Top 10 Places You Can’t Hit It at Augusta National

Augusta National has always been get-able for any player who’s dialed in during Masters week. Ben Hogan scorched the course with an unprecedented winning score of 14-under-par way back in 1953. Jack Nicklaus established a new tournament record of 17-under in 1965 (equaled by Raymond Floyd in 1976). And Tiger Woods bettered that score by one during his first major win in 1997, as did Jordan Spieth in 2015. Dustin Johnson’s winning total of 268 in 2020—20-under par—showed that even a lengthened and toughened-up Augusta National could still be had if a player was really on his game. But to get anywhere near such numbers on today’s Augusta National course, there are some places where you simply can’t hit it.

Getting in contention isn’t just a matter of avoiding bogeys and big numbers, though—you’ve also got to keep pace with the leaders on the course’s handful of easier holes. The truth is danger lurks everywhere at Augusta National. Every hole can bite, even when you’re one of the top players in the world. But if you bogey a birdie hole (like the par-five 8th), you’re likely to lose two shots (or more) to the field. Not a winning strategy.

Here’s a list of some of the places where you absolutely cannot hit it if you want to give yourself your best chance of slipping into a green jacket on Sunday afternoon.

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4th hole (photo by Getty Images)

Left off the Tee at No. 2

With the right wind conditions, almost all of today’s players can get on or very near the green of this downhill par five in two, even though it’s been lengthened for the 2024 tournament to 585 yards. The one thing that will make accomplishing that virtually impossible is pulling or hooking a tee shot to the left into the trees and azalea bushes, which grow quite thick the farther into them you get. With the help of Augusta’s ever-present marshals, players will probably find their balls, but they may be lucky just to pitch back to the fairway, from which point they’ll be looking at a long third shot to the green, likely from a downhill lie. Where others are making birdies (and even eagles), they’ll be battling to save par. It’s not a situation any player will want to contend with, especially so early in the round—and especially on a hole that generally plays as the second easiest on the course.

Long on No. 4

Even when the par-three 4th hole called for no more than a short iron off the tee, par was still a good score, largely because of the sharply back-to-front and right-to-left tilt of its dance floor. Today, with the hole stretching to 240 yards, par is a great score. The green is guarded by two large bunkers (one short and one left), and they can certainly present trouble. But not as much trouble as players will find if they go long. Miss long and right and they risk going into a dense stand of bamboo. If they miss over the green elsewhere, they’ll face one of the slipperier downhill chip shots on the course, especially if the hole is located toward the back of the green. You don’t see many players go long at the 4th, and this is one reason why.

In the Bunkers off the Tee at No. 5

The 495-yard 5th hole is one of Augusta’s tougher par fours, ranking behind just the 10th and 11th in terms of resistance to scoring. The design of its green is certainly a factor in this. With its false front and severe undulations, even hitting the green in regulation is no guarantee of par. So it’s vital that players find the fairway with their tee shots. Should they go left off the tee into either of the deep bunkers staring at them from the elbow of the hole, finding the green in regulation will be all but impossible. Both yawning bunkers are deep—so deep that all you can see from the bottom of them are the steep walls of sand you’ll need to carry to get your ball back into play. Few players can hit it high enough and far enough to get their second shots to the green from these twin pits of despair. Hitting into either of them is almost a guarantee of a bogey or worse.

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Brandt Snedeker hits out of the bunker on the 5th hole during the final round of the 2013 Masters Tournament (photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Long on the Approach Shot to No. 7

As at the 4th hole, the green at the uphill 450-yard par-four 7th hole slopes sharply from back to front. It’s protected by three bunkers in front, another to the left, and a fifth bunker behind the green. From the fairway, it doesn’t look like there’s a green for your ball to land on at all. Human nature tells you to take enough club to carry those bunkers guarding the front of the putting surface. But there’s real danger in taking too much club. Should you go over the green, into either the rough or that back bunker, you’ll need to be Houdini to execute a recovery shot that’ll leave you with an easy putt for par.

Left on the Second Shot at No. 8

The 8th hole is a downhill-then-uphill 575-yard par five. With a favorable wind, players can often place their second shots near or even on the green here. It’s a birdie hole all day long, and eagles are not that uncommon. But you’ll have your work cut out for you to save par if you pull your second shot into the tall pines and mounds that guard the left side of the fairway, just short of where it doglegs left toward the green. The design of the hole certainly discourages shots to that area, as there are acres of fairway to the right of the green. And that’s where many players end up, because from there, it’s just a flip wedge to the green—with no trees to derail your round.

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9th hole during the 2012 Masters Tournament (photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Short on the Approach Shot to No. 9

Ask Greg Norman how important it is to carry the ball far enough onto this green at the uphill 460-yard par-four 9th and you’re likely to get an icy stare in return. At the 1996 Masters, Norman took a six-stroke lead into the final round and was only 1-over for the day coming into the 9th. But he made the mistake of not carrying his approach shot far enough onto the green. The ball spun back off the putting surface, trundled another 30 yards down the hill, and what resulted was the first of three consecutive bogeys (followed by a dagger-thrust double at No. 12) that effectively ended his chances and handed the tournament to Nick Faldo.

Short off the Tee at No. 12

For such a beautiful hole, the 155-yard par-three 12th, “Golden Bell,” can certainly be a beast. The wind famously swirls here at Amen Corner, which makes finding the diminutive green with your tee shot an exercise in skill, concentration, and a little black magic. Jordan Spieth came to this tee in 2016 looking for all the world like he was going to repeat as Masters champion. But that world came crashing down when he left his tee shot short and it took a bath in Rae’s Creek. Spieth went on to drown his next shot in the creek, too, effectively ending his hopes of back-to-back titles. Fred Couples was luckier in 1992 when his mishit tee shot miraculously stayed dry on the steep bank down to the creek. But anyone in contention on Sunday this year won’t be counting on luck, even if it means contending with the bunker that lurks just behind this pivotal hole’s shallow green.

Left on the Tee Shot on No. 13

After players have avoided Rae’s Creek at No. 12, they’ll need to do it again at Hole 13, a reachable 545-yard par five. With the tee moved back an additional 35 yards for the 2023 Masters, players can’t sling it around the corner of this dogleg-left hole as easily as they used to. So, to shorten their second shots to the green (which is itself protected by the creek), they need to take on the left side of the fairway—right where the biggest trouble awaits. Should they go too far left, they risk finding the creek and trees that guard that side of the hole—something that would take the possibility of making birdie or eagle right out of the picture and bring bogey straight into it. The 13th is a real risk/reward hole again now, and the biggest risk is straying left off the tee.

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A general view of the par five 15th hole during the 2013 Masters (photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

Short (or Long) on the Approach Shot to No. 15

The 550-yard par-five 15th offers Masters competitors a second legitimate chance at eagle in the space of three holes. Jack Nicklaus eagled this hole en route to a back-nine 30 in his thrilling 1986 Masters win—thanks, in part, to his ability to hit towering iron shots that fall back to earth as softly as dandelion seeds. For players who can’t execute that shot—under pressure, possibly from a downhill lie—the approach shot to the green at 15 is fraught with danger. The pond short of the green is to be avoided at all costs (as Sergio Garcia demonstrated in 2018 when he hit into it five times in a row), and because of this, it’s more likely that players will miss the green long than short. But there’s a slick bank behind the green, and another pond at the foot of that bank. Should players go long, they’ll face delicate pitch shots back to the green, which runs from back to front and away from anyone playing back toward it from behind.

Right on the Tee Shot at No. 18

Anyone who steps onto the last tee with a one-shot lead at the Masters will be faced with a daunting tee shot through a narrow chute of trees. Augusta National’s finishing hole is a 465-yard par four, uphill to the green, so players will mostly be hitting driver. There are two fairway bunkers to avoid off the tee, along with trees and bushes to the left of the fairway. But recovery shots can often be played from those spots that will give the player a decent chance of saving par. Missing to the right off the tee, though, where there’s an enchanted forest of trees waiting to torment wayward victims, could prove to be ruinous. From there, hitting any kind of shot toward the green often proves impossible, leaving a pitch shot back to the fairway as the player’s only option.

What other places on the golf course at Augusta National would you add to this list?

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