Masters Countdown: Sixth Hole

Sixth hole, Augusta National, 1935.

Augusta National is viewed as sacred ground by many golfers, who sometimes assume that the holes have remained inviolate for decades, if not since the beginning of time. But the course has never been a museum. In fact, it has almost certainly undergone more significant changes, beginning in the 1930s, than any other important golf course in the world. Revenues from the Masters, along with substantial contributions from members, have financed numerous alterations, some of them monumental. Almost every summer, greens are regraded or rebuilt, tees are moved, hazards are added or eliminated, new trees are planted in strategic positions, and mounds are reshaped, raised, flattened, moved, created, or carted away. Since the very earliest years of the club, the only thing sacred about the course has been a belief that it must continually be modified and improved.

Changes to the course have had numerous designers. The club has been receptive to—and has steadily solicited—suggestions from players, members, guests, spectators, sportswriters, television viewers, television commentators, distinguished architects, and others. Even as early as the early fifties, Bobby Jones could say with accuracy that the course was “truly of national design.” He viewed that miscellaneous heritage as one of the course’s greatest strengths, and his assessment became still more apt in subsequent years, as increases in tournament revenues expanded the scope of what the club could afford to try.

The same tributary of Rae’s Creek that runs in front of the thirteenth green and along the left side of the thirteenth fairway used to run also between the sixth tee and sixth green. The stream ran so far short of the green, though, that it virtually never came into play. The club dammed the stream to create a more formidable hazard. But the new pond was still thirty yards from the front of the putting surface, making the water a nearly irrelevant hazard even for high-handicap players. (It couldn’t even be seen from the tournament tees.) In 1959, the pond was removed and the stream was buried. You can see part of the old pond in the photo below.

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