The Augusta greens: a justified reputation

The course gets rave reviews, but the Augusta greens have flummoxed many over the years including these three - Messrs Jacklin, James and Johnstone…

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The course gets rave reviews, but the Augusta greens have flummoxed many over the years including these three - Messrs Jacklin, James and Johnstone…

Augusta National is a course that demands precision play into the greens, and a steady but delicate hand once you are on them. These three European Tour stalwarts felt the Augusta greens were a bridge too far for them to ever be competitive...

Mark James

I played once in 1980, but the fast slopey greens didn’t suit me at all and I missed the cut by a couple. The overall experience of Augusta was great but the course didn’t suit me – at the time I didn’t hit the ball high enough and didn’t putt well enough on slopey greens.

Mark James: "I didn't putt well enough on slopey greens"

Mark James: "I didn't putt well enough on slopey greens."

I don’t like slopey greens for the simple reason that as soon as you put the flag low on a slopey green you can never get your second shot below the hole. The minute you do that you’re playing into the hands of the good putters, putting the less good putter at a disadvantage.

Tony Jacklin

I’ve always been a great believer in horses for courses. I’ve always thought Augusta National is a wonderful place, but the course never suited my eye. Lee Trevino would be of like mind I would think. He was one of the greatest players to play, and from his point of view, Augusta was a non-starter

Tony Jacklin: "My putting just wasn't strong enough to do much at Augusta"

Tony Jacklin: "My putting just wasn't strong enough to do much at Augusta."

He didn’t flight the ball high enough into the greens to get it done there. The likes of Rory McIlroy and Bubba Watson who hit the ball so far, it’s such a fantastic advantage for them. It is a bit perplexing that Rory hasn’t got it done yet, because Jose Maria Olazabal never hit the ball far, nor did Bernhard Langer - but the course was shorter then and the one thing they had in common was a wonderful short game.

My putting just wasn’t strong enough back in my day to do much at Augusta.

Tony Johnstone

I was never a great long-range putter, and at Augusta, no matter how well you play, you’re going to have a lot of really long putts. I was never a great reader of greens with slopes. I was fantastic on grain, which I grew up on.

Tony Johnstone: "I was never a great reader of greens with slopes."

Tony Johnstone: "I was never a great reader of greens with slopes."

But I have an imbalance in my eyes, which I only found out about a couple of years ago, and I’ve always relied almost totally on my caddies to read slope for me, which doesn’t make putting that easy. You’ve got to have a great understanding with your caddie and great belief in him.

I love my gardening, but the year I played - 1993 - was the only year ever that none of the azaleas came out into flower. They were trying hard – they had hot air blowers and everything – but I came round to Amen Corner and it was just green. I was so gutted.

I was also on the practice range with Bob Torrance one day and he had a video camera going. One of the Pinkerton Guards came over and told us to switch the camera off. I said, ‘But I’m a player, this is my coach,’ and he said, ‘It doesn’t matter’. So I went into the office and said, ‘I’m Tony Johnstone, I’m a player. I’m out there on the range and I’ve got my coach, and I’ve just been told I can’t use my camera. What do we do about it?’ And they said, ‘You switch it off!’

Jeremy Ellwood
Jeremy Ellwood

Jeremy Ellwood has worked in the golf industry since 1993 and for Golf Monthly since 2002 when he started out as equipment editor. He is now a freelance journalist writing mainly for Golf Monthly across the whole spectrum from courses and Rules to equipment and even instruction despite his own somewhat iffy swing (he knows how to do it, but just can't do it himself). He also edits The Golf Club Secretary Newsletter, has authored or co-authored three books and written for a number of national papers including The Telegraph and The Independent. He is a senior panelist for Golf Monthly's Top 100 UK & Ireland Course Rankings and has played all of the Top 100 plus 89 of the Next 100. He has played well over 900 courses worldwide in 35 countries, but put him on a links course anywhere and he will be blissfully content. On his first trip to Abu Dhabi a decade ago he foolishly asked Paul Casey what sort of a record he had around the course there. "Well, I've won it twice if that's what you mean!" came the reply...