Summer lengthening of Augusta National's No. 5 puts emphasis on second shot
Bobby Jones always wanted players to hit a long club for their second shot into the fifth hole at Augusta National Golf Club.
The Masters Tournament co-founder is getting his wish.
Now 40 yards longer thanks to a new tee box that was installed last summer, the historically tough hole should put driver back in play and require a longer second shot.
The hole is now 495 yards long. The tee box, which used to crowd the fourth green, was moved back and across land previously used for Old Berckmans Road.
Scouting reports from players who visited Augusta National before this year’s Masters indicate that the second shot could play two to three clubs longer.
It also will require short- and medium-length hitters to use driver. In recent years, the play for most pros in the Masters field was to hit a 3-wood off the tee and a mid- to short-iron into the green.
“It’s still a really, really hard hole,” said Justin Thomas, who played the course in early March. “I’d also take four 4s on it, that’s for sure.”
Par has always been considered a good score at the hole known as Magnolia. It is the fifth toughest hole in tournament history.
Only the two other long par-4s, Nos. 10 and 11, and two difficult par-3s, Nos. 4 and 12, have played harder.
“I like making the hard holes harder,” three-time Masters winner Phil Mickelson said. “I’ve always considered that stretch of 4, 5 and 6 being a tough stretch, so making those holes more difficult I don’t think is a bad thing. I think it’ll be good.”
Alister MacKenzie and Jones, who co-designed the course, patterned the fifth hole after one of the most iconic holes in golf: the Road Hole at St. Andrews. Both Jones and MacKenzie were smitten with the Old Course, and its influence can be found throughout Augusta National.
The Road Hole at St. Andrews is a dogleg right with its tricky green guarded on the left side by a nasty pot bunker.
Augusta National’s fifth is a dogleg left with an equally tricky putting surface.
“Players lacking the necessary confidence to play along the dangerous left side sometimes become overcautious and play too closely down the right side of the fairway,” Jones wrote in Sports Illustrated in 1959. “From this side the second shot to the green becomes much longer and far more difficult.”
MacKenzie also pointed out the similarities to the Road Hole.
“A group of trees forms a corner of the dog leg instead of the station masters garden and the green itself is situated on a similar plateau to its prototype,” MacKenzie wrote of the hole.
The fairway bunkers previously required a blast of 315 yards to carry. Now the carry is listed as 313 yards, so the bunkers were moved back toward the tee to keep them in play.
Thomas, one of the longest hitters in golf, said wind direction would dictate whether he used driver.
“The bunkers aren’t too different because they moved them back a little bit,” he said. “They’re still in play.”
The green at the fifth is also considered one of the trickier putting surfaces at Augusta National.
“Five has always been a hole you’re not likely to make birdie on,” said Jack Nicklaus, a six-time Masters champion. “How do I hit a good enough tee shot to be in position to somehow stop (the ball) on the green.”
In 1995, Nicklaus solved the fifth hole. He made an eagle in the first round by dunking his approach shot, then did it again in the third round.
Some players claim that work has been done to the green complex.
“I think what they did with the left side of the green is good,” Thomas said. “They softened and made a possibility for a pin up there.”
Kevin Kisner, who played it in the winter, said he couldn’t tell.
“It’s just as brutal as ever,” he said of the green with its false front and undulations. “It looks exactly the same. If you walked out there you wouldn’t notice, but they say they’ve made it a little softer.”
Nicklaus also noted the hole’s similarities to the Road Hole. With a longer club, most players would run the ball up onto the putting surface. Augusta National’s greens in those days weren’t as fast as they are now.
“You could run it and stop on the green,” Nicklaus said. “You can’t do that anymore.”
To that end, most players report hitting longer clubs into the hole.
“You’re still hitting the same tee shot; you’re just hitting a different second shot,” Stewart Cink said. “The second shot is 20 to 25 yards longer. I think I hit a 5-iron there in November. A good driver and 5-iron.”
“This will be a similar type of hole to the famous seventeenth, the Road Hole at St. Andrews. A group of trees will form a corner of the dog-leg instead of the station master's garden, and the green itself will be situated on a
plateau similar to its prototype.” - Alister MacKenzie
“The proper line here is, as closely as possible, past the bunker on the left side of the fairway. It is
not necessary to carry this bunker in order to direct the drive into a groove in the fairway on top of
the hill ... On this hole, with the green’s surface in proper condition, the second shot must be
dropped short and allowed to run up. The bunker in back of the green was placed there not for
penalty but simply as an effort to help minimize the damage caused by an overplayed second shot.” - Bobby Jones
Changes favor longer drivers
The lengthening of the fifth hole has been in the works for years because Augusta National Golf Club wanted to alleviate congestion where the fourth green and fifth tee box meet. With the rerouting of Berckmans Road, the club was no longer landlocked and had room for the new tee box. The changes return the hole to how the founders of Augusta National Golf Club intended the hole to be played.