Australia’s most recent major winner, Geoff Ogilvy, has long been regarded as one of the most erudite and articulate players on the US PGA Tour.
The 2006 US Open champion, who finished tied for 12th at the weekend behind American Matt Kuchar in the Players Championship, has outspoken views on the game and its venues, especially the majors.
With three of the Grand Slams yet to be played this year, Ogilvy expands on the Masters, the US PGA and majors in general in this column over the next few weeks.
Here is explains how the revered Augusta National can best be improved. Ogilvy is talking as a course architect – he is in a partnership with fellow Victorian pro Mike Clayton.
According to Ogilvy, speaking on golf.com, Augusta just about has it right, but could use a few tweaks.
"It’s just a stunning place with wonderfully strategic holes and great greens," Ogilvy said. "It’s 95 percent of what I want a golf course to be."
For the remaining five per cent, he has a few suggestions:
1. Remove the trees.
"Of all the changes I’ve seen since I began watching the tournament in the mid-80s, the addition of trees has most taken away from the ‘Bob Jones spirit’ of finding your own angles into the greens and your own unique way to play the hole.
"Nicklaus and Palmer and those guys used to take a big slash off the tee and really work the golf course out and get the angles right. The trees have pushed everyone into the same spots, especially on numbers 7, 11, 15 and 17.
"There are also some new trees that aren’t spoken about, like down the right-hand side of No. 9. Hitting it down that side used to leaves you farther from the green, but with a better angle.
The trees have taken away that angle. There are so many shots out there that are difficult that the course doesn’t need that constricting narrowness. Augusta is an examination of imagination. That element should be encouraged instead of taken away."
2. Slow down the greens.
"An interesting experiment would be taking a foot or two off the speed of the greens. They’re the fastest greens we putt all year by two feet anyway; the only exception might be the greens at (US Open venue) Oakmont.
"You get into situations where the best golfers in the world are hitting six-foot putts and laying them up because they don’t want them to roll off the greens. I don’t think that was the intent."
Ogilvy also says that the slick greens create some questionable hole locations. "Take No. 14. When they cut the holes on the left-hand side of the green, they teeter on the edge of fair and unfair. You can get two balls landing in a similar spot and one rolls 70 feet away while another stays four feet from the hole. I don’t think that’s quite right.
"Taking away some pace would also open up fun, cool pin positions up on ridges and high points."
3. Remove the second cut of fairway.
(The second cut refers to the longer grass that edges the fairways, implemented in 1999 to put a premium on driving accuracy.)
"Most golf courses in the world would be fantastic with that length of rough. It creates spin and fliers and mayhem. The big irony is that the one place that does it – Augusta – is the place that doesn’t need to do it. Its greens are such a good test, and (the approach shots) are all about the angles.
4. Extend the tees.
"You pretty much play off the same spot every time you play a hole at Augusta. It would be interesting to have longer tees, so you’d have more scope to shorten holes on certain days and lengthen them on others. It would add to the variation that makes Augusta so great.
"If you had 40 or 50 yards of tee as opposed to those traditional short ones, you could, for example, have No. 7 play a little shorter one day and longer the next. At 13 or 15, you could move them up so everyone goes for the green."
5. Grow it out.
"This is more of an aesthetics thing, but my ultimate fantasy would be to get the course as close – in modern distances – to what MacKenzie and Jones came up with.
"It was just wild and wacky and there was some really cool stuff like the original ninth green, which was like a big horseshoe. The original bunkers were a little bit jagged and rugged, like the one down on 10. They kind of had that ‘MacKenzie shape’ to them, a bit like the Cypress Point look.
"I don’t think there is anybody who would argue that Augusta doesn’t look good now, but that would be interesting exercise – to take all the original pictures, dating back to the first tournament in 1934, and try to recreate that golf course. I think it would look amazing."