There's been chatter for several months now about Augusta National's par-5 13th, ever since Golfweek reported the home of the Masters was interested in buying an adjoining plot of land on neighboring Augusta Country Club with the idea of using some of it to lengthen the hole by 50 yards to 560 yards.
Jack Nicklaus, an accomplished golf course architect in his own right, was asked about that possibility on Tuesday in his pre-Champions Dinner interview. He offered three solutions that don't involve lengthening the hole.
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They could make it a par 4, reducing the par to 71: "They could do that, which they are not going to do."
They could push back the green complex instead of the tee: "They've got plenty of room to do it, is recreate the green back about 30 yards. They could do that very easily. Probably make the same hole."
Augusta National restored the Rae's Creek tributary in front of the green complex in 1996, so it's not hard to imagine that kind of change.
They could move the Rae's Creek stream: "They could take and reroute the stream bed, push it out and put a few more trees in."
But Nicklaus knows that Augusta National did that once before, as part of the Tiger-proofing phase when the course was lengthened to its modern 7,400-yard test. And they might have to do it again in the future. So, Nicklaus' suggestion? An old standby.
"I tell you, the simplest solution is change the frigging golf ball," Nicklaus said to laughter. "The golf ball goes so far. Augusta National is about the only place, the only golf course in the world that financially can afford to make the changes that they have to make to keep up with the golf ball. I don't think anybody else could ever do it."
As Nicklaus notes, while the game's governing bodies have capped how far the golf ball can fly in concept, the improved conditioning and abilities of the modern player, as well dramatically improved and specialized equipment components, have stretched out how far the ball can go.
"As I said, they've basically hit the limits to [golf balls]," Nicklaus said, "but the guys haven't hit the limits."