The genius of Dr Alister MacKenzie’s design at Augusta National is it is a course that can be played so many different ways to make a good score.
In 2007, Zach Johnson laid up short of the par-5s and wedged his way to a win when the famed layout was play soft and long. Mike Weir did similar four years earlier.
Conversely, Bubba Watson overpowered the course for both of his green jacket marches, taking aggressive lines on the par-5s to leave plenty of second-shot short irons.
Knowing when and where to attack the course is one of the keys to playing well at Augusta. Past champions, to a man, will tell you good scores require some degree of patience depending on the conditions.
The same champions will also tell you, the best players … the regular contenders and winners at Augusta recognise there are holes where there is very little margin for error and any mistake can be compounded into a big number.
Some of the leading players in this year’s Masters field have spoken about the holes at Augusta they find most difficult and fear making a mistake on.
No.11 WHITE DOGWOOD
This hole marks the start of Amen Corner and wind is often a factor. With strong westerly winds forecast for the opening rounds, the water left of the green will come into play as gusts push balls from right-to-left.
“When 11 was lengthened it became the hardest hole on the golf course. I think that's a great thing, because it's supposed to be the hardest hole on the golf course. And it is now. The tee box got moved way back. It's extremely long. It's a mid‑ to long‑iron in after a really good drive. I believe it's the hardest hole on the golf course. It's certainly the toughest par on the course.” – Phil Mickelson.
“This is a golf course that can tempt you. It can tempt you into doing a little bit too much. Like on 11.
“I cast my mind back to the 11th hole on Saturday last year where I'm in the pine straw on the left and I'm trying to hit this low hook around and catch the hill and trying to get it up onto the green and hit this heroic shot and it goes in the water and I make a six. That's the last thing I needed. I was 3‑ or 4‑over for the day at that point and I needed to hit it to the right of the green and try and make my up‑and‑down. Even if you make five, five is better than six; take the water out of play. Just little things like that where the golf course tempts you to do something. So it's just a matter of being smart, taking your medicine when you have to and moving on.” – Rory McIlroy.
No.12 GOLDEN BELL
The shortest hole at Augusta is undoubtedly one of the most famous holes in golf. The wind swirls around the treetops as you stand on the tee and players might use any club between a 7-iron and pitching wedge. Rae’s Creek lies in front of the shallow green, while three bunkers – one in front and two through the back – can be problematic.
“The 12th is just tough because there's not much depth to the green and there's swirling winds. You know, you obviously can't miss short but then if you miss long, four or five comes into play just as well. You want to take it over the bunker because it's the safest place to either side. But that's also where the narrowest landing spot is. The green depth on both sides, the max green depth is probably ten paces, which in swirling winds with the spin that an 8- or 9-iron generates, that can be affected by it going up five miles an hour just like that (snapping fingers), that can throw it off from landing in the middle to the front edge or the back edge. That's what's tough is that you just don't have much depth to land it.
“That hole can be quite a challenge in the first two rounds?” – Jordan Spieth.
“12 is always probably one of the more difficult 155‑yard par 3s there are, that we play. It's just a tough hole. It's really tough to get the wind correct there. It's tough to hit the green!” – Dustin Johnson.
“The 12th hole in particular is one that certainly can come and bite you. Supposedly there's no fans down there in the trees, but it seems that way a lot of times. It's a tricky part of the golf course and you've just got to be committed and hit the right shot at the right times down there.” – Henrik Stenson.
Argubaly the most famous finishing hole in golf. Two massive bunkers through the slight dogleg on the uphill closer make players think about their tee shot options. Find the fairway and it’s a mid-iron into the large tiered green.
“18 is obviously a difficult one. I would like to bogey that and still win … would be nice. There are certain holes that come up. You've got 4, 5, they are difficult; 7 is very, very difficult. Getting through kind of Amen Corner is obviously key and then 17, 18. But if I had to boil it down, I think just showing the course a little bit more respect is key.” – Jason Day.