NASSAU, BAHAMAS – The calendar may say December, but April in Augusta already is on the minds of golfers competing at the Hero World Challenge this week.
Some of the competitors already have begun making scouting trips to Augusta National, and we’ve got their early reviews of the par-5 13th hole, which has been lengthened some 35 yards.
“You know, what?” said Kevin Kisner, who lives in Aiken, South Carolina, about 45 minutes away from Magnolia Lane and the famed home of the season’s first major. “I was totally against it until I played it, and I don’t think it’s going to be that bad.”
The par-5 13th ranks as one of the great risk-reward holes in golf – going for it should be a “momentous decision,” in the words of Bobby Jones, who assisted Alister MacKenzie in its design. It originally measured 480 yards when the Masters debuted in 1934 and had played to 510 yards for the 2022 Masters. But that distance is shorter than many par-4s in major championship golf these days.
In recent years, powerful players such as Bubba Watson and Rory McIlroy have been able to blast balls over the trees that protect the dogleg-left hole, sometimes hitting it far enough around the corner to leave a short iron or even a wedge for the second shot to the green. The 13th played as the third-easiest hole on the course at the 2022 Masters, only more difficult than the two front-nine par-5s.
In 2017, Augusta National purchased a swath of land from Augusta Country Club – the land actually was part of a hole on the neighboring course, and Augusta Country Club was forced to reroute its layout to accommodate the land sale. In his 2022 press conference, Augusta National Chairman Fred Ridley said there was no timetable to use the land for a new tee but also hinted that changes to 13 could be coming.
“There’s a great quote from Bobby Jones dealing specifically with the 13th hole, which has been lengthened over time, and he said that the decision to go for the green in two should be a momentous one,” Ridley said. “And I would have to say that our observations of these great players hitting middle and even short irons into that hole is not a momentous decision.”
He added: “From our perspective, we will always do what’s necessary to maintain the integrity of our golf course.”
So far, the club has not commented on what work was done to the hole, but thanks to the good people at Eureka Earth, golf fans have been able to follow the construction project via detailed aerial images.
Kisner said he wished they left the old tee as a potential option in case conditions became extreme.
“If we catch it straight into the wind, I’m not sure you can get it around the corner,” he said. “But it’s a par-5, you can lay up.”
Kisner, who played Augusta National on Sunday, said he had 210 yards to the front of the green – “I pounded it and there was no roll” – and anticipated that “the bombers can probably get home with 5- or 6-iron.”
Tony Finau can confirm. He visited Augusta National two weeks ago and played 36 holes. He said he didn’t think adding length was necessary at 13, but he, too, agreed that the changes were better than he expected.
Like Kisner, he still reached the green in two shots – the first time with a 3-iron and the second time with a 4-iron.
“In the spring, that should be a 5- or 6-iron,” he said.
Count Billy Horschel, who called 13 “the greatest par 5 in the world,” among the players who are saddened by the changes. While he hasn’t seen them yet, he predicted, “I think you’re not going to see as many guys go for it.”