Changes could make fifth hole at the Masters more challenging
The fifth hole is historically one of the toughest holes at Augusta National Golf Club.
If the club lengthens it after this year’s Masters Tournament, the added yardage could put driver back in the hands of most players and make the hole even more difficult.
Augusta National filed preliminary site plans in January with the Augusta Planning and Development Department to make changes to the hole.
The tee box for tournament play on the 455-yard, par-4 hole would be pushed back, across Old Berckmans Road. Old Berckmans Road has been closed to through traffic since 2015, but the plans call for the road to curve around the area that will be used as a tee box.
Jordan Spieth, who won the 2015 Masters, said the current hole is plenty tough.
“The idea of lengthening it and having it be more straight-on would make it even more challenging,” he said. “For me, it would force me to hit driver. I hit 3-wood there a lot of the time, so if you lengthen it, we’d still be (hitting our second shot) from the same place — it would just be more difficult getting to that place to play from.”
Henrik Stenson said he wouldn’t object to the changes.
“I’m fine with them lengthening it a little bit,” he said. “I’d say 7-iron is the most common club we hit in, so it could handle a little more length.”
The fifth hole has long been considered a prime target for renovations. Former club and tournament chairman Billy Payne addressed the issue at last year’s Masters, noting that the club now controlled the former western border where Nos. 4 and 5 meet.
The new tee would alleviate congestion at the fourth green and current fifth tee, which are only a few yards apart.
Fred Ridley, who took over as chairman last summer, is a former U.S. Amateur champion who played in three Masters. The club has not issued any comments about proposed changes, but the plans on file indicate a start date of May 1.
“That is something I do know a little bit about,” Ridley told The Augusta Chronicle in October. “The process is we take a hard look at the golf course every year.
“Old Berckmans Road certainly gives us some opportunities and options, and we are looking at those,” Ridley said in the fall.
The plans don’t indicate any changes to the fairway bunkers or the green, which is considered one of the more challenging putting surfaces at Augusta National.
Playing a longer club into the green could make birdies even harder to come by.
“It’s a very severe green complex. It’s a green that was designed to almost be like a par 5 — it’s contoured like a par 5,” Paul Casey said. “The knock-on effect if you lengthen is do you have to change the green contours in any way?
“The committee is so thoughtful around here that they’re not going to lengthen a hole without thinking of the knock-on effects. It’ll be interesting because adding length might add in some ways and take away in others.”
The fairway bunkers that were extended 80 yards toward the green in 2003 are penal if players miss the fairway left. Some players wouldn’t miss those if they were removed.
“I think it’s good when tournaments try to change things, but instead of lengthening No. 5 I would get rid of the bunkers on the left side,” Martin Kaymer said. “They’re so deep and I don’t really believe they fit the rest of the golf course.”
The added length could be a benefit for shorter hitters like Brian Harman.
“Right now I try to skirt those bunkers a little bit, so with added length, if it’s into the wind, the sand wouldn’t come into play,” Harman said.
In recent years the approach shot to the fifth green has been nothing more than a short iron for the game’s top players. In 2016, Danny Willett hit an 8-iron from 157 yards out from a fairway bunker. Spieth used 3-wood off the tee in 2015 and had a 7-iron left for his shot to the green.
HOLE 5 HIGHLIGHTS
Par 4, 455 yards
2017: 4.21 (fifth hardest)
Cumulative: 4.26 (fifth hardest)
Low: 4.061, 2001
High: 4.475, 1956
Lowest score: 2, nine times by eight golfers
High score: 8, four times
1974: Art Wall Jr. holes his second shot for an eagle 2. He also birdies Nos. 4 and 6, making him the only golfer to record three consecutive 2s in the Masters.
1995: Jack Nicklaus eagles the hole twice during the tournament. He makes eagle in the first round and in the third round.
2017: Russell Henley makes eagle in the final round.