bogey—or worse—potential if they decide to go for the green in two and dump it in the creek. Holes 11 and 12 are beyond scary; players will happily take par and get out of there. Especially on 12, much-needed pars are often few and far between on Sundays. Last year, basically everyone in contention other than eventual champion Woods were wet. Jordan Spieth went in the water twice (yes, twice on a par 3) during his 2016 collapse.

Like 13, 15 can also produce anything from a 3 (or a 2 in the case of Gene Sarazen in 1935) to a double-digit number. In 2019, third-round leader Francesco Molinari opened the door for Tiger Woods on Sunday by carding a double-bogey 7 on 15 (he also doubled 12).

For the diehard fans who want to know about every hole, see the layout for all 18 below.

Hole by hole

1 Tea Olive
445 yards, par 4
2019 rank: 7th hardest (4.118)

2 Pink Dogwood
575 yards, par 5
2019 rank: 15th (4.678)

3 Flowering Peach
350 yards, par 4
2019 rank: 14th (3.895)

4 Flowering Crabapple
240 yards, par 3
2019 rank: 5th (3.207)

5 Magnolia
495 yards, par 4
2019 rank: 1st (4.336)

6 Juniper
180 yards, par 3
2019 rank: 12th (3.003)

7 Pampas
450 yards, par 4
2019 rank: 6th (4.128)

8 Yellow Jasmine
570 yards, par 5
2019 rank: 16th (4.628)

9 Carolina Cherry
460 yards, par 4
2019 rank: 11th (4.049)

10 Camelia
495 yards, par 4
2019 rank: 2nd= (4.247)

11 White Dogwood
505 yards, par 4
2019 rank: 2nd= (4.247)

12 Golden Bell
155 yards, par 3
2019 rank: 9th (3.053)

13 Azalea
510 yards, par 5
2019 rank: 18th (4.474)

14 Chinese Fir
440 yards, par 4
2019 rank: 8th (4.079)

15 Fire Thorn
530 yards, par 5
2019 rank: 17th (4.543)

16 Redbud
170 yards, par 3
2019 rank: 13th (2.908)

17 Nandina
440 yards, par 4
2019 rank: 10th (4.049)

18 Holly
465 yards, par 4
2019 rank: 4th (4.224)

Horse for the course

Conditions were heavy, slow, and also wet last November. Outside of the big bombers, distance was in issue. The ball was not traveling as far as usual and wasn’t getting much roll, so shorter hitters especially were left with long irons into greens. Other than that, however, scoring conditions were ideal. Augusta National is difficult when it is firm and fast, making it tough for approach shots to stay on the greens.

When greens are slow and receptive, players can go pin-hunting—especially when they have short irons in their hands. Johnson, for example, is a big enough hitter to power through slow conditions and still give himself short yardages into greens. That’s exactly what he did in 2020 while setting a Masters scoring record of 20-under par. He may have even shorter irons into greens this spring, but it looks like the putting surfaces will be a lot firmer and faster. Going low won’t be as easy, even for big hitters like Johnson, DeChambeau, and Rory McIlroy.

Bryson DeChambeau hits a tee shot at the Charles Schwab Challenge.

I still think the guys who drive it a long way still have the advantage in Augusta, but clean ball-striking and skilled putting could be more important than they were last year. Thus a guy like Spieth—who just won last week at the Valero Texas Open—may be back in the mix. Kevin Na, who was T13 at last year’s Masters, has to like his chances for another strong showing. The same goes for Xander Schauffele and perhaps Louis Oosthuizen. None of those guys can keep up with DeChambeau and company in the distance department, but they can strike it and/or roll it with the best of ‘em.

In other words, this Masters could be pretty wide open, and I don’t see anyone running away with like Johnson did five months ago. It’s going to be fun.

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Pickswise is the home of free expert Golf Picks and Predictions. Our outright PGA expert picks go live every Tuesday, so be sure check out our golf picks, best bets, and analysis for the Masters when those go live. We will also have our 2021 Masters 3-ball picks and our best golf prop bets for each round of the 2021 Masters.

Last updated: Tue 6th April 2021

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