Augusta National Golf Club chairman Fred Ridley conducted his annual pre-Masters press conference on Wednesday. Among the usual updates, Augusta’s head honcho addressed the mythical “Masters ball” idea concocted as a way to defend the course he runs from the game’s biggest hitters.
In short, it ain’t gonna happen.
Some background is necessary. Over the last 20 years, improved technology in golf clubs and golf balls, in addition to improved physical conditioning among players, has led to explosive increases in distance on the PGA Tour. So much so that tournament courses have been lengthened, and re-lengthened, to adapt to pros hitting the ball a heck of a lot farther.
Augusta National has not escaped this trend. To defend against the modern power game, the club has repeatedly lengthened its course. They’ve also made other adjustments to combat increased distance, including adding more rough around the course.
Dismayed at seeing legendary golf courses forced to renovate in the face of distance increases, some have suggested that Augusta National produce a custom reduced-flight golf ball, or Masters ball, to be used during the Masters each year. By doing so, the club could avoid further alterations to its iconic course.
But when asked about it on Wednesday, Ridley quickly shot down the idea, saying it’s “very unlikely we would produce a Masters ball. There are a whole lot of reasons for that, but I think you can be pretty assured that that’s the case.”
Augusta’s chairman addressed the distance debate from another angle when asked about the famous par-5 13th hole at Augusta National.
The club lengthened the par-4 5th hole by 40 yards since last year’s Masters. When asked if he had any plans to similarly stretch 13, Ridley suggested any plans were on hold until golf’s governing bodies decide how to manage distance increases.
He said while there is “no hesitation” to make necessary course changes, “Amen Corner is a sacred place in the world of golf. I am hesitant to move too quickly in that regard.”
He continued, saying, “My preference, as stated, would be to see what happens, what the governing bodies decide is best for the game, and then we will take appropriate action in response to that.”
While some traditionalists are begging for a Masters ball, at least now they know one iconic golf hole will be spared from modern tinkering. For now.
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