Augusta National Finds More Length Moving Hole Across Road

AUGUSTA, GEORGIA - APRIL 06: A general view of the 12th hole during the final round of the Augusta National Women's Amateur at Augusta National Golf Club on April 06, 2019 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
AUGUSTA, GEORGIA - APRIL 06: A general view of the 12th hole during the final round of the Augusta National Women's Amateur at Augusta National Golf Club on April 06, 2019 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

It’s finally happened. In search of more length, Augusta National has moved a hole across a road to lengthen it 40 yards.

Old Berckmans Road used to be the northwest boundary of the club’s land, but more than a decade ago, the club or an association affiliated with it, began buying up houses and such to the north. It became a patron parking area. But it was also clear that if Augusta National needed to modify some holes, it would have more room to do that.

The hole that was changed is the 5th at Augusta National, and according to reports, that means the new tee is going to be someplace in the middle of or across the road. People will begin showing us that new tee with tweets and practice round photos.

Ian Poulter already posted the changes to the 5th in his new yardage guide for Augusta National, demonstrating that the bunkers on the left side that once started at 160 yards from the hole now start around 195 yards. What that will mean is that golfers will have to hit a longer drive to go over the bunkers. The change will make it even harder to hold that treacherous putting surface than ever before. Before, it was nearly impossible. What’s harder than nearly impossible? Unplayable? We are about to see.

But this may be just the beginning of changes to take into account the jumps in distance since the introduction of the ProV1 ball.

Last December, Golf Digest had a story about the increase in average driving distance on the PGA Tour between 2017 and 2018. It was a fairly shocking four yards. In 2018, the average drive on the PGA Tour was 296.1 yards. In 2017, it was 292.1 and the year before that it increased by two yards.

Four yards is a big jump, and makes you question the so-called experts who kept saying, it’s no more than a yard a year, if that. Looking at the stats since 2000, they were correct, but if you ask me a yard each year is still 10 yards in 10 years. It’s not nothing. But four yards in a season and six yards in two seasons is really a huge change. It’s more than an eyebrow raiser. It’s a we have to move the tee across the road kind of change.

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Four yards makes you question the so-called experts who kept saying, it’s no more than a yard a year, if that. Looking at the stats since 2000, that’s mostly correct, but if you ask me a yard a year is still 10 yards in 10 years.
Looking back over the last ten seasons, in 2008, 2009 and 2010, average driving distance was 287.3 yards.

In 2011, it increased to 290.9 yards, a gain of 3.6 yards, which is a lot.
In 2012, it dropped back to 289.1 yards.
In 2013, it dropped again, by almost two yards, to 287.2 yards.
Those two stats had to be impacted by rainy golf seasons.
In 2014 the climb began once more. That year it was up to 288.8 yards.
In 2015, up again to 289.7 yards.
In 2016, it was 290.1 yards.

Then, in 2017 the average was 292.1, which was a two-yard increase, according to the Tour’s stats.

You can go back farther as Golfweek did in 2015 with a chart that showed average driving distance since 2000.

The last number is players who averaged over 300 yards.

2015 289.7 Dustin Johnson (317.7) 26
2014 288.8 Bubba Watson (314.3) 25
2013 287.2 Luke List (306.8) 13
2012 289.1 Bubba Watson (315.5) 21
2011 290.9 J.B Holmes (318.4) 21
2010 287.3 Robert Garrigus (315.5) 12
2009 287.3 Robert Garrigus (312) 13
2008 287.3 Bubba Watson (315.1) 13
2007 288.6 Bubba Watson (315.2) 18
2006 288.9 Bubba Watson (319.6) 20
2005 288.4 Scott Hend (318.9) 26
2004 286.5 Hank Kuehne (314.4) 15
2003 285.9 Hank Kuehne (321.4) 8
2002 279.5 John Daly (306.8) 1
2001 278.8 John Daly (306.7) 1
2000 272.8 John Daly (301.4) 1
Source: Golfweek

And you can bring the chart up to date with stats from
2018 Average 296.1 Rory McIlroy 319.7 yards 58 players averaged 300 yards
2017 Average 292.1 Rory McIlroy 316.7 yards 40 players averaged 300 yards
2016 Average 299.9 J.B. Holmes 314.5 yards 27 players averaged 300 yards

In summary, the Golfweek chart shows the average driving distance at the turn of the century was 272.8 yards. So, using really basic math here, in less than 20 years, the average driving distance has increased more than 20 yards, 23.3 to be exact.

What that means is that PGA Tour players, on average, are playing a course that’s nearly 280 yards shorter for them that it was in 2000, just off the tee. (20 yards x 14 tee shots that are not par threes.) It becomes even shorter when you add second shots.

Now that’s just for the average PGA Tour player. How about the long guys?

The current driving distance leader in 2019 is Cameron Champ with an average of 316.8.  Last year, 2018, Rory McIlroy topped the distance averages off the tee with 319.7. Both are considerably longer than the Tour average in 2018 of 296.1 yards.

Taking it one step farther: Champ, this year, is 20 yards longer than the Tour average for all drives for all of last year which was 296.1 yards. And his average is 44 yards longer than the PGA Tour driving distance average in 2000.

What that means in terms of playability is that the longest hitters are about 40-45 yards longer off the tee on each par four or five than the average PGA Tour player was in 2000. That means the same course from 2000 is at least 560 yards shorter off the tee for the longest hitters. How many courses have increased in length by 500 yards? Again, that doesn’t even take into consideration second shot distance averages. Yes, some courses have increased a couple hundred yards. But not everyone has the luxury of extra real estate.

So, the move of the 5th tee at Augusta National does point out the very real problem of the longest of hitters obsoleting many of the courses where men’s professional golf has been played, including at Augusta National.

Nothing against distance. Everybody loves the long ball, particularly guys who hit it three football fields. Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson, Tony Finau, Brooks Koepka, Champ, McIlroy and many others. Fans love to watch it.

So what’s next for the Masters? Well, the club previously purchased some land from neighboring Augusta Country Club which is next to the 11th, 12th, and 13th holes to their south.

It’s not hard to image that one day in the not too distant future that the 13th hole would be lengthened. It’s hard to imagine that they would touch the 12th.

However, the 11th , even though it has been lengthened in the past, almost as far as it can go, could have extra distance if the shape were to change to a severe dogleg right hole, with the tee up alongside the 10th hole. But the dogleg would really hamper the traditional look of it.

You really need to look at google maps to understand the 11th and other challenges the course faces. The 8th tee is already backed up to 17 green, for example. If 2 tee goes back any farther, it will be inside a building behind the trees.

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There is nothing to say that with a lot of earth-moving equipment Augusta National couldn’t replicate a couple of holes on the land that is now patron parking. They’d have to tear down or relocate some buildings to do it, but it could be done. This year’s change in the 5th hole may be just the first step in that direction.