Geoff Ogilvy reveals his hypothetical redesign for Augusta National
Last fall, seven-time PGA Tour winner, press tent raconteur and father of three Geoff Ogilvy added another credential to his resume: golf course architect. (Ogilvy joined forces with fellow Australian pro and designer Mike Clayton.) To better understand Ogilvy's aesthetic, we wondered how he might tweak one of the game's holiest sites: Augusta National. Ogilvy, who grew up playing Alister MacKenzie courses in the Melbourne Sandbelt, was full of suggestions -- not because he's an Augusta detractor, but conversely because he's spent so much time admiring the course. "It's just a stunning place with wonderfully strategic holes and great greens," Ogilvy says. "It's 95 percent of what I want a golf course to be." Here's how he'd tinker with the other 5 percent.
1. REMOVE THE NEW TREES
"Of all the changes I've seen since I began watching the tournament in the mid-80s, the addition of trees has most taken away from the 'Bob Jones spirit' of finding your own angles into the greens and your own unique way to play the hole. Nicklaus and Palmer and those guys used to take a big slash off the tee and really work the golf course out and get the angles right. The trees have pushed everyone into the same spots, especially on Nos. 7, 11, 15 and 17. There are also some new trees that aren't spoken about, like down the right-hand side of No. 9. Hitting it down that side used to leaves you farther from the green, but with a better angle. The trees have taken away that angle. There are so many shots out there that are difficult that the course doesn't need that constricting narrowness. Augusta is an examination of imagination. That element should be encouraged instead of taken away."
2. SLOW DOWN THE GREENS
"An interesting experiment would be taking a foot or two off the speed of the greens. They're the fastest greens we putt all year by two feet anyway; the only exception might be the greens at [U.S. Open venue] Oakmont. You get into situations where the best golfers in the world are hitting six-foot putts and laying them up because they don't want them to roll off the greens. I don't think that was the intent." Ogilvy also says that the slick greens create some questionable hole locations. "Take No. 14. When they cut the holes on the left-hand side of the green, they teeter on the edge of fair and unfair. You can get two balls landing in a similar spot and one rolls 70 feet away while another stays four feet from the hole. I don't think that's quite right. Taking away some pace would also open up fun, cool pin positions up on ridges and high points."
4. REMOVE THE "SECOND CUT" OF FAIRWAY
[The second cut refers to the longer grass, about 1 3/8 inches long, that edges the fairways. It was implemented in 1999 to put a premium on driving accuracy.] "Most golf courses in the world would be fantastic with that length of rough. It creates spin and fliers and mayhem. The big irony is that the one place that does it -- Augusta -- is the place that doesn't need to do it. Its greens are such a good test, and [the approach shots] are all about the angles. There are a lot of places on the golf course where the right spot to be -- where MacKenzie or Jones would like the golfer to come in from -- is now actually in the rough. I don't think that was the intention."
5. EXTEND THE TEES
"You pretty much play off the same spot every time you play a hole at Augusta. It would be interesting to have longer tees, so you'd have more scope to shorten holes on certain days and lengthen them on others. It would add to the variation that makes Augusta so great. Mike Davis has done this at the U.S. Open a little bit. If you had 40 or 50 yards of tee as opposed to those traditional short ones, you could, for example, have No. 7 play a little shorter one day and longer the next. At 13 or 15, you could move them up so everyone goes for the green. At the very least, it would be an interesting experiment."
6. GROW IT OUT
"This is more of an aesthetics thing, but my ultimate fantasy would be to get the course as close -- in modern distances -- to what MacKenzie and Jones came up with. It was just wild and wacky and there was some really cool stuff like the original ninth green, which was like a big horseshoe. The original bunkers were a little bit jagged and rugged, like the one down on 10. They kind of had that 'MacKenzie shape' to them, a bit like the Cypress Point look. I don't think there is anybody who would argue that Augusta doesn't look good now, but that would be interesting exercise -- to take all the original pictures, dating back to first tournament in 1934, and try to recreate that golf course. I think it would look amazing."