I followed Ernie Els, Anthony Kim and Ryo Ishikawa around the front nine of Augusta National today. While it is not as well known as the back nine it is breathtaking in its own right. Many of the tees on the front nine are set back from the crowd, creating rare quiet moments for the players to contemplate their round.
Unlike the back nine there are no water hazards and there are a number of birdie opportunities. It is by no means easy though and is protected by undulating greens, huge bunkers and a number of tight doglegs. The course begins with one of the hardest holes on the course, an uphill par 4 with a terrifying green.
The front nine is often a little quieter than the back nine and you are given a fantastic view of the players. The third is a short par 4 that offers one of the best birdie chances on the course, and Ernie Else obliged today with a fine up and down from pine needles on the left.
The short holes on the back nine might be more famous but the 4th and the 6th are also brilliant designs. The fourth is 240 yards from an elevated tee and is protected by a huge bunker that runs along the front right of the green. The 6th has the biggest slope I have ever seen on a major championship green. The pin today was on a tiny ridge in the top right hand corner of the green. Anthony Kim made the hole look easy with a regulation birdie.
While the 8th is a good birdie chance, the 9th is a wonderful sweeping dogleg that moves left down the hill and rises up again to a tiny target that slopes from front to back.
While the final nine holes will always create the headlines at Augusta the front nine plays a huge part in creating a very special golf course.