Though Augusta National Golf Club and Masters Tournament Chairman Billy Payne said there have been no material changes to the golf course this year, more adjustments to the property are underway and under consideration.
This year’s tournament is the first since the realignment of Berckmans Road. When asked about other long-term plans, Payne said he could speak only generally. He said that with Old Berckmans Road no longer hindering the fourth and fifth holes, there are options that didn’t previously exist.
Payne also said that while Augusta National is studying the par-5 13th hole, which could be an expansion candidate, there has been no decision about any changes.
“As we do every year, and historically forever, we are always looking at options for numerous of our holes. We create plans looking into the future, when we believe that the shot value of certain second shots, principally, has been impacted by how far the ball is now traveling,” Payne said.
Payne thanked Augusta and those involved in the Berckmans Road realignment. He said the Berckmans Road process took about 20 years.
“It addresses several needed traffic and circulation improvements on a year-round basis in our community, and it also begins the long-term transformation of the manner in which we utilize our property to conduct the Masters Tournament.
“Future improvements to this western side of our property will positively impact the parking experience of our patrons and create additional options for the enjoyment of our entire campus.”
Payne said there will be a new media facility next year, which will allow for helpful changes to the space occupied by the current building near the first hole and merchandise area.
“We discovered a couple of years ago, really, that for safety and other reasons, we need to widen the corridor,” he said. “We had an evacuation a few years ago, you will remember, and we had some issues about the safety of our patrons in the corridor.”
Payne said there are no plans to change the honorary starter tradition, which is seen annually Thursday morning. The Big Three will again participate in 2016, but Arnold Palmer will not hit a tee shot. The ceremony had gone on hiatus from 2003 to 2006 before Palmer hit his tee shot in 2007. Nicklaus joined Palmer in 2010, followed by Player taking part for the first time in 2012.
“We are looking forward to having Arnold not tomorrow, but for many, many years to come,” Payne said. “We will deal with that when the time comes.”