Masters Countdown: Eighth Hole

Augusta National's eighth green, 1935.

When the eighth green was built, it looked very much the way it does today, with tall, steeply contoured mounds on either side. In 1956, though, Clifford Roberts, the club’s co-founder and chairman, had the mounds removed. “That’s the only time I can really remember Mr. Jones getting mad at Cliff,” Phil Harison, a longtime member, told me in the late 1990s. “But he removed the mounds for a reason. They blocked the view of the spectators at the tournament, and once they were gone the spectators could see a lot better. But Mr. Jones got awfully upset about that. He really did, because without the mounds the hole was much less interesting, and the green didn’t look like any other green on the golf course.”

Augusta National's eighth green in 1956, after the mounds had been removed to improve sight lines for spectators.

Roberts never thought that removing the mounds improved the hole—and, indeed, the new green was dreadful. It was featureless and vaguely hourglass-shaped, and it could be approached without trepidation from almost any angle. But Roberts felt strongly that spectators ought to be able to see. Not long before he died, though, he decided that the sacrifice had been too great and that the mounds should be restored. The change was finally made in 1979, not quite two years after his death. Byron Nelson led the project, along with Joseph S. Finger, an architect who, among other accomplishments, had played golf at Rice University in the thirties on a team that was coached by Jimmy Demaret. In restoring the mounds, Nelson and Finger relied heavily on photographs taken during the thirties and forties. Harison—who had grown up in a house that used to stand just beyond the first green—consulted on the project as well. During the Second World War, when the course was closed, he had often ridden a motor bike over the mounds, and he told me that he retained a sort of physical memory of their shape.

Jones and Roberts used to ask Harison to fill out groups in Augusta National’s main member-member event, the Jamboree, beginning when he was thirteen; he and a partner won the event in 1941, when he was sixteen. He didn’t officially become a member until 1946, when he turned twenty-one, but at that time, he told me, Jones and Roberts kidded him by saying, “Oh, you’ve been a member for years.” Harison attended every Masters, beginning with the first, and was the tournament’s official starter for more than sixty years: it was he who introduced each player on the first tee—everyone from Bobby Jones to Tiger Woods. He died 2008, at the age of 82.

During 2001, the tournament tee on the eighth hole was moved back and to the players’ right—part of a course-wide effort, supervised primarily by Tom Fazio, to lengthen the course and increase the premium on accuracy and controlled shot shape off the tee. The fairway bunker was doubled in size and stretched toward the green. (The old bunker ended roughly at the peninsula of turf near the left center of the new bunker. See the photo below.)

The eighth hole has had a fairway bunker in approximately the same position since the course opened. Changes in its size and in the location of the tournament tee—all of which were made, in part, to keep the bunker in play—provide a good indication of how much tournament players’ driving distance has increased since the early 1930s: the far edge of the bunker today is roughly a hundred yards farther from the tee than it was during the first Masters.

Looking back toward the tee from the eighth green. The hole's single bunker is on the left.

One thought on “Masters Countdown: Eighth Hole

  1. It’s hard to believe an Augusta green looked liked the 1956 picture. Roberts was probably lucky that Mr. Jones didn’t ‘Calamity Jane’ him over the head!

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