'I Get Annoyed When Decent Golfers Say 'I Could Break 80 Around Augusta National'... It's So Naive!'

From a four-birdie round to a nine on the first hole, the Golf Monthly staff members share their experience of playing Augusta National Golf Club

Golf Monthly's Tom Clarke and David Taylor At Augusta National
Think you can break 80 at Augusta National? Maybe it's time to think again...
(Image credit: Future)

Every year as we settle in to enjoy The Masters, the majority of the golf-o-sphere allows themselves a fleeting moment to imagine how cool it would be to play the famous Augusta National.

As someone who has never personally played Augusta National, but who tunes in to watch The Masters every year and see some of the best in the world struggle to navigate it, I can begin to appreciate and respect the challenge this iconic venue poses.

If, like me, you have ever overheard the conversation in the clubhouse, where a member who just shot 75 in the weekend Medal claims they could 'break 80' around Augusta National, you will surely relate to the eye-rolling apathy that washes over my face.

This misguided, and frankly naive sentiment is too common place in amateur golf, which is why I spoke to three of my Golf Monthly colleagues, who have played Augusta National, and asked them to share their experiences...

Mid-Handicappers Would Do Well To Break 90

In 2012, Deputy Editor at Golf Monthly, Joel Tadman, was lucky enough to be pulled out of the media ballot to play Augusta National. His round took place the day after Bubba Watson pulled on his first Green Jacket, and despite not having his own clubs, Joel managed to secure four birdies in a round of 87.

As a four-handicapper at the time, Joel battled against the 'treacherous' greens and the obvious nerves that any amateur golfer would feel teeing it up at Augusta, as he lived out a dream that so many of us have played out in our minds.

According to Joel, it was actually the nerves that were one of the trickiest elements to overcome. 

"I get annoyed when decent golfers say to me, 'I could break 80 around Augusta'.

"You probably could, but given the chance to play there you almost certainly won't, because you cannot appreciate the nerves you will feel on all the iconic holes (basically every hole) and they will inevitably get the better of you."

12th hole at Augusta National

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Joel went on to add, "With a medal card in your hand, disastrous doubles or worse are too easy to make. For the average golfer, they would be commonplace.

"Putting off the green would be a frequent occurrence, as would duffed iron shots because the fairways are mown back towards the tee. Errant drives are punished more than you think and most club golfers don't spin the ball enough on short game shots, or have the confidence to play high shots from tight lies, to recover from a missed green.

"I would predict that single-figure players would shoot between 80-88 while mid handicappers would do well to break 90. Anyone with a handicap of 18 or more should be ecstatic to break 100."

There you have it, perhaps it's time to temper your expectations of how 'easy' it would be to break 80 at Augusta National, folks.

How Much Am I Going To Shoot Around Augusta National? That Isn't The Question I Asked Myself On The Morning Of My Tee Time...

Tom Clarke was also one of the fortunate recipients of a Masters tee time, on this occasion following Patrick Reed's victory in 2018.

As an 18-handicapper, Tom didn't have any lofty ambitions for shooting a ridiculously low score – he just wanted to get round and enjoy it (without embarrassing himself).

As he recalls, "I bravely (or perhaps foolishly) stood up first, smashed one down the middle, and thought - yes I have made it. Amazingly though I actually got more and more nervous the more holes I played."

Tom Clarke on the green at Augusta National

(Image credit: Future)

Despite driving the ball well, he admitted he "didn't have a clue what to do around the greens", and after not hitting a green in regulation, Tom still took a very philosophical approach to analysing his performance.

"You know this is likely to be your only chance to ever play a round on this hallowed turf, and you want to take it all in, and play well, and for some people that is obviously too much".

He added, "Did I play my best? No. Did I make a par? No. Do I care? Not at all. This amateur shot 113 - which would have worked out as about 17 Stableford points. Not the best day at the office…but also THE BEST DAY AT THE OFFICE!".

The 1st Hole Ended Up Being A Bit Of A Shocker...

In perhaps the coolest year to play Augusta National, David Taylor got a chance to tee it up on the Monday after Tiger Woods famously won his fifth Masters title. Also an 18-handicapper, David's round got off to a rocky start, with the first hole highlighting early what Augusta National has in store...

"I found a greenside bunker in two, took three more shots to reach the green and then carded a nine. Thankfully the wide-open par-5 2nd came along just in time and I managed to find the green in regulation before three putting. This turned out to be a bit of a theme."

When you consider that even the great Ernie Els made a nine at the first in 2016, I think David may have hit the nail on the head.

David Taylor with his caddie at Augusta National

(Image credit: Future)

"The course is very playable for the average golfer. However, the greens are a different story. Even with Duncan (David's caddie for the day) guiding me through every shot, I just couldn’t come to terms with the speed. It was a completely different game to the one I’m used to and my dodgy putting stroke was no match."

The fact of the matter is, despite what David felt was a respectable tee-to-green performance, the professionals really do make navigating those surfaces look much easier than it is.

"I ended the day with nine bogeys, six doubles and a score of 105. I couldn’t have hoped to play much better from tee to green but the fact I registered no pars was all down to my putting.

"The highlight for me was a run of four bogeys from 10 through to 13 which included a career 5-iron to the heart of the 11th green."

Perhaps it's time to retire the notion that breaking 80 at Augusta National is achievable for the average golfer, and if you ever get the chance to live out your dream and tee it up, maybe it would be a better idea to just strap in and enjoy the ride.

Barry Plummer
Staff Writer

Barry Plummer is our Staff Writer, joining in January 2024 after seven years as a PE Teacher. He now writes about instruction, working closely with Golf Monthly's Top 50 Coaches to provide hints and tips about all aspects of the game. As someone who came into golf at a later age, Barry is very passionate about supporting the growth of the game and creating opportunities for everyone to access it. A member at Sand Moor Golf Club in Leeds, he looks forward to getting out on the course at least once a week and making up for lost time in the pursuit of a respectable handicap.

Barry is currently playing:

Driver: Ping G425

Hybrid: TaylorMade Stealth 4 Hybrid

Irons: Mizuno JPX 921 4-PW

Wedges: TaylorMade RAC 60, Callaway Jaws MD5 54

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour

With contributions from