This year, it’s the 11th hole that best reflects what makes Augusta National Golf Club so unique. For laypeople, the news that dozens of trees have been cut down on a golf course isn’t anything too exciting, but for experts and Masters players it makes a little sense: On the eleventh hole, you can now throw the ball farther to hit the tee directly without ending up in the trees, changing game tactics on one of the toughest lanes on the track – and making players think again, which would have done the tournament officials’ primary goal.
In any case, President Fred Ridley must have loved that the best players in the world could be observed in training rounds attempting endless shots on the eleventh hole, often failing on the first try and then scratching their heads in disgust at the new pitfalls. The Masters is the only major tournament that takes place on the same track every year – so you have to adapt every year.
Today’s generation wants to pursue masters digitally, and demands more openness and fewer stories from the 1960s
Augusta, GA has always been adept at setting trends in the game and developing the course accordingly. It should have become a ‘Tiger Resistant’ in 2003 after Woods won twice in a row – so the holes were extended and rebuilt and at least made sure Woods didn’t win again until 2005. The younger generation’s hard shots are now countered by focusing on the tough greens And their surroundings, according to the motto: Just because you hit a distant goal doesn’t mean you’ll win the championship. Year after year it goes like this GolfDigest has created a graphic breakdown for thiswhich documents the changes.
But the organizers of the master’s program have long been interested in more than just modifying the course. Augusta is full of tradition and character, but it comes across an audience that has a different idea of golf than it did 20 years ago. Today’s generation wants to follow the Masters digitally, demands more openness and expects more from Augusta’s renewed iteration of the sweetest stories from the 1960s, where honorable players like Jack Nicklaus and the late Arnold Palmer made the sport great but racial traditions were still familiar. Only blacks have been allowed to participate as players since 1975, before that they were only allowed as casters in the facility, and it took a long time for the elite white club to recognize the signs of the era.
Those were the days in the past of ANGC, which has softened its tradition in recent years. Not only are women now members, but the Amateur Top Young Golfers Tournament in the week leading up to the Masters is also a hit: since 2019, young players have found the biggest stage possible for their sport in Augusta, in order to make a name for themselves early in their lives professional.
There are performances that would have been unimaginable only a few years ago
Teachers are also fascinated by the comprehensive digitization: on the website, you can follow every shot on the system in a video. A kind of golf broadcast that is expensive, but is slowly spreading to other tournaments, based on the example of Augusta. Prior to this year’s Masters, even a Youtuber group “Dude Perfect” was allowed to shoot videos on the sacred grass – until a few years ago such a show was unimaginable. Chairman Ridley said he didn’t know the group either, which otherwise had nothing to do with the Dudes, but openly admitted: “When I found out that 57 million people were following them on YouTube, it caught my eye.”
Many of these innovations can be traced back to Ridley, who has led the club since 2017. On the surface, he is often as formal and understated as his predecessors, but behind the green jacket there is almost a lurking revolutionary compared to the traditional thrust of the establishment he heads. At Thursday’s press conference, Ridley was asked what Sir Bobby Jones, the club’s co-founder, would have to say about the Masters today. “I think he’d be proud,” said Ridley. “If you look at the old photos of this place, everything outside is pretty much the same. But no more than that.”
Augusta tries to balance moving with the times and remaining a modern event full of tradition. The state of the tournament can best be compared with Wimbledon in tennis: in Great Britain, where the game is still played in white, it is the small traditions that you want to keep without looking old-fashioned in general. In the Masters, players continue to receive letters of official invitation, cell phones are prohibited on the field during the tournament, sandwiches for spectators are certainly cheap, cans wear white overalls – it’s a long list of beautiful traditions that can go on. The tournament was also opened in 2022 by the “honorary freshmen”: the greats Niklaus, Gary Player and Tom Watson took the first shots. In the increasingly modern world of Augusta National Golf Club, they are the contemporary witnesses.
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