The Debate That Cannot Be Won

Scott Michaux writes in the Augusta Chronicle:
Whatever happens this week, the constant changing of the storied golf course will be the primary topic of conversation for the foreseeable future. If it's not the length that is offending players, it is certainly the interpretation of design intents that can spark an argument between players and anyone wearing the members' signature green jacket.

For every talking point quote culled from the Jones and Mackenzie archives that would seemingly support the club's changes, there are plenty of counterpoints that would suggest the original designers would cringe at what has been done to their course.

Case in point, the diabolical par-3 fourth hole. Stretched to 240 yards, Jones reportedly offered dueling perspectives.

The club's preferred context: "The shot is usually a strong iron or even a 4- or 3-wood."

The critic's preferred context: "I have never been convinced that a so-called one-shot hole of 240 or 250 yards is a forthright golfing problem."

Masters Chairman Hootie Johnson has said repeatedly that he is trying to "maintain the integrity of the shot values" envisioned by the designers. Numerous players argue that Jones and Mackenzie never envisioned forests of trees corralling competitors into singular options.

When a quiet and reasonable player such as Stewart Cink contends Augusta National "isn't the architectural gem" it once was, it has to give pause to even the course's most hardened defender.

Who knows yet whether it can be fixed - or whether it even needs to be? All that is known is that players today will certainly get to experience what it was like for players of preceding eras to hit longer irons into greens.

But those forebears never got to know what it was like to hit those irons into firm and wickedly fast greens ill-suited for those approaches.

It's an argument that can never be truly resolved in any context.