One of the more curious aspects of Augusta National is that most
of its terrors are nameless. The Old Course at St. Andrews has
its Hell Bunker and Valley of Sin. Oakmont has its Church Pew
Bunkers. Pine Valley boasts of a sandy waste called Hell's Half
Acre. But with the exception of the all-encompassing Amen
Corner, the most discouraging locales at Augusta carry either
benign names, like Rae's Creek, or no names at all. When Jose
Maria Olazabal hit his second shot behind the 17th green in
1994's final round, television commentator Gary McCord couldn't
say that Olazabal was in the Peach Pit or Satan's Sandwich. He
had to make up a line about "body bags." As you no doubt know,
McCord hasn't worked the Masters since.
This lack of nomenclature should lead no one to believe that
Augusta National is a hazardless venue.
Eight pieces of its real estate come up so often in players' war
stories that you wonder why no one has gotten beyond
descriptions like "that swale, you know, at the foot of the
green." Several of these no-go zones played a role in Nick
Faldo's victory on Sunday as any player could have predicted
last Thursday. In no particular order, then, here are the places
you simply must not hit your ball at Augusta.
The back-right bunker on number 16. "There are lots of bad
places to be on this golf course," Corey Pavin says, but the
first one that pops into his mind is "the back-right bunker on
16." The only level hole at Augusta, the 16th is a 170-yard
par-3 over a pond. The green, however, tilts right to left
toward the water and is lightning fast, so a shot into that
bunker is suicide.
April 21, 1996
"It's desperately difficult," says former CBS golf analyst Ben
Wright, who covered the 16th for more than 20 years. "Billy
Casper once flashed it into the water from that bunker. He had
to drop another ball in the sand, and he then left his next shot
in the bunker. I think he made 7."
This year, Mark Brooks hit his tee shot on Thursday a few inches
into the sinister sand, nearly holed his delicate explosion and
then trudged across the green to rendezvous with his ball--25
feet below the hole. Jack Nicklaus, on Friday, saw his bunker
shot glide past the flagstick, turn left and migrate 40 feet to
the far fringe. "It's death over there," said first-time Masters
entrant Tim Herron after a first-round double bogey. "I knew
that. On the tee, I said, 'Don't go right.' And then I hit it
The water on number 12. The 12th is the back side's other
par-3, and it, too, is over water--in this instance Rae's Creek.
When asked to name the single worst place to hit a ball at
Augusta National, Tom Fazio, a course architect, knit his brow
in concentration before reaching a judgment. "I think I'd
automatically say a water hazard, and a hole like number 12
would be the most frightening. If you go in, you know the best
you're going to make is bogey."
The tee shot on 12 is bad enough, with the green looking as
shallow as a windowsill and a grassy bank in front consigning
most short shots to the creek. But the real shakes come when a
player has to hit a soft wedge from the drop area down by the
water. In 1980 thousands in Amen Corner watched in horror as Tom
Weiskopf hit five balls into Rae's Creek and made 13, tying the
Masters record for highest score on a hole.
"I didn't know this until after the fact," Weiskopf recalls,
"but my wife, Jeanne, was back near the tee in tears. Just to
pick her up a little, one of my best friends, Tom Culver, hugged
her and said, 'Jeanne, you don't think Tom is using new balls,
Over the years the water at 12 has quashed the final-round
aspirations of Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, Dan Forsman and, last
week, Greg Norman. Norman's bogey on Saturday and his double on
Sunday contributed heavily to his titanic demise.
Short of the green on number 7. A tight driving hole, this
little par-4 offers problems for the player who winds up short
of the green in 2. From below the front bunkers, the golfer
faces an uphill pitch, practically blind, over a dazzling wall
of sand to a shallow green. The player's best hope is to pitch
over the putting surface and hope backspin will walk the ball
back out of the fringe. If his ball hangs up in the froghair,
the fourth shot is a nasty chip that can either catch in the
collar or run a furlong past the hole. In the second round last
year, John Huston charged into a tie for the lead with a 66. But
he almost came a cropper at number 7, where he made his only
bogey of the day--and that was with a brilliant up and down from
the back fringe.
The only thing worse than being short on number 7 is finding
yourself in the back-right bunker when the pin is on the right.
Reason: Sand shots run off the shelf below the hole and roll all
the way into the bunkers or even between them down to the
fairway. From there, well, see above.
The pond on number 11. Ray Floyd lost his 1990 playoff to Faldo
when he pulled his approach shot into the water left of the 11th
green. Since few players feel frisky standing over their fourth
in the drop area, many bail out to the right and make double
bogey. In 1968 Bruce Devlin found the water here and made 8. "He
came up to the press room, threw down his card and said, 'Let's
talk about something positive first,'" recalls tournament
statistician Bill Inglish. "Later he said, 'All right, you
vultures, now we'll talk about number 11.'"
Off the back on number 17. Spectators looking for the bogeyman
behind this green are invariably disappointed; there's nothing
but close-cropped grass. Nonetheless, McCord wasn't far off when
he used his morbid metaphor--everyone describes a shot hit here
as death. It's the most extreme example of a common Augusta
challenge: chipping or pitching up a steep bank from behind a
green that runs back toward the fairway. And the slope of this
bank is so severe that neither golfers nor spectators can see
over the mound.
For Olazabal, in 1994's final round, it was only a near-death
experience. He got down in 3 for bogey and parred the final hole
to win. Last year eventual winner Ben Crenshaw maintained his
share of the third-round lead by getting up and down from
halfway over the mound in back.
Left off the tee on number 2. This dogleg par-5 often
rearranges names on the leader board, yielding birdies and even
eagles to players seeking momentum. As on many of Augusta's long
holes, the strategic tee ball is a right-to-left shot that gains
distance on the downslope and leaves a clear approach to the
green. Try to bite off too much of the dogleg, and you wind up
either in a rocky brook or on a bed of pine needles surrounded
by azalea bushes and tall pines. "We used to call that area the
Pan Am Ticket Office," says former Tour player Gary Koch,
"because if you hit it there, you might as well buy a ticket
The ticket office has been cleaned out and prettied up since
Koch's time, when balls were sometimes lost in dense underbrush.
But a ball hit there still produces despair. On Sunday, David
Duval hooked his tee shot into the brook, took a drop, and
ricocheted his third off a tree and back into the fairway. He
double-bogeyed the hole and wasn't heard from again. In 1992,
the year he won the Masters, Fred Couples stumbled out of the
gate on Sunday by hooking into the creek, dropping from an
unplayable lie and making bogey. And, yes, this is the exception
that proves the no-name rule. Only now, caddies call it the
Delta Ticket Office.
Above the hole on number 6. Augusta's par-3s are wicked. On
this hilltop-to-valley specimen, all sorts of trouble greet the
player on or near the back of the green. Anything above the hole
is dog meat, and anything off the back edge or right of the
green is dog meat with no fork. Jim McGovern, who in 1994
finished fifth playing in his first Masters, can't discuss the
hole without a sardonic note creeping into his voice.
"That year I hit it right over the pin, and I thought I made a
1," he says. "But it was five yards behind the green. Then I
thought I made a 2 because I got a piece of the hole with my
chip--but it ran down the green. My first putt almost made it to
the top but rolled back down to my feet. My second putt I hit to
two feet. Then I missed that and made 6." McGovern lowers one
eyebrow in mock menace. "I got a little chuckle from the crowd,
and that didn't help. I was steaming."
This year, Mark O'Meara arrived at number 6 on Thursday in a
reasonably good frame of mind. From a little mound, 30 feet
right of the hole, he hit a chip that snagged in the fringe and
stopped halfway. He then hit a putt from the fringe that nearly
went in the hole but slid four feet past and wobbled at the
precipice, with fans yelling, "Whoa!" He took two putts for a 5.
On Friday, Fred Funk watched from the tee as former U.S. Open
champion Ernie Els four-putted the 6th from about 12 feet. Funk,
after successfully hitting to below the hole, gave the greenside
ghouls a thrill by calling a one-stroke penalty on himself when
his ball rolled back into his putter before he had a chance to
In the fairway bunkers on number 18. The uphill 18th was a
relatively nonlethal par-4 in the days when players could avoid
the trees on the right by playing safely left off the tee. That
changed in 1966, when two steep-faced bunkers were installed at
the outside corner of the dogleg. Since then, driving into
either patch of sand has practically guaranteed a bogey finish.
"I'd personally rather be in the woods off the tee than in the
bunkers," Palmer once said.
Among those who would probably agree is Olazabal, who drove into
the more distant of these bunkers in the final round in 1991,
bogeyed the hole and lost to Ian Woosnam by a stroke. In fact,
the only player to save victory from this hot spot is Sandy
Lyle, who hit a superlative seven-iron to the middle of the 18th
green and birdied the hole at the end of the 1988 Masters.
A few other Augusta booby traps are almost nameworthy: the
treelined left side of the downhill, dogleg-left 10th hole,
which started Couples on his way to a triple bogey last year;
the swale-and-mound gateway to the 14th green, where chips and
putts swoop like migratory fowl; the same sort of topography
beyond the 2nd green, where Tiger Woods turned a potential eagle
into a bogey this year; the wall of trees and shrubs separating
the 4th green from traffic on Berckmanns Road. What they have in
common with the other eight is the ability to intimidate even
world-class players. And in championship golf, that's the name
of the game.