In this article Neil Tappin asks why is Augusta so difficult in the wind? The unique nature of the layout makes it much trickier when the wind blows than many other golf courses.
When it comes to playing golf in the wind, we tend to think of links courses as offering the stiffest test. However, there is a particular challenge posed by Augusta National when the wind blows during the US Masters. Where players were consistently shooting under par, they quickly start making mistakes in the wind, dropping shots and at times looking somewhat foolish. So it begs the question – why is Augusta so difficult in the wind?
Picking The Wind
The first and most difficult element to playing Augusta National in the wind is judging it. Each hole is flanked by a corridor of extremely tall pine trees (the television doesn’t do it justice). These allow the cheers to echo through the property but they also cause the wind to swirl. One second it’s at your back, the next, it is whipping straight across you. This is a particular problem at the lowest point on the course – Amen Corner. Often you feel no wind at all but as soon as your ball climbs, it gets hit. Judging the wind and then committing to the shot is much tougher at the US Masters than most other tournaments.
Bernhard Langer describes this when answering the question why is Augusta so difficult in the wind? “We all use the modern technology and look at the forecast and it says ‘south west winds all day 8 to 15mph’. And we even have a compass on the yardage book which tells you where south west is on every hole. Then you look at the flag and it is point in the other direction. Then you look at the water and the ripples are going in another way. It confuses you.”
One of the hardest elements to playing golf in the wind is, surprisingly, putting. Inevitably the wind is blowing from one direction and the slope is running in the other. Knowing where to aim in this situation is incredibly tricky. Augusta National has some of the fastest, sloppiest greens in the world and any wind will magnify the problem. Don’t forget that strong winds also act to dry out the greens making them firmer and faster. There can be a significant difference between the start and end of the day, when the wind blows.
We hear it every year on commentary – ‘Augusta is much more hilly than you expect.’ This has become a cliché because it is true. With such vast changes in elevation, there are great differences in how exposed you are to the wind. The 1st , 10th and 18th holes are all much more open to the elements than the other holes. The wind will be doing something different on nearly ever shot you hit so unlike when you play links golf, there is a lack of consistency with the wind that makes a good score that much harder to find.
The reason the US Masters regularly provides a dramatic spectacle is because of the dangerous nature of the golf course. Here the line between success and failure is finer than anywhere. What’s more, with so much water waiting, the penalties for a bad shot are more severe. When the wind blows so indecision creeps in and with indecision comes fear. If there is one thing you don’t want to be at Augusta, it’s scared!
Why is Augusta so difficult in the wind? As Bernhard Langer said, “it’s a bit of a guessing game but you still have to hit a good shot.”