Augusta National’s Amen Corner is one of the most hallowed places in all of golf. Comprising the 11th, 12th and 13th holes, Amen Corner has been a legendary spectacle at the Masters for decades. Pros fear it; fans adore it. And it never fails to deliver drama. Here are five things you need to know about the most famous stretch in golf.
1. The name “Amen Corner” was coined by Herbert Warren Wind in a 1958 issue of Sports Illustrated. He wrote of the sacred spot: “at the farthest reach of the Augusta National course—down in the Amen Corner where Rae’s Creek intersects the 13th fairway near the tee, then parallels the front edge of the green on the short 12th and finally swirls alongside the 11th green.” Wind claimed that he’d been inspired by a jazz song called “Shouting at Amen Corner,” by Mezz Mezzrow. But it turns out he’d misremembered the artist. It was actually recorded by Mildred Bailey and the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra in 1933 and carried a slightly different name: “Shoutin’ in that Amen Corner.” Amen Corner, geographically, is the second half of 11, all of 12th and the first half of 13, but most people use Amen Corner as the umbrella term for 11, 12 and 13.
2. The 11th (White Dogwood) is a 505-yard par-4 with a pond guarding the left-front of the green, making it a treacherous approach to a tricky surface. Ben Hogan famously said that if he is on the green in two at 11, “you’ll know I missed my second shot.” Most pros, when wanting to play it safe, will hit their second shot toward the right part of the green. If they miss it right, it gives them an up-and-down pitch for par.
The 12th (Golden Bell) is a 155-yard par-3 and one of golf’s most famous holes. Its green is narrow, with a bunker long and short of the it, and short shots are in danger of bouncing back into Rae’s Creek (that area of the course’s swirling winds don’t make it any easier). The usual Sunday pin placement at the Masters, tucked to the right of the green, is a scary approach for pros (just ask Jordan Spieth). It was the course’s seventh-hardest hole in 2016 (3.23).
The closing hole of Amen Corner is the short par-5 13th (Azalea), which plays at 510 yards. Players tee off behind Rae’s Creek, just off the 12th green — the farthest away they are from patrons all round — and have birdie on their minds. It played as the second-easiest hole in 2016 (4.73) and is the ultimate risk-reward test, especially with only five holes remaining after it. (In past years, with players hitting the ball farther, some have found ways to pick it apart, hitting wedges and short irons into the greens on their second shots. Before the 2016 Masters, there was a report that ANGC was looking to buy land from neighboring Augusta Country Club to move the tee box back and lengthen the hole.) If players need to make a move coming into the clubhouse, this might be the hole where their mindset changes. But with Rae’s Creek running in front of the green, which slopes back to front, there’s enough danger there to make the pros sweat. At the 1978 Masters, Tommy Nakajima made a 13 on it, tied for the highest one-hole score in Masters history. Tom Weiskopf (see below) also holds that record.
3. The 12th in particular has played host to some of the most gripping moments in Masters history. The challenge has bedeviled players from Sam Snead to Spieth, leading some to christen it the most difficult hole in golf. “More green jackets have been lost at the 12th than at the Augusta City Dry Cleaners,” Rick Reilly wrote in 1990. “Twelve could drive a Baptist to drink.” Even Tiger Woods had his doubts about this part of the Corner. When asked one year if he felt comfortable on the tee at the 12th, he responded, “Yes, on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.” While Spieth owns the most recent 12th-hole blow-up, Weiskopf carded the highest score on it, a 13 in 1980.
4. The two bridges over Rae’s Creek at Amen Corner each commemorate an important moment in Masters history. Ben Hogan’s bridge, which leads to the 12th green, commemorates his record-setting low score of 274 from 1953. The Nelson bridge, which goes over the creek from the 13th tee, honors Byron Nelson’s 1937 win.
5. Amen Corner is so iconic that other golf courses have sought to clone it. It gives players who can’t score a tee time at Augusta a chance to experience the magic, and terror, for themselves.