100 Ways Augusta Changed To Make The Masters Harder (Infographic)

The first Masters tournament happened in 1934. Since then, the course has seen over 100 changes.

We like to think that our athletes are getting better. And they are. But in golf, especially, we’ve seen the role that equipment has played beyond training--the influence of advanced materials like graphite and titanium--in producing longer drives and lower scores.

Every year, companies like Callaway and Nike give pros a new wave of equipment that isn’t even in consumers’ hands yet. So how can an antique golf course, like Augusta National Golf Club, home of the Masters, stay relevant year to year? How can they counter better training and better equipment?

Click to zoom.

As this poster ($35) by Bill Younker shows, they redesign, and they keep evolving alongside the sport.

The earliest changes were “the green areas, which were modified fairly extensively in the 1930s, '40s, and '50s,” Younker tells Co.Design. Specifically, the greens went from welcome mats to bunker-fortified oases, to thwart “bump and run” style play.

As players became longer off the tee in the early '80s, Augusta responded by switching the grass of the greens, from Bermuda to Bentgrass. It “made for faster greens,” says Younker, ”a defense to players being longer off the tee, enabling them to hit high, soft approach shots at the pins.” Because of this shift, the greens at the Masters are still some of the most notorious in the world today.

The legendary 11th and 12th holes.

But the biggest, most controversial changes happened between 1999 and 2006, in what many have referred to as “Tiger-proofing”--an era that coincides with one of the most controversial technological upgrades in sports: the solid-core golf ball, which had the capacity to lengthen drives by roughly 20 yards.

The golf ball had shifted from what was essentially a wad of rubber bands to a space-age sphere surrounded by dimples. And the players shifted with them. At the 2000 Masters, 59 out of 95 players hit with wound balls. A year later, only four players used wound balls.

Click above for a detailed slideshow.

Historical preservation be damned, Augusta had to upgrade or become a quaint old playground to the pros. They narrowed the tee shot landing areas, and to the gasps of the gallery, added a second cut of grass.

“Had the course been changed to the point where the original design was no longer recognizable? Had the course been toughened to the point that a player couldn’t make a back nine charge on Sunday afternoon, thereby sucking much of the drama out of the Masters tournament? There’s no consensus, but it makes for great debate,” writes Younker.

The site of many chokes: The final two holes.

In his work on the graphic, Younker concluded that, while we focus on the most recent changes, Augusta had actually been evolving all along. And while the historians inside all of us may cringe a bit, the Masters can keep its identity as one of the hardest, most beautiful tournaments in the world. Though with the most recent winners quickly approaching Tiger’s -18 record from 1997, maybe it’s time for the Masters to get harder again.

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[Image: eastimages/Shutterstock]

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15 Comments

  • hfh1

    Please leave Augusta National alone!  The Masters is the most prestigious, the most well run tournament, and the most beautiful spot on earth. Sandwiches are a buck-fifty. They don't gouge their guests. The commercials are few and short.
    The whole thing is run by true gentlemen of taste and class-real class; not the ostentatious or superfluous brand.They don't need nor want female members, nor should we. If this country were run by the members of Augusta National, you would love it, and so would I, and 70% of the rest of the nation.

  • Anna K Donahue

    Yes, women do want to take over the world so, of course, they should be allowed to become members of Augusta. How else are they going to take control? 

  • flxm

     "At the 2000 Masters, 59 out of 95 players hit with round balls. A year later, only four players used round balls."
    I think you meant to write "wound" balls.

  • VizCab

    Allowing women in Augusta will cause a breakdown of teamwork and cohesion vital to the mission and its ultimate goal of success. I know what you're thinking, 'What about blacks?' Well, that wasn't done overnight and golfers were granted a gradual transition such as allowing Tiger Woods (who's half black and whose wife at the time was a Northern European super model) to play. Then there's the whole issue of showers. Men have fought wars defending women's freedom. As a token of respect, please grant us one last bastion to play with our white balls in the company of other men.

  • Dwillisobx

    Tiger was not the first to play Augusta.  Veejay Singh had played for years before Tiger.  The players (pros) are NOT members.  This is still restricted to uberrich who have made a significant contribution to the sport of golf; e.g., Eisenhower through his well publicized golfing popularized the sport in the 1950s.  As far as I know, he is still the only President to be a member.

  • Renée Warren

    If we all elect for changing history of the course and tournament, "Historial preservation be damned", with the adoption of new technologies that enable balls to drive further, clubs to be more accurate and modify holes to become more challenging as a way to coincide with these new advancements, will we allow a woman to golf the course?

    This is a great post, Mark, and I love the factual relevance, but the true question on all our minds today is whether or not Augusta will let Virginia Remetty golf. I am curious to know your opinion on this, with the fact that you agree 'history be damned'.

  • Mark Wilson

    From my understanding, this isn't a problem of longstanding sexist practices. I believe this is a scientifically-based "cooties issue" - correct? 

  • Anna K Donahue

    The historic side of Augusta is what we should be hearing about, not whiny stuff about gender issues. I was part of the bra burner crowd in the 70s until I took a job carrying hod for brick layers (that lasted about a week) and then decided that ok, there is a difference between the physical ability of men and women.