The biggest news this year is that the country's most prominent championship venue has lost valuable ground. After years of renovation and modernization designed to keep Augusta National a fresh test for the Masters, the storied 1933 co-design by Alister MacKenzie and Robert Tyre "Bobby" Jones today clings to a spot among the very elite, having fallen seven spots in the last year to No. 10.
It's a rating that folks at most courses would die for. But for students of architecture (including our team of 410 raters), the slide is what happens when a prominent course stretches and narrows itself contrary to its original design intent. In an era when virtually every other championship course is removing trees to recapture interesting angles of play, Augusta National in Augusta, Ga., (joined only by Atlanta's East Lake Golf Club, which dropped from No. 48 to No. 52) is that rare classic layout that's still planting them.
The two newcomers to the Classic list, No. 82 Eastward Ho! Country Club in Chatham, Mass. and No. 83 Engineers Club in Roslyn, N.Y., both got there through sustained restoration programs that included greens recapture, putting back lost bunkers and sustained tree management.
I am sure there is no body of professional games players who so cheerfully know so little of the rules of their game as do professional golfers.