Date: April 07, 2016
Author: Mark Hayes

Changes assured, but no timetable

There were hints, discussion points galore and the usual admiration of his nimble oratory skills.

But as per usual at Augusta National chairman Billy Payne’s “state of the nation” pre-tournament address, there were precious few definitive answers.

The only thing for sure is that the course, as it will be played this week, will likely not be the same in years to come.

Payne, as almost commanded by the traditions of the club, refused to specifically address the questions of what he described as the “subject du jour” – the proposed changes to the famous par-5 13th hole.

“As we do every year, and historically forever, we are always looking at options for numerous of our holes.  We create plans looking into the future, when we believe that the shot value of certain second shots, principally, has been impacted by how far the ball is now travelling,” Payne began.

“As a consequence, 13 is one of those holes we are studying.  We have made no decision whatsoever. Plans are under way to be considered, and as I said, that is one of many holes that we now have under consideration.”

Which begged two more questions from the media gallery.

One was specifically about what might happen to the fourth and fifth holes now the club has access to more land behind them courtesy of its sponsored realignment of the one-time boundary along Berckmans Road.

“We don't talk about the immediate future as it relates to our plans … (but) certainly that creates options which heretofore did not exist, and, bingo, those are a couple of the holes that we now have under consideration,” Payne teased.

And then the question that if the club decided not to purchase additional land from the neighbouring Augusta Country Club to extend the 13th tee, call it a par four, or even push back the famous green by approximately 25m, would it consider invoking special “Masters” rules on technology?

“As we've stated many times going back many years, we retain all options.  At the same time, it's not something we would want to do,” Payne said.

“As it relates specifically to 13, which seems to be the subject du jour, we think there are multiple options where we could increase the difficulty of the hole and restore the shot values, only one of which deals with extending the length.

“So we are in the middle of all of those studies, a lot of arithmetic, lot of design issues, and we would only resort to equipment as the last resort because we believe that the governing bodies in golf deal with that very effectively.”

Watch this beautifully manicured space.