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Should Augusta National lengthen the 13th hole, or leave it alone?

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It’s perhaps the most iconic par 5 in all of championship golf. It’s short and deceptively simple by professional standards, yet it remains the epitome of “risk/reward” golf due to the sharp dogleg to the left around Rae’s Creek (Jeff Maggert once made a 2, Tommy Nakajima once made a 13). Even casual Masters viewers know we’re talking about Azalea, the 13th hole at Augusta National. It is the first of two “must-birdie” holes on the back nine at the Masters. It is perhaps the most beautiful hole in golf, and one that has caused as much heartache as joy over the years as any.

But as mentioned, at only 510 yards, it is short… very short by modern professional standards; even shorter than some championship par 4s. Bubba hit a wedge in there a few years ago, and every player in the field can reach it easy in two with their average drive. Or, if you’re Phil, you can hit a 6 iron from the pine straw and knock it stiff en route to victory. But if you miss, the infamous “tributary” of Rae’s Creek awaits your slightest error.

The problem now is it seems that after even marginal drives and from not-the-best-lies can reach the green in two. So the Augusta National is thinking about making the hole longer. At Augusta, that is like saying they are GOING TO make the hole longer. Recently purchased property adjacent to that part of the course allows them to do it, too.

So our question for GolfWRX viewers is this: Good idea or bad idea?

  • On the good side: “it needs to be longer to keep up with the modern equipment and golf ball.”
  • On the bad side: “why mess with perfection and history? It is fine (exciting) the way it is.”

Before you weigh in, a point to consider: forget any bifurcation arguments, the Augusta National is just not going to butt heads with the USGA in creating a “Masters” ball. So let’s assume the equipment stays as is. In my opinion, here are a few possibilities:

  1. Make the penalty for going over the trees (the Bubba Route, but who knows how many more might soon consider it) more severe; perhaps OB?
  2. Add a little length to force them to use driver. Many of them now use three woods to turn it easier like they do on No. 10.
  3. Leave it alone. It’s the best short par-5 in major championship golf!

Do you think Augusta should lengthen the par-5 13th, or leave it alone? And why?

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Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional. Clark has taught the game of golf for more than 30 years to golfers all across the country, and is recognized as one of the leading teachers in the country by all the major golf publications. He is also is a seven-time PGA award winner who has earned the following distinctions: -- Teacher of the Year, Philadelphia Section PGA -- Teacher of the Year, Golfers Journal -- Top Teacher in Pennsylvania, Golf Magazine -- Top Teacher in Mid Atlantic Region, Golf Digest -- Earned PGA Advanced Specialty certification in Teaching/Coaching Golf -- Achieved Master Professional Status (held by less than 2 percent of PGA members) -- PGA Merchandiser of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Golf Professional of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Presidents Plaque Award for Promotion and Growth of the Game of Golf -- Junior Golf Leader, Tri State section PGA -- Served on Tri State PGA Board of Directors. Clark is also former Director of Golf and Instruction at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. He now directs his own school, The Dennis Clark Golf Academy at the JW Marriott Marco Island in Naples, Fla.. He can be reached at dennisclarkgolf@gmail.com

43 Comments

43 Comments

  1. Mat

    Apr 6, 2018 at 8:04 am

    It’s just “par”. Last I checked, these guys aren’t counting Stableford off of 14 caps. If you must, just call it a Par 4 and move on.

  2. kourt

    Apr 5, 2018 at 6:35 pm

    I say leave it alone. Its not like one hole is ruining the tournament. Who cares if people are making birdies there. The rest of the course is punishing enough. The trees you got to carry will continue to grow which will make cutting the corner even more difficult. After battling amen corner Its nice to have a few holes where the guys can play aggressive and make a big push for birdie and eagle. I mean 15 is fairly easy, sergio eagled it last year in the final round, and this year made 13!

  3. Don O

    Apr 5, 2018 at 12:41 am

    The “point” of lengthening the hole is to make it harder for the bombers. Well, it will just separate the shorter players even more. If DJ is using a GW and KJ is using a 8I, but then DJ is using a 9I and now KJ is now using a 6I. How hard is it to control a 6I onto a tight spot? It’s not how far but how accurate should make a difference. Set up the courses tighter, put more penalty on drivers over 3 hundred. Move bunkers to match the length. Bunkers at 285 are a joke. DJ will fly, the average pro will be hurt more. This time, Jack is wrong. Look at Erin Hills at 7800. It just took the shorter guys out of the equation. Put deep bunkers where they cut the corner. or add a stand of trees on 13. How well did Tiger-proofing the course work out? He did and can still win because he is still longer than Charlie Hoffman and Pat Perez.

  4. BD57

    Apr 4, 2018 at 9:36 pm

    Rather than simply “Lengthen it,” why not move the tee 10 -15 yards further to the let of where it is now (and, perhaps, add 10-15 yards)?

    I looked on Google Earth – it looks like they have the land available to make it work, separate from the land purchased from Augusta Country Club (with the ACC land, they should have land to go left & add length).

    Going left would put more stress on the tee shot, especially if they add 10-15 yards to the carry distance required to go over the top, without completely changing the nature of the hole.

  5. John Kerry

    Apr 4, 2018 at 6:39 pm

    Do what some including Augusta is thinking/suggesting and that is change rhe ball. Get over your male ego and 400 yrd drives. You will make several golf courses because they can’t afford length. This prime example of the 13th hole of Augusta, was meant to have a drive and a 2nd shot the player had to decide…go or lay up…..NOT a wedge onto the green. You can’t keep lengthening courses…it has to stop and now is as good a time as any.

  6. David Owen

    Apr 4, 2018 at 6:30 pm

    Leave it alone….lengthening it only makes it harder for the shorter hitters…the bombers won’t care

  7. Tom54

    Apr 4, 2018 at 5:42 pm

    I believe if they have purchased land for a new tee then it is a done deal. If they do make a new tee hopefully it can be adjusted to see how it plays. If 15-20 yds longer makes it still reachable then fine. As long as they have it where a well placed drive affords the chance to go for it in too then please always let it play that way. The back nine roars for eagles at 13&15 are what makes the Masters exciting. As long as they still keep them that way then the Masters will have not messed with perfection

  8. Dennis Clark

    Apr 4, 2018 at 4:32 pm

    When we talk about longer, we are actually doing it because of the athlete, not the equipment, right? The ball and club have not changed in a while now as Greg said. What has improved is the athlete and optimized launch conditions. In that case if they add 30/40 yards, should we change the hoop in b-ball to 11 feet?

    • Greg V

      Apr 5, 2018 at 9:12 am

      The problem with the distance and its effect on this hole goes back to the change in equipment from 1993 to 2003. It has taken from 2003 to now to recognize that there is a problem.

      I am happy that Fred Ridley has addressed the issue.

      They do one of two things – address the equipment or length of the holes to address the problem, or agree to play on what have become “executive length” courses.

  9. Man

    Apr 4, 2018 at 4:18 pm

    Just narrow the angle on the right by raising the rough and make it almost a hack-out,
    and then shave the left side completely and slick it up by cutting away the rough completely so that any any errant balls to the left will spill the ball into the creek.
    Everybody knows there’s hardly any rough on the whole course.

  10. Sean

    Apr 4, 2018 at 3:56 pm

    Make it OB and longer – but get Ben Crenshaw to shape it in such a way that it retains its flavor.

  11. Greg V

    Apr 4, 2018 at 3:55 pm

    Fred Ridley quoted Bobby Jones today. Jones said that the decision to go for the green in two on 13 should be a “momentous decision.” Ridley added that the decision these days is hardly momentous.

    You can expect a lengthening of 13 to start in about 2 weeks.

  12. Gumbo

    Apr 4, 2018 at 3:27 pm

    Don’t touch it

  13. mark

    Apr 4, 2018 at 2:42 pm

    Shorten it a little, and turn it into a Par 4, it’s the approach shot, and location of the pin, that will create the birdies. With today’s technology, and the strength (swing speed) of most players, it really is not a Par 5 hole. If you shorten the tee box, everyone can still get to the corner, and hit the green it 2. On most courses, to make a Par 5 difficult for everyone, you need to place hazards at the 310-340 yd landing area, then it becomes position, shot making, risk-reward, for all players, long and short.

    • Jeff

      Apr 4, 2018 at 3:05 pm

      Does Par matter? It’s a number, whoever shots the lowest number wins

      • golfbum

        Apr 4, 2018 at 3:37 pm

        I agree with this! Worse thing in golf is to compare your game to a arbitrary number on a scorecard. I play a course in the SF Bay Area that is a Robert Trent Jones design and is par 63. From the tips you use every club in your bag.

        At 13 it is not whether you make EAGLE or BIRDIE that wins the Masters, but whether you can make 3 or 4….but EAGLE or BIRDIE sounds better or perhaps in this case sounds worse.

        Now, if you wan to make longer? Then stretch it out so that no player can hit the green in two shots. Therefore, making the strategy for a third shot a more important decision. With that the 4th shot is where the crowd will really roar!

        Low score wins the Masters. Leave the course alone. Everything about the Masters is elegant: no player has ever said that Augusta National is too easy.

  14. Greg

    Apr 4, 2018 at 2:15 pm

    On the good side: “it needs to be longer to keep up with the modern equipment and golf ball.”

    You guys have been telling me for weeks there is no issues with the modern ball and equipment, but you just put it in print! That’s funny

  15. dr. freud

    Apr 4, 2018 at 2:01 pm

    Azalea, she has a short hole… (ø)

  16. Hawkeye77

    Apr 4, 2018 at 1:33 pm

    Of course, lengthen it and I’m sure they can figure out how to do that and preserve the integrity of the hole and still have reasonable risk/reward.

  17. Art Williams

    Apr 4, 2018 at 1:15 pm

    They bought the land so go ahead and lengthen it. This should bring it back to shot values of years ago for most of the field.

  18. Soonerslim

    Apr 4, 2018 at 1:11 pm

    Leave it alone. It’s time that these club designers stop lengthening golf holes because of the inflated ball and technology. The 13th is an iconic risk/reward hole. Lengthening it will cause a lot more golfers to lay up and not take that risk for a potential eagle. This hole has always been very pivot-able in the Master’s winner outcome. This hole has wound up penalizing a lot more golfers than it has ever rewarded. Leave it alone!
    J

  19. Dennis clark

    Apr 4, 2018 at 1:08 pm

    Just don’t make it a par 3…I Don’t want to see so much length added that it takes the exciting risk out of it.

  20. Bob Sarvis

    Apr 4, 2018 at 1:05 pm

    Add 15-20 yards and lower the tee box which will make the trees on the left “play” taller. Adding length to the tee box will allow the hole to be lengthened or shortened daily depending on the conditions.

  21. Ronald Montesano

    Apr 4, 2018 at 1:02 pm

    Lengthen it. The sharp dogleg was part of the original design, and it should come into play. The landing area for the distance freaks is conducive to taking the risk. Get the drives back into the layUP/go? area for more drama.

  22. Artie

    Apr 4, 2018 at 12:52 pm

    Add 20-30 yards so a longer, more adventuresome 2nd shot by adding 2 clubs off the uneven lie. But still make it play that most to go for it vs just a boring layup.

  23. Deacon Blues

    Apr 4, 2018 at 12:50 pm

    Now that they’ve bought the adjoining land from the Augusta Country Club, I think it’s obvious that they will move the tee back and make the 13th hole longer. They can also make the green smaller (while maintaining the difficulty of its contours), making it a more challenging target.

  24. AB

    Apr 4, 2018 at 12:44 pm

    lower the tee box

  25. tom Horonzy

    Apr 4, 2018 at 12:37 pm

    Is everyone missing the most obvious change should be to make it a Par 4?
    Or a novel idea would be to play the tees as they are as a Par 5 Thursday and Friday but once the cut is determined slash it to a Par 4. Now that would show who has the donuts to play it for the championship under pressure.

    • Mike

      Apr 4, 2018 at 12:55 pm

      You don’t play a hole differently due to the par posted on the card….

    • Buzz

      Apr 4, 2018 at 2:04 pm

      EXACTLY!! Wouldnt be the only 500 yard par 4 on tour. Leave the damn ball and hole alone. Nicklaus was hitting his driver 300+ and could hit it high/low/left or right. So lets also assume he could FLY his 4-5 iron 200 and get it to stop. OR drastic idea… Make every hole a par 3 on the card and who ever shoots the lowest score after 4 rounds wins. Relation to par has always and will always be irrelevant in tournaments.

  26. Duke Keiser

    Apr 4, 2018 at 12:35 pm

    As even the shorter hitters still have only a 5 iron or less to reach the green, Azalea is no longer the challenging hole it has been in the past. The purchase of the property from ACC should be seen as a clear indication that the decision has been made to lengthen the hole. I must say that I would not have been surprised to see #13 played as a 4 par this year, but perhaps tradition made that consideration a non-starter.

  27. Rob

    Apr 4, 2018 at 12:26 pm

    Penalties for going over the trees?!? This is Golf right? Not some drone? They bought the land so, it will be lengthened. When people are hitting 9, pw into that green it’s time to move the tee box back.

  28. Wayne

    Apr 4, 2018 at 12:23 pm

    With the amount of power the Masters have this is my suggestion? They should make a deflighted ball to be used only at Augusta? This means everyone will use the same ball with the masters logo on it and this will let this coarse survive for years to come? With technology today the great golf coarses of the past are becoming obsolete due to this issue? The cost of golf keeps excalating due to the cost of property to build and the amount of money it cost to maintain our great golf courses? It’s time to make the game enjoyable and realistic to all who want to play the game.? This isn’t the first time this has been brought up but here’s another thought. With all factions of golf getting more expensive and jobs being lost, the only people who will be able to play this game will be the rich. So it’s time the golf industry make this drastic decision to keep this game alive and well into the future!!!

    • Mike

      Apr 4, 2018 at 12:54 pm

      Dude, what’s with all the question marks??? lol…. very well spoken but it’s “course” btw…

  29. Robert Mummery

    Apr 4, 2018 at 12:21 pm

    When I took up golf, bunkers were raked with a hay rake which left surfaces corrugated, why are bunker rakes now designed to leave a flat surface?
    Secondly, why rather than increase length of holes, create deeper rough, so driving accuracy becomes a consideration?

  30. Tiemco

    Apr 4, 2018 at 12:17 pm

    I would like to see the tee moved back and pushed to the left so that righties will have to hit a draw with the driver and lefty’s will not be able to fade it over the corner. The definition of a par five in my opinion is a hole that requires a long iron or higher into the green. With the length the pros have today this hole plays more like a par four.

    • Michael

      Apr 4, 2018 at 12:33 pm

      So my answer to this question in general would be, where are they going to move the tee box? If you have ever been there, you can see that there is nowhere else to go back. I’d say currently players to have to hit a draw especially if they want that good rollout, but there is not much of a penalty for missing one right. Pitch out and then have an easy wedge into the green.

  31. Greg V

    Apr 4, 2018 at 12:13 pm

    Why did ANGC buy the 10th hole at Augusta Country Club?

    Obviously, because they want to lengthen 13. It’s a done deal, all $20M of it.

    Should they? OF course they should. At about 540 or 550 it will restore the risk/reward of this iconic par 4.5.

  32. David Bloom

    Apr 4, 2018 at 12:11 pm

    Add the length as they have have some of the other holes in the past.

  33. sj

    Apr 4, 2018 at 12:10 pm

    Make the banks slick again. Anything that spins or rolls off the green is always in the water. I’ve seen plenty of balls held up lately.

  34. kevin

    Apr 4, 2018 at 11:37 am

    Maybe leave the length alone and instead add some subtle “whoop-de whoops” or mounds where they are landing their drivers. That way if they choose to go over trees to a short iron 2nd shot they run high risk of a very awkward stance into green. I cant imagine an awkward stance would be very reassuring into that green. Or have rae’s creek feed a pond where they are landing driver in middle of fairway making it one of those split fairways that wont allow going over trees

  35. ogo

    Apr 4, 2018 at 11:11 am

    Azalea she is quite the short hole… 😮

    • Scott Freeman

      Apr 4, 2018 at 1:24 pm

      Option 4: Go back to counting strokes rather than scoring in relation to par.

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Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: Task to target

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In this week’s episode: How having a target will improve your direction and contact you have with the ball.

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On Spec: Blades vs cavity backs | Classic gear vs. modern equipment

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In this episode, host Ryan talks about a recent experience of playing poor golf and what it took from an equipment perspective to get his game back on track.

The talk is wide-ranging and offers an inside look at what equipment tweaks or experiments might help you play better golf—or get you out of a rut.

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From the GolfWRX Vault: How far should you hit your golf clubs?

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Editor’s note: Jaacob Bowden‘s 2013 piece on how far a club “ought” to carry based on clubhead speed—i.e. how far you should hit your golf clubs–remains one of our most widely read pieces (thanks, Google search). And while seven years have passed since its publication, the data remains the same, and thus the piece remains just as relevant today. 

We’re happy to crack open the GolfWRX Vault for this excellent bit of writing. 


One of the nice things about having all this new fancy technological equipment like Trackman, Flightscope, ShotLink, etc., at various PGA Tour events is that distance data can be gathered for each of the players.

In case you haven’t come across it already, here are the approximate Trackman carry distance averages for men at the professional level.

Average PGA Tour Carry Distances (yards)

Club Carry
Driver (Total) 289
Driver (Carry) 269
3-Wood 243
5-Wood 230
Hybrid 225
3-Iron 212
4-Iron 203
5-Iron 194
6-Iron 183
7-Iron 172
8-Iron 160
9-Iron 148
PW 136

Pretty cool info. Perhaps they hit it farther than you might have thought…or maybe they hit less than you may have been lead to believe based on what you’ve seen on TV, read on the internet, etc.

Since I deal a lot with swing speed training and helping people in general hit the ball farther, a relatively common question I get is, “How far should I hit my clubs for my swing speed?”

Well, since we also know that the average driver swing speed on Tour typically runs around 112 to 113 mph, using a bit of algebra and the above distances we can approximate a guide for how far you could expect to hit the ball (assuming fairly consistent and solid contact) given your personal driver swing speed.

Here are those carry distances.

Approximate Carry Distances by Driver Swing Speed (mph)

 Approximate Carry Distances by Driver Swing Speed (mph)

I took the ranges down to 60 and 70 mph because those are swing speeds I’ll encounter when working with some amateur women and seniors. I also went up to 140 mph because numerous long drivers I’ve trained can get their drivers up that high (RE/MAX World Long Drive champions like Joe Miller, Jamie Sadlowski and Ryan Winther can actually reach over 150 mph).

Aside from using the chart as a general reference point, here are a few other things that I think are worth pointing out:

First, these numbers are based off how the average Tour player strikes the ball. Although Tour players are overall good ball strikers with all their clubs, most of them are actually not as efficient (the Tour average is about 2.58 yards/mph of swing speed) as they can be when it comes to distance with their drivers because on average they hit drives that launch too low and with too much spin.

LGPA Tour players (2.65 yards/mph of swing speed) and Professional Long Drivers are actually more distance efficient with their drivers…but that’s a topic for another article. The good news for you is that greater carry and total-driving distances can be achieved at all the range of swing speeds shown above if you are a more efficient driver than the average male tour player at 2.58 yards/mph of swing speed.

With a 2-degree change in driver loft and some minor adjustments made to his swing path, angle of attack, etc, one of my amateur students went from being an already above-average efficient driver at 2.61 yards/mph to an extremely efficient one at 2.75 yards/mph. So with no change to his 102 mph swing speed, he increased his driving distance average from 266 to 280. Then after some swing speed training, he got up to 112 mph and can now hit drives around 307 yards with that same efficiency of 2.75 yards/mph. That’s 41 more yards!

Second, the club distances are based on the driver swing speeds that you would get from a system like FlightScope and Trackman. So if at all possible, get yourself checked on one of those. Otherwise, if you measure with something like a Speed Stik (which measure higher in my experience), you could get a false sense of how far you might expect to hit the ball.

As another example, Sports Sensors Swing Speed Radars (SSR) also read faster. It should be pointed out that SSRs are still a great personal training aid, and because of their accuracy and relative affordability and portability, they are actually the radar I recommend in my swing speed training programs.

However, the Doppler radar in an SSR measures the fastest moving part of the club head (typically the toe) versus a Trackman or FlightScope, which each have proprietary algorithms to calculate the speed at the center of the club face. For this reason, SSRs will read about 5 to 12 percent faster, depending on how you as an individual move the driver through impact. If you have an SSR, just hit 5 to 10 balls with it and a Trackman or FlightScope at the same time and you’ll find out your personal difference for sake of comparison.

Third, the above numbers can be useful for a good general reference, but like I mentioned in my article about understand distance variance, recognize that carry distances can vary a lot depending on conditions. Slopes, wind, temperature, altitude, etc., are all things that can affect how far the ball flies, so remember to factor that in.

Fourth, keep in mind potential loft differences between your clubs and the ones here. As a general rule of thumb, club manufacturers have made their club lofts (especially in the irons) continually stronger over the years as a way of marketing and selling consumers the new clubs.

Many top Tour players are being paid to play the latest clubs, which could mean they might also be playing irons with stronger lofts than the set you are playing. This isn’t always the case, however, but it’s another thing to be aware of.

Last, once you start approaching less than 80 mph with the driver, notice how the distances start bunching up between clubs.  At this point, you start getting to an area where you really don’t need a full set of 14 clubs. If this is you, perhaps you might also find that you hit a 3-wood or 5-wood further than a normal driver.

My wife is very strong and athletic, however, as a beginner who doesn’t play or practice very much, she hasn’t developed much swing speed. For that reason, we got her fitted for a 9-club set of Wishon 730CLs, a set that is designed specifically for men and women with less than 80 mph of club head speed.

The shafts are very light, the driver is 16 degrees and only 42 inches, the fairway woods are 20 and 26 degrees (versus the commonly used 15- and 19-degree fairway woods), and the remaining hybrids/irons are gapped out in 6-degree loft increments (compared to the normal 3- or 4-degree). Also, since many beginners, lesser skilled players and those with slower swing speeds can struggle with really high lofted wedges, the highest lofted wedge in the set is 54 degrees.

All of these things combine to provide a driver that can actually be hit in the air for distance, clubs that have substantial distance gapping, plus it’s just less clubs in general to lug around and choose from.

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