What you can learn from Amen Corner – You may never play Augusta National, but studying these three holes can teach you plenty – Brief Article
For a long time the closest I got to playing Augusta National was a dart game we used to play as kids back in southern Rhodesia. So you can imagine how great a thrill it was for me when I set a course record in the third round of the 1986 Masters. I had 10 birdies that day and shot 30 on the back nine, including birdie-birdie-birdie on Amen Corner. I nearly birdied the 18th hole, too, and I remember telling the press afterward,
“I think Bobby Jones held up his hand from somewhere and said, ‘That’s enough, boy.’ ” (Of course, my 63 that Saturday tends to be overlooked, as it should be, considering what Jack Nicklaus did on Sunday that year.)
That round taught me lessons that guide me still. For instance, I was aggressive, but I did not take unnecessary risks. In fact, I laid up on every par 5 but still made a birdie each time.
You can use the Masters as an educational tool, too. There are some fundamental course-management rules that apply everywhere. And there is no better classroom than Amen Corner, a near-perfect collection of a par 4, par 3 and par 5 on holes 11 through 13. The pictures on the following pages (taken during a practice round last year) show some of the shots and decisions you’ll face whether you’re playing Augusta National or your home course. I’ll show you why these holes are so challenging and what you can learn about them that just might help you set a course record of your own some day.
There’s a reason four out of the five sudden-death playoffs at the Masters have been decided here: because 6 seems as likely a score as 3. It’s a good hole, because you need a big tee shot and a solid middle- iron to a specific spot on the green just to be content to make a par. It gives you options, but like everywhere at Augusta National every decision you make leads to more decisions. In 1986, I made a birdie here, but only because I played safe and was rewarded by making a 20- foot birdie putt. Sometimes that’s the best strategy wherever you are.
I cannot state this any more clearly: When the green is firm and the wind is blowing at least 10 miles an hour, this is the hardest 155 yards you will face in your life. With no wind and soft greens, you can hit a good shot and make a par or even a birdie (as I did in 1986), but with wind, you can hit one good shot, two or even three, and still make a 7. There’s really no way to play safe, but the safest route is over the front bunker. Trouble is, the green’s only nine yards deep at that point. The best advice on a hole like No. 12 is what Tom Watson used to say: “Know what club you’re going to hit and then wait for the wind to match it.”
They say that Bobby Jones “saw” this hole the first time he looked at the nursery property that would become Augusta National. It’s certainly a natural wonder with the way the creek sneaks back in front of the green and angles its way along the right edge. It calls for a hook off the tee, but too much of a hook puts you in severe trouble. It’s almost always reachable in two shots, but the four-foot swale between the green and the bunkers makes for some difficult chip shots. And playing it as a three-shot hole can be almost as difficult as going for the green in two.
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