What Makes The 1st At Augusta Such A Tough Hole?

The opening hole at Augusta National is just 445 yards on paper which, in today's terms, means a drive and a short iron

What Makes The 1st At Augusta Such A Tough Hole
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The opening hole at Augusta National is just 445 yards on paper which, in today's terms, means a drive and a short iron. But this is the Masters and nothing is as straightforward as it seems

What Makes The 1st At Augusta Such A Tough Hole?

One player birdied the 445-yard 1st hole on Thursday at The Masters while there were 19 bogeys, one double and one ‘Other’. That sorry seven belonged to Viktor Hovland who then recovered brilliantly to shoot an opening 73.

The joke used to go that the Men of the Masters would say that there had been no changes to the course but that the 1st tee was edging closer, year by year, to the putting green. For the record it used to measure 400 yards, these days it is now 445.

The fairway bunker has been reshaped and extended towards the green and that is a big focus for those who have the driver in hand.

This is how Geoff Ogilvy described Augusta National’s opening hole on the Fried Egg podcast: “You can make bogey on the 1st hole at Oakmont and you don’t have to have done anything wrong. It’s just part of Oakmont, it hits you in the face on the 1st hole and you move on. But the Masters, if you play the hole really sensibly you can get a nice birdie putt on the 1st.

“But if you hit it anywhere other than directly under the hole, you have the hardest par in the world. The 1st green might be the hardest green on the course, certainly the hardest 1st green in tournament golf. It’s really hard to hit the ball under the hole because of the way the front half of the green is. If you hit it short of a lot of pins, it rolls off the front. It encourages you to get it to pin high or just a bit past it.”

And so it begins.

Marc Leishman was the player to make three on the 1st on Thursday. He took on the back pin but kept it under the hole and his reward was to make 1.261 shots on the field. Bizarrely the Aussie repeated the trick on day two.

"I hit a good tee shot on 1, which is key. Then that area where that pin is there is very small. So I hit a really good 9-iron in there, made the putt."

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For the regular bomber you can hit 3-wood off the tee and leave your second at the top of the hill for a shortish iron in.

For others it will be the driver whatever the weather to get it to the top of the hill. And, don't expect any sort of help from the ground.

To make things more spicy it’s the first hole of your day, on Thursday it’s the beginning of, usually, an eight-month wait to get going in the majors again and you know that this isn’t an opening hole that is going to ease you into the round.

On my one visit to Augusta I watched Lee Westwood begin his Masters with the most straightforward of double-bogeys. He went left off the tee and was then unable to get himself back into position for the next 20 minutes.

Likewise on Friday when Shane Lowry gunned his drive down the middle but he then went long and even one of the world’s greatest chippers was unable to save par, or bogey, as he matched Westwood’s six.

Tiger Woods has won five times around here and he would be generally seen as having some of the very best course-management skills ever. This is how he views the 1st.

"If it’s not blowing, it's not that hard a hole. It's a 3-wood if they move the tee up or it's a cut-driver down there. When the wind is blowing, though, if it's coming out of the west or the north, that is one the hardest opening holes, because that green is not designed for a 6-iron or a 5-iron. It gets scary. If you are able to play the hole in 16 (total strokes) you've picked up quite a lot on the field."

When Charl Schwartzel won here 10 years ago he made the most unlikely of starts given that he missed the green and somehow walked off with a three.

We all should have known then that the writing was on the wall.

Mark Townsend
Contributing editor

Mark has worked in golf for over 20 years having started off his journalistic life at the Press Association and BBC Sport before moving to Sky Sports where he became their golf editor on skysports.com. He then worked at National Club Golfer and Lady Golfer where he was the deputy editor and he has interviewed many of the leading names in the game, both male and female, ghosted columns for the likes of Robert Rock, Charley Hull and Dame Laura Davies, as well as playing the vast majority of our Top 100 GB&I courses. He loves links golf with a particular love of Royal Dornoch and Kingsbarns. He is now a freelance, also working for the PGA and Robert Rock. Loves tour golf, both men and women and he remains the long-standing owner of an horrific short game. He plays at Moortown with a handicap of 6.