WHOA! Looks like Augusta National is FINALLY changing the 13th

Augusta National 13Th 1

It has been rumoured for years. Now, it looks like Augusta National is finally lengthening its iconic par-5 13th.

New pictures posted on social media by Eureka Earth, the Georgia-based aerial imaging service, show significant work taking place both on and behind the existing tee box at The Masters host venue. 

The existing trees and shrubbery at the back of the existing tee have been removed, with new trees planted around 50 yards or so further back on land purchased by Augusta National from the neighbouring Augusta Country Club in 2017.

If the hole is indeed being lengthened, it marks the latest twist in a fascinating saga and, indeed, a stand-off between Augusta National Golf Club and the game's two ruling bodies, the R&A and USGA.

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Augusta chairman Fred Ridley has previously spoken about the impact that modern hitting distances have had on 'Azalea', as the hole is named. 

In 2018, in his first press conference as the chairman of Augusta National, he said that the club is “intent on making sure that we maintain the design philosophy that Mr Jones and Alister MacKenzie devised”.

Augusta National 13Th 2

He added: “Our observation of these great players hitting middle and even short irons into that hole is that it is not a momentous decision. And so we think there is an issue, not only there, but in the game generally, that needs to be addressed.”

However, he has resisted making any changes up until now, preferring instead to see what acton - if any - the R&A and USGA take to limit the current equipment manufacturing standards. 

Ahead of this year's Masters, in fact, the 13th was conspicuous by its absence from a list of course tweaks published by the club, despite the 11th and 15th both being lengthened.

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The only material change to hole came in 2002 when the tee was pushed back by around 25 yards as tournament officials embarked on their infamous programme of ‘Tiger-proofing’.

The trouble with 13, as it currently is, is plain for all to see.

The easiest hole in Masters Tournament history, it played to an average of 4.8516 this year. Of the 17 eagles posted across the tournament, six came there. 

And yet for decades, it was the nonpareil of ‘risk and reward’ golf holes, the standard-bearer for drama, entertainment and shot-making.

The risk of going for the green in two? Sending your ball splashing into Rae’s Creek short of the green. The reward? A near-certain birdie and a high possibility of an eagle at a crucial stage in the round.

The risk of laying up? Severely limiting your chances of an eagle. The reward? A par, at the very worst.

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A simple premise, masterfully executed by Jones and his co-designer Alister MacKenzie.

Jones, indeed, spoke of wanting players to weigh up a "momentous decision" when it came to hitting their second shots. 

Now, as the course approaches its 100th birthday in just a few years time, it appears its current custodians have made a "momentous decision" of their own to preserve the integrity of the 13th - as well as the course - for the future.

• The 2023 Masters Tournament takes place at Augusta National Golf Club from April 6-9.

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