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Masters Wrap: The Course And The Future

It's hard to argue with Chairman Billy Payne's era as Masters Chairman. Sure, he follows the bumbling Hootie Johnson and just about any sign of progress or forward thinking would have made for a successful tenure after those turbulent years.

But the stability Payne brought to tournament business, coupled with the improvements to the property under his watch, makes it very hard to see anyone else doing the job (particularly when the not-gregarious Fred Ridley's name is mentioned as a likely successor).

Can you imagine anyone else spearheading the Drive, Chip and Putt or resisting the urge to spend some of that Berckman's Place money on more course changes? This was the point of my May Golfweek piece on Payne's tenure and the other many progressive moves that have upheld the Roberts/Jones desire to constantly advance The Masters as a sporting event. However, there is Payne's odd issue with cell phones, which doesn't make much sense when juxtaposed against other digital initiatives.

The summer of 2017 figures to be an interesting one for Payne since, as I wrote in this golf course-focused piece for Golfweek, the 5th hole is likely to see changes. The extent of the changes could range from a mere lengthening to a total land rearrangement to expand the course border once constrained by Berckman's Road.

Given the original hole's design concept, the changes made since, the difficult land forms at No. 5, and the lack of respect for strategic design by consulting architect Tom Fazio, I don't have high hopes for an upholding of the Jones/MacKenzie vision.

That said, Payne stemmed the Hootie Johnson era hemorraging, and that was a huge victory for those hoping to see some preservation of what remains from the original design vision.

The "second cut" of rough still strips the place of elegance that you get with wall-to-wall tight grass (not to mention slowing balls from the pine straw), and still rears its head on odd places.

The leafy, 3/8 inch-cut fairways do slow down roll but have made a links-inspired course almost entirely an aerial design.

With his first major golf course change potentially in the offing this year, we'll get to see another sign of Payne's chairmanship. One that most Masters watchers hopes does not end any time soon.

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Reader Comments (40)

While the Jones/Dr. Mac build seems to be the preaching on TV, in blogs ( ugh- hmm) , and most everywhere else the ANGC si menntioned, I would thin a scholar of design like you, Mr. Geoff, would own up to the co work done initially by Perry Maxwell, an then a few years after its opening with what can only be viewed as relatively ''major'' design changes and what has always been considered major improvements.

Maxwell's Silver Shovel came down upon Jones' course, and virtually no one looked at the changes as anything but improving the track. The same cannot be said of some of the more recent ''improvements''- the silly lengthening, the added trees on 15 and other changes-- with the exception of the added water on 16, which comes into play on 15 and 16 and maybe the bizarre length added on 13, called by the original developers as just adding the correct grass for a fairway, and a green- why diss perfection with the kick back into the next door golf course, as it really IS a perfect golf hole.

Anyway, between Billy's good work, the DC&P, and the appropriate ceremony for Arnold Palmer on Thursday, he really has been a welcome keeper of the flame.

good job,

04.13.2017 | Unregistered Commenterdigsouth
"However, there is Payne's odd issue with cell phones, which doesn't make much sense when juxtaposed against other digital initiatives."

It makes perfect sense. How many patrons have saddled themselves with a smartphone addiction, one the medical profession has identified as separation anxiety? I'd say Chairman Payne is more progressive than believed in performing a public service, whether patrons feel it's good for them or not. If that's not a key tenet of progressivism, I don't know what is?
04.14.2017 | Unregistered CommenterD. maculata
Did you notice all bunkers were "in the fairway" this year as opposed to years past?

Before, the was a ring of second cut between fairway and bunkers and this year the second cut didn't begin until the outside edge of all bunkers. That's a start right??
04.14.2017 | Unregistered CommenterLocal
@Local, the fairway cut has always run right up to the edges of the fairway bunkers on 1, 2, 8 and 18. I'm not sure about 3 and 5. By the way, isn't that a bit of a curiosity? Six holes have fairway bunkers, and five of them are among the first six driving holes.
04.14.2017 | Unregistered CommenterHawkeye
Doesn't something need to be done to 16 green? Kind of like 14 or 17 at Pebble? Has it always been that sloped? Judging by the recent uptick in holes in one there, I think something has changed. IMO there isn't four adequate hole locations on that green.
04.14.2017 | Unregistered CommenterDrew Scott

I completely agree. Least interesting hole on the back nine for me. On Sunday, you either have a short putt for birdie or a circus bank shot to get your par. I realize that it gives the chance for a 2 (or 1) when needed late on a Sunday and thus adds to the drama, but as a golf hole I think it leaves a lot to be desired. And the Sunday pin is not much different from the Thursday pin. The Friday pin (the front right pin location) requires landing and stopping the ball on the hood of a Volkswagen Beetle. I don't really like the "save" bunker between the green and pond, either, particularly since modern technology has changed this hole from a 5-6 iron to an 8-9 iron.

Otherwise, fantastic hole. Love it.
04.14.2017 | Unregistered CommenterTremendous Slouch
DMac, isn't it amazing that the "patrons" somehow survive for 8 hours without their devices? For many they probably like it, without knowing it. The only weird thing is many or most use their phones to take pics in this day and age so for the practice rounds it seems kind of strange as Joe Blow can enter with any size camera he cares to lug around. All I can say is I've never heard one person who has been lucky enough to walk on the grounds, say anything other than the place and the way everything is handled, is incredible.

" and maybe the bizarre length added on 13, "

Digsouth, what would you want them to do to keep one of the greatest Par 5's in golf from becoming a short par 4? I too, like many on this site, hate the lengthening of these iconic courses and golf holes, but if they aren't going to commit to a Titleist Professional type ball they don't have a lot of options.
04.14.2017 | Unregistered Commenterol Harv
@D.maculata wins the internet for Friday! If there's a single institution we can count on to stiff arm the lib's we know what's best for you agenda/s it is the glorious Augusta National.
04.14.2017 | Unregistered CommenterMOAB
Couldn't agree more with D. Mac on the phone issue.

Mr. Payne is looking pretty good by continuing the ban on cell phones.

Hope ANGC keeps a cell phone ban.
Geoff, the phone policy has nothing to do with the Masters' digital initiatives. Online, they are providing the best possible experience for fans worldwide. Within the gates, they feel the best experience for fans is to prohibit phones. I can't argue that at all -- and I'm as addicted to my phone as most people.

Thing is, you can't "relax" that policy and just hope that people will be respectful and that ringers won't go off. Because people won't, and those will. Once you've let that cat out of the bag, the serenity of the place is gone. Might as well go to digital scoreboards and big screens and all the other sensory bombardment you get during Acme PGA Tour event.
04.14.2017 | Unregistered CommenterJohn
The biggest thing Mr. Payne did was the "bifurcation" of "The Masters" and ANGC. No longer is the club's business in the news. If that is because they chucked a couple of women at the problem, then I guess problem solved. Also, having Augusta become an official governing body is interesting. Kind of unnecessary, except that the USGA has been a little pathetic in its last 10 years.

DC&P aka "The Spelling Bee of golf" is fine. Let's not go Golf Chanel Hyperbole here.

11 needs to change. All risk, no reward. Dumb and unimaginative. 16 green needs some fixes too. The hole in 1 fest is silly.

It is interesting how the Doak/Hanse school really despise Fazio. Amazing how much Fazio has fallen out of favor. Interesting world, golf design is...
04.14.2017 | Unregistered CommenterMJR
I was under the impression they did more massaging to the 16th green this year but couldn't get anyone to confirm. I'm always shocked by how small and severe it plays. The first round hole proved interesting but the two upper pins don't do much for anyone!

I can't agree on the digital front given how many patrons say they are frustrated by not being able to enjoy following the tournament the way someone at home can. We are a notification world and as much as we all love the traditional leaderboard, they do not give people all of the information that the modern sports fan expects.

That Mr. Payne has pushed the digital frontier may ultimately be his greatest legacy because of the changes they'll bring to golf coverage. And given how Masters patrons are incentivized to behave respectfully (the club reserves the right to renew their badges), I don't think phones would be an issue at the Masters. At all!

The 11th is really pretty terrible given the philosophy of Mr. Jones. Hate is a strong word, but it is hard to respect Mr. Fazio's disdain for the "so-called classic" courses, and mercifully, he's down to consulting at only three of note. Sadly though, they are three of America's most important designs and more damage will be done until they make a change.
04.14.2017 | Registered CommenterGeoff
Phones in the hands of patrons would get so abused. Imagine the scene at 18 with the tournament on the line, the final player rolls his putt for the win, and in the background as the crowd begins to rise like wave every single patron will have a phone held up in the air recording "their" special moment. It would look like a Lady Gaga concert
04.14.2017 | Unregistered CommenterSteve
Not to mention the potential for an uncomfortable spectacle for the Lords in Green of bleeding noses or carting a patron away on a stretcher with broken leg because they weren't looking where they were walking.

Geoff - Are the media allowed to use phones within the confines of the sparkling new facility or is that taboo, too?
04.14.2017 | Unregistered CommenterD. maculata
Geoff, are those fans frustrated enough to not come back the next day or the next year? I strongly doubt it. Sure, they've got a sympathetic ear with you, but I'm going to guess when they go home they're not telling their friends "course was pretty and all, but not knowing what Jordan did on 12 when I was on 17 just ruined the whole thing."

Out on the course, there wouldn't be enough Pinkertons to combat all those cell phones. It's a losing battle. And relying on "respectful patrons" is a strategy that begs disaster. For every 40-year badgeholder who will behave, there are two 20-something bros on passes from a friend-of-a-friend who won't.

And Steve's right, the persistent phones-out is a sort of visual diarrhea that I would hate to see Masters photos polluted with.

But we can agree to disagree.
04.14.2017 | Unregistered CommenterJohn
Given that it's the Masters, the solution seems obvious: a Masters-branded device issued to any patrons who want one, returned at the end of each day's play. No sound, no apps other than the official Masters app, no camera, no connectivity other than data.
04.14.2017 | Unregistered CommenterTom

Good call (pun?)

@ Ol' Harv

I thought long and hard about tat before I wrote that thought. Harv, I don't know- 5 wood or hybrid off the tee- an iron? I don't know how far an iron would go with a massive fade for these guys, and it brings a slice into the woods as a possibility. I'll keep thinking about it, but the ''hidden tee'' in the other course is really pretty goofy, you have to admit.

@ Geoff and all

Tom's solution is very good.

16 GREEN is pathetic; forgot to mention that in my first post. oops.

In the early morning brain drain,

04.14.2017 | Unregistered Commenterdigsouth
@Tom - The USGA had devices like you describe in 2008 at Torrey Pines. You had to be an AMEX member to get one and they went fast(oh the branding opportunities for sponsors, say AT&T/DirecTV?).

I'd think long and hard about major course changes if it was my watch. Everybody thinks they have an idea to make something that is extremely good even better. Only 10 guys scored better than -1. What's the real problem here?

Personally, I don't see a problem with a couple par 5s that play to par 4.5, when you have a couple par 4s that play to 4.5 as well. Just my $0.02
Agree w Geoff.....having played ANGC before, during, and after all the "Tiger proofing" began after 1999.....a number of the holes have lost their strategic design ......#1, #5, #7, #11 (big time) , #17, off the top of my head. over 500 yards have been added since 1991, most after TW's win in '99......

Interesting how much the ball affected the lengthening.....but not necessary the club selection in to many of the lengthen holes compared to Pre-Tiger.....just kills me that lengthening is the only answer....

#16 green was fine, prior to changing the putting greens from Bermuda to Bent-grass in 1980, and getting green speeds to 13+.....wonder if the Green Blazers are giving any consideration to transitioning back to one of the newer hybrids....say, Champion?
04.14.2017 | Unregistered CommenterPro From Dover
I wish I could ban phones from all social's depressing to go to my sons soccer games and see 3/4 of the parents staring at their phones for the entire game, or going to a backyard bbq and having people sitting by themselves on their phones.

My home poker games, everyone has their phone next to their chips, and instead of interacting, many are on their phones between hands...defeating the very social nature of the game.

Even worse are some dinner parties where people are on their phones...WTF!!!

Rant over.
04.14.2017 | Unregistered CommenterManku
That's a pretty good idea, Tom. On the other hand, isn't it kind of sad to need something like that? Have we become so antsy as sports fans and so information-starved that we can't hear the roars from three holes over and just wait for the manual scoreboard or (heaven forbid) talk to some people and get word-of-mouth information? For one week a year? Again, I'm as device-addicted as the next guy. But if the rules say no devices, I'm not going to break out in hives and complain that my lifestyle is being compromised.

If any badge holders just can't stand it anymore, please let me know and I'll happily buy your tickets at face value (Bobby Jones would approve).
04.14.2017 | Unregistered CommenterJohn

very good rant.

M wife and I went out to eat last night at a reasonably priced seafood eatery; they have their own shrimp boats, and the food is very fresh! it was wonderful, exquisite shrimp, lightly breaded and fried to perfection. The best ever! These are the shrimp you dream about; bla bla bla.... ( tribute to Trump chocolate cake ) sorry, sad!

Anyway my wife brings her phone in, but never looks at it until we are thru and had a question that se looked up te answer to Meanwhile a woman and her daughter came in and both were on there phone, not talking mind you, from the moment they sat down.

So the phone is antisocial, and social media is anything but social.


04.14.2017 | Unregistered Commenterdigsouth
Hate to say this, but a friend returned from the Masters and said he felt the experience was hard to enjoy because he didn't have his phone, couldn't meet up with people easily and felt bad not being able to be reached by his family. He said he had no desire to look at it all day, just occasionally look up a score and be able to get a text.
04.14.2017 | Unregistered CommenterBilly Pain
Manku, how would you like to take your 12-year old son to his first New York Knicks game (no jokes please) at the Garden, and sit behind a guy and his wife and a two year old who probably combined took over 200 selfies during the course of the game. And the kid crying the entire time. First time attending a pro sporting event that I've ever seen a security guard have to tell a fan to get out of the aisle(3 times) or else he would have to leave. These people literally came to the game to take pics of their son and them at the game, not watch the game. And you don't want to know how much the tix cost.
04.14.2017 | Unregistered Commenterol Harv
Decision was made before Henley's cup controversy
04.14.2017 | Unregistered CommenterPG
@ol harv...oh, i'm well aware of knicks tickets pricing! fortunately, the last time i paid to see the knicks at the garden was when Bernard King was throwing down 40 a game!

now that we're talking about the knicks, how about that fan who gets abused by Dolan, and then still wants to renew his season tickets...and they won't let him...

as long as fans don't mind treated like cuckolds, ticket prices aren't going down.
04.14.2017 | Unregistered CommenterManku
@Pro given the time of year the club is open and the time of year of the toonimint, I can't see them changing to Bermuda greens.
04.14.2017 | Unregistered CommenterKS
The problem isn't so much not having a phone. It's not having a clue what is going on on the golf course apart from what you can see in front of you and the 10 players names on the leaderboard. How about giving everyone an earpiece with commentary on? I'd even listen to Monty for 5 hours if I could have a clue what else is going on out was easy on Sunday as I just followed around Rose and Garcia but that may have not been even half the story....
04.14.2017 | Unregistered CommenterDavid
Great posts @John. You too @Steve. @Mr. Pain attending The Masters in person isn't for everyone, sounds like your buddy would be better served observing from his couch. The ultimate arbiter is always supply & demand, clearly the cell phone ban is a complete non-issue. That said, on the margin there will be at least one extra season badge available going into 2018, on the Sergio winning putt video there's a guy in the background who immediately rises up and take a pic or video with his phone, he's toast.
04.14.2017 | Unregistered CommenterMOAB
I respect and support their decision on banning phones. I would agree that the worst by-product is that you can't easily reconnect with friends when you get separated.

In my opinion... the tournament has become too crowded and too much of a "Disney World" experience. I enjoyed it much more 10 years or more ago when you could still get in and out of the restrooms in 5 minutes or less (remember the troughs?) or didn't need to dedicate 2 hours of your day to buy a few hats, shirts, mugs, etc. It's a beautiful place and all golf fans should see it at least once but I don't see myself trying hard to go back again. Been there, done that and have too many shirts and hats... at least my wife thinks so.

Maybe I'm just getting old and cranky but I'll just stay home from now on and watch it from home with friends.
04.14.2017 | Unregistered CommenterJupiter
Billy Payne has great stage presence - gives even more gravitas to the event.
04.14.2017 | Unregistered CommenterJohn C
ANGC and The Masters have always been different from any other event. It's a private event for the simple reason that they want to do things their way. Most of the time, they get it right. The cell phone ban is great in my view. Sure, there's some inconvenience, including not having instant contact with non-attending family and friends, although I would imagine emergencies would be handled swiftly. I really like 13 the way it is and hope they don't back up into ACC just to add length. #16 can be "easy" I guess, but it's still a quirky little hole and what's wrong with the potential for an ace by a contender on Sunday. The club has managed to keep the focus on the players (not always with the help of CBS), fans, er, "patrons" are there to observe, not to stand out. Lastly, although I'm not always a fan of the good Mr. Payne, his tribute to Arnold was right on point: short, poignant, respectful and just right. I teared up which is not my default state.
04.14.2017 | Unregistered CommenterPops
Actually, Geoff is really even handed and never drives too much politics at all on his site. A rarity in sports. All opinions seem to roll in his comments without much rudeness at all. His grammar is accurate and he's a good writer. The "progressive" he is talking about refers to The Masters. Messers Roberts and Jones wanted the most innovative experience at the Masters. They started the under par scoring, televised coverage, continually updating the course, etc. Geoff's use of "progressive" is in that vein, not in Upton Sinclair or Nancy Pelosi. If you are new and into golf, I would give this blog a shot. It's the best in golf and probably sports.
04.14.2017 | Unregistered CommenterMJR

The wife and I have been 5 years in a row. You're doing something wrong if it takes you 5 minutes in the restroom and 2 hours in the merchandise pavilion. No good reason for either.
And I forgot to add. Hell no to cell phones! Hope they never change that policy.
I think the toonament is doing just fine
04.14.2017 | Unregistered CommenterDrBunsenHoneydew
Yikes. I opened a hornets nest apparently. All I can do is speak from my experience. Geoff has defended Trump a bunch as it relates to people trying to boycott his courses in golf. I am about as conservative as they come politically and have never been censored. I defended Muirfield being able to stay all male (something GS strongly disagrees with) and did not get censored or deleted. My guess is if your comments are merely political and have nothing to do with golf, they won't last long here. It is a golf blog, guys.

Geoff is a fierce defender of Titleist because the balls are made in the USA. Yes, he's sponsored by Callaway, but outside of the live reads, I've never seen him say anything on club reviews, etc. Not really his thing.

I do not need to defend Geoff at all. Read him. Don't read him. Who cares. I was responding assuming those comments regarding Geoff as a golf blog wasn't the place for a conservative and this place was terrible. I was merely explaining my experience is much different. Believe me, I have written off ESPN and a ton of sportswriters for their constant liberal garbage. There are few places to go that stay relatively apolitical. I think this blog is one of them.

Anyway, sorry for defending Geoff too vehemently. I promise I am not related to him. I've never even met him. I like the blog. It's one of my go to reads, along with Breitbart, Daily Caller, Drudge ;). Have a good Easter all. God bless. -Mark (the MJR one)
04.15.2017 | Unregistered CommenterMJR
Great article. I wasn't aware of Payne's impact. Thanks for that Geoff!

04.15.2017 | Unregistered CommenterDavid
What MJR said. Come or go, your choice, from someone who has never clicked on Breitbart or the Daily Caller ;-). Naked Capitalism is more to my liking. No, not that kind of naked.
04.16.2017 | Unregistered CommenterKLG
I just don't get, 'I'm smarter than ANI' comments. Most of the innovations and practices of tournament operation and enjoyment for attendees/patrons were developed and started there. The list is way too long for a post. Any list of great golf holes always includes multiple ANI choices. The majority of touring pros name it as their favorite course/tournament/place (no data on this one). I have never encounter anyone that did not completely enjoy their presence at the tournament (the years with rain/mud get a pass). Is a every course adjustment an eagle? Of course not. Do some chairmen have more success with decisions praised than others? Yes of course. There is no other event of which I'm aware where expections are higher and most seem to feel expectations are exceeeded. I would like to see this blog family continue to recognize accomplishment and progress (sometimes learning my not being always right) vs posting that they are smarter than the accomplished 'Green Jackets'. And, yes this 'Rambling Wreck' thinks 'Bulldog' Billy has been a double eagle.
04.16.2017 | Unregistered CommenterLoose Imped

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