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First Major almost upon us

GOLF: The Masters golf course at Augusta, which will come into play again from April 5-8, was the brainchild of American Bobby Jones, the most famous amateur golfer of all time.

By The Phuket News

Sunday 1 April 2018, 02:00PM

The Bobby Jones sun dial at Augusta National Golf Club is seen during the first practice round for the 71st Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta, Georgia. Photo: Jeff Haynes / AFP

The Bobby Jones sun dial at Augusta National Golf Club is seen during the first practice round for the 71st Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta, Georgia. Photo: Jeff Haynes / AFP

Jones cumulated his golfing career in 1930, winning the British Amateur, British Open Professional (now known as the “Open Championship”), US Amateur and the US Open Professional, thus creating the “grand slam” of golf.

Soon after Jones retired from competitive golf, but he, knowing his move, acquired the land and with a little help from his friends built the golf course of his dreams at Augusta, Georgia.

By 1933 Augusta was ready to open to the general public, albeit in the style of golf in the 1930s and with its own concept of what Jones wanted it to be.

In 1934 the first Masters Tournament was played at Augusta with the added privilege of being called a “Major Golf Championship”. It is still the only Major on rota played at the same golf course.

What does Augusta have to offer as a golf club?

Augusta National Golf Course has only 300 golf members and if you want to become a member you either need to win the Masters Tournament outright or be asked to join. Augusta has and can be a law unto itself; this has its advantages and disadvantages.

Augusta has weathered a few storms and in this modern era has some lady members. At the end of the day, Augusta uniquely stands on its own two feet to this very day.

Before the Masters starts there are a few traditions that happen.

The Masters Champions Dinner is one of the most elite dinners held at Augusta. The previous year’s winner usually chooses the menu for those partaking, and with many different nationalities having won at Augusta, over the years this has created an interesting dining experience.

Any one for the Par 3 course at Augusta?

From 1960 onwards, the day before the Masters starts, the Masters Par 3 9-hole tournament is contested. There you can catch up with the latest winners of the Masters to past winning legends.

Unlike the real thing, this has turned into a fun event. There have been 94 hole-in-one’s so far, and it’s become a family affair where children and family members can caddy for the players. However, winning this curtain raiser to the Masters seems to come with some golfing curses. No player has ever won the Par 3 and gone on to win the Masters tournament the same year!

Has Augusta moved forward as a modern golf course?

Since its conception, the course itself has been gently lengthened, and this all before the talk about better golfing equipment and the golf ball going too far.

Incidentally, Jones’ own golf clubs were put in a museum. His golf shafts were made from hickory wood and to balance the clubs he would sandpaper the shafts to have the correct flex for all the clubs in his set.

By the 1940s the swing weight machine was invented, which golfing manufacturers still use to this very day to check the swing weight/balance of the clubs are all the same.

Jones’ clubs were checked in the 1960s and were found to all have the same swing weight/balance.

Back to Augusta and the course’s yardage.

Starting in 1934 it was at 6,800 yards, by 1980 it was 7,040 yards, and by 2010 7,435yards. It remains the same today with a Par of 72.

If the average golf hole at Augusta in 1934 was 400 yards, now in 2018 it is 435 yards, that’s less than 10% lengthening in distance overall.

Augusta’s greens

The greens at Augusta are undulating and very fast. One story from Northern Irish golfer Ronan Rafferty, who won the European Order of Merit in 1989, and having played in the Masters many times, said that “he would play any golfer of 18 handicap and above at Augusta”. He would start from the teeing ground and they can start at the front of the green on all 18 holes. He would play them for as much money as they liked as he was that confident he would win. This just goes to show how difficult the greens are at the Masters.

Junior golf at Augusta for free

In 2013 an initiative for junior golfers was introduced by governing bodies the USGA and PGA of America.

Junior golfers’ Drive, Chip and Putt competitions are open to any juniors in their own state of the US, with the winners going on to the final held at Augusta, all for free.

The Junior Drive, Chip and Putt has grown into a national event with full TV coverage. It’s a fun way for juniors to get into golf and enjoy the history of one of golf’s holy grails, creating an unforgettable experience for all juniors who have qualified to play. (See

Augusta’s clubhouse also has accommodation for amateurs that play in the Masters with The Crow’s Nest, located on the second floor, being put aside for amateurs who have qualified for the Masters Tournament.

This year there are six amateurs who have qualified and will stay in this accommodation. No amateur has yet won the Masters, but more than a few of the Masters champions have stayed there in the past. (See

Augusta, in its own way, has moved forward and is still moving forward while keeping its traditions and independence.

This unique golfing Major starts off the golfing season. We wish all participates and viewers the very best for this up and coming golfing year.

Text by Martin Platts

Martin Platts (British) P.G.A., Director of the Golf Guru International Golf Academy, has been involved in competitive golf for 40 years, 30 as a professional. He has coached players of all levels from beginners to Ryder Cup tour professionals. Visit



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