Masters Countdown: Seventh Hole

 

A not especially intelligible drawing of Augusta National's seventh green, from the program for the first Masters, in 1934, when the seventh had no bunkers.

The seventh wasn’t much of a hole in the early days. (The consensus, as described by Clifford Roberts, the club’s co-founder and chairman, was that it was “the only weak hole out of the eighteen.”) Alister MacKenzie, who designed the course, likened it to the eighteenth at St. Andrews, but the resemblance was superficial. Both holes were short, and both had large greens and no bunkers, but in comparison with the venerable and surprisingly difficult closing hole of the Old Course, the seventh at Augusta was a pushover. Many players today would have been able to drive it.

In a letter to MacKenzie in 1933, Roberts wrote, “I think the real criticism . . . is that it lacks character. Ed Dudley [the club’s first professional] made a suggestion which appealed very much to me. He proposed putting a bunker in the middle of the face of the green and letting it wedge into the green. In other words, his thought is to partly develop this green into two sections, the same as is true of one of the greens at Lakeside, California. Bob [Bobby Jones] did not have very much to say about this proposal, but I do not think he was much impressed by it. I think, in truth, that Bob is really hesitant about making any alterations or incidental refinements till you can come here and see the layout.”

Perry Maxwell

Nothing significant happened until 1938, when Horton Smith—who had won the first and third tournaments—suggested elevating the green and fronting it with several deep bunkers. He also suggested moving the green twenty yards back and to the right. Jones and Roberts both approved. The design work was done by Perry
Maxwell, an Oklahoma banker-turned-architect, whose best-known course is probably Tulsa’s Southern Hills. Maxwell had been a partner of MacKenzie’s during the final years of MacKenzie’s life. (Their last joint project, completed in 1933, was Crystal Downs, in Frankfort, Michigan.) The transformation of the seventh green, which cost $2,500, was paid for by Lewis B. Maytag, who was one of the club’s earliest members and was the head of the Maytag Company. In addition, the driving area was tightened through the addition of a grove of pine trees on the left side of the fairway. (There were already trees on the right.)

Maxwell made several less dramatic changes in other greens—among them the first and the fourteenth, to which he added pronounced undulations. Such undulations were his trademark and were known as “Maxwell rolls.” MacKenzie was no longer alive at that time, but he undoubtedly would have approved: he loved dramatic contours. In The Spirit of St. Andrews, he wrote wistfully about the early greens at Machrihanish, a legendary links course, designed by Old Tom Morris, on the Kintyre peninsula in western Scotland: “Some of the natural greens were so undulating that at times one had to putt twenty or thirty yards round to lay dead at a hole only five yards away. These greens have all gone and today one loses all the joy of outwitting an opponent by making spectacular putts of this description.” For the disappearance of such features, MacKenzie blamed a preoccupation with the elimination of “unfairness”—a word that he scornfully placed in quotation marks.

Today, the seventh is 450 yards long—110 yards longer than it was for the first Masters—and the landing area is narrow. Just fifteen years ago, the seventh was considered a birdie hole, even by members. Now it’s a tough par for any player whose tee shot ends up in the pine straw.

5 thoughts on “Masters Countdown: Seventh Hole

  1. Actually, I don’t have a comment about this post but about the website. Where is the course that is pictured on the home page? It looks amazing. It reminds me of Bandon.

  2. Behind the seventh is a great spot for your master’s chair. Above the surface looking down the fairway….close to the beer tent….a short walk to other vantage points like 2,17,10 greens. In 1992 fred Couples nearly holed out…in 2010 Tiger did.

  3. I really like your writing style, wonderful info, thank you for putting up :D. “In university they don’t tell you that the greater part of the law is learning to tolerate fools.” by Doris Lessing.

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