Saving Augusta

April 05, 1998

People ask me how I'd stop the low scores at Augusta
National--to save the course's honor, so to speak. Here's what I
say.

It's not the course, it's the equipment. Today's clubs and
self-correcting balls don't help you and me much--we're 50 yards
into the woods instead of 40--but they sure help the golf
professional. He can hit an eight-iron on the same hole on which
Ben Hogan and Sam Snead hit great two- and three-iron shots. I
believe it's the long irons that separate great players from the
next level down, but they are being eliminated. We may soon see
if Tiger Woods is the best eight-iron player, but is that what
people want? No, they want to see players challenged. That's why
I'll put the white tees at 370 yards on my new courses, but
leave room to shove the pros back to 480.

Another reason scores are low at Augusta: There's no element of
surprise. At an old course like Turnberry, one bunker might be
fluffy, the next a little hard. You can hit a perfect drive and
land in some god-awful divot. Jack Nicklaus can overcome that,
but another guy might not, and that's one way to tell great
players from the rest. But surprise is lost at Augusta.
Everything's perfect! These pros with their new equipment can
hit short irons from perfect fairways to bentgrass greens that
are softer than the Bermuda the course used to have. The pin
placements can't get harder than they already are, so the course
is almost defenseless.

What would I do about it? Nothing. Because however low the
scores get, Augusta is still flawless. Perfection is the idea
behind everything there, and if that leads to low scores, so be
it. Even if I were asked, I could never tamper with Augusta
National.

So I suppose all we can do is pray for some weather next week,
and it might take a whole lot of prayer. The wind doesn't blow
much way back in those Georgia dogwoods.

Pete Dye has designed more than 100 golf courses.

COLOR PHOTO: JACQUELINE DUVOISIN TOUGH GRADER Dye knows just what he would do at the Masters. [Pete Dye sitting on bulldozer]

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)