In this exclusive feature Neil Tappin asks why is the 12th at Augusta so hard? He examines the perfect storm of factors that combine to make this impossibly beautiful.
The 12th at Augusta is one most infamous holes in world golf. Playing just 155 yards in a quiet corner of this picture-perfect property, on paper it should be one of the best birdie opportunities of the US Masters. And yet, time and time again it sinks the chances of many a wannabe Masters Champion. But why is the 12th at Augusta so hard? The truth is a perfect storm of factors combine to make this beautiful hole, also one of golf’s hardest…
Amen corner sits on the lowest lying area of Augusta National. From the clubhouse you walk straight downhill past the 10th and 11th until you reach the bottom corner where the 12th sits surrounded by some of the tallest pines on the entire property. These trees shelter you from the wind. It could be blowing 20mph but the tee is sheltered by the stand behind it and the green is covered by the trees. Trying to work out exactly what the wind is doing to devise a strategy you can commit to is the whole game here. With so much danger lying in wait, the uncertainty that can chip away at a player’s subconscious mind can lead to an uncharacteristically negative swing.
Part of the problem is the beauty. When you reach the crest of the hill at 11, you look down towards Amen Corner. You see the hole area stretched out in front of you including the thousands of fans in the gantry behind the tee. Stopping your mind from racing when the imminent danger of the hole ahead is so obvious is one of the biggest challenges facing the players. The intimidation of course, grows when you reach the tee – anything but the perfect strike will finish in the water. The players knows that and so do the fans. Jordan Spieth’s second attempt at hitting the green in last year’s final round is quite possibly the worst shot of his professional career. There’s a reason for that.
Why is the 12th at Augusta so hard? No Bail Out
Rae’s Creek is the most apparent danger but don’t forget about the bushes and azaleas that sit over the back. There is no more than about 20 yards between the water and the bushes. This might seem like a huge a margin with a short iron in hand but as the wind is so hard to judge, distance control is much harder to get right. There is no bail out on the 12th – you can’t just play for the back bunker as you bring the bushes into play. There is no option but to hit the right yardage.
Some holes are harder than others because they are set at a slight angle to the player – and this explains why the 12th at Augusta is so hard. The front left hand corner of the green is closer to the tee than the back right portion. Picking different clubs based on the pin-placements when the danger at the front and back is so severe is very tricky. We see ball enter the water on Sunday because the carry to that part of the green over the water is longer. Anything hit with a fade, will lose distance as it flies and find a watery grave.
The final part of the perfect storm comes courtesy of those who have fallen apart here in the past. Jordan Spieth’s 2016 meltdown will have made this clearer than ever to today’s crop of possible Masters Champions. Anyone attempting to win a Green Jacket will reach the 12th on Sunday knowing how quickly things can unravel. And, as we have mentioned, there is no playing it safe, no tip-toeing past Rae’s creek and onto the green. Preventing flashbacks from golf’s most vivid history books from affecting your swing is easier said than done.