Amen Corner is getting a little bigger.
Augusta National Golf Club has finally secured the last piece of its course’s border and made room for the possible expansion of its iconic 13th hole by acquiring land from its neighbor Augusta Country Club.
In a letter to the Augusta Country Club membership dated Aug. 4, club president Jay B. Forrester said “the Board of Governors is pleased to confirm that we have reached an agreement with our friends and neighbors at Augusta National Golf Club for its purchase of property at our northwest boundary.”
Masters Tournament and club chairman Billy Payne has not commented on the reported transaction – which has not yet been submitted in the public records. Officials at Augusta Country Club also declined to comment.
The sale, the amount of which was not disclosed in the letter to Augusta Country Club members, was recently finalized and approved by the Board after “many months of collaborative and cooperative dialogue” with Augusta National. Rumors about the protracted negotiations have been circulating since early 2016 when a Golfweek report claimed that a deal was nearly finished.
“Be assured this transaction will improve our golf course and will put Augusta Country Club in an even greater financial position for many years to come,” Forrester said in the letter.
The sale includes the land on the Augusta National side of Rae’s Creek where Augusta Country Club’s current par-5 eighth green is situated as well as the stretch situated high above Augusta National’s border where the current 392-yard par-4 ninth hole is located. Carts and golfers playing the ninth hole were often visible to patrons in Amen Corner through the trees during the Masters.
Augusta National will cover the costs of construction for portions of the renovated Donald Ross course across Rae’s Creek that is displaced by the land acquisition, both parties confirmed.
Forrester’s letter stated that a “portion of the eighth hole and a new ninth hole will be constructed at no cost to Augusta Country Club.”
“The conceptual design process is already underway,” the letter stated.
Augusta National’s plans for the 13th hole haven’t been disclosed. One of golf’s greatest risk-reward par-5 holes has become less of a risk as technology has made the 510-yard dogleg play short enough for players to routinely hit mid-irons into the green off the steeply banked fairway.
Payne addressed the speculation about lengthening the 13th hole when rumors of the potential land sale first circulated in 2016.
“As we do every year, and historically forever, we are always looking at options for numerous of our holes,” Payne said before the 2016 Masters. “We create plans looking into the future, when we believe that the shot value of certain second shots, principally, has been impacted by how far the ball is now traveling.
“As a consequence, 13 is one of those holes we are studying. We have made no decision whatsoever. Plans are underway to be considered, and as I said, that is one of many holes that we now have under consideration.”
The 13th hole, known as Azalea, has been lengthened three times. Five and seven yards were added to the back of the tee box in 1974-75, and 25 additional yards were added to the tee in 2002 after the National made a land exchange with Augusta Country Club. It’s currently listed at 510 yards, making it one of the shortest par-5s in major championship golf.
The purchase of Augusta Country Club’s ninth hole gives Augusta National room to move the 13th tee back 50 to 60 yards, making it a 560-yard hole that would again require a powerful drive to get far enough around the corner to invite taking on the green in two.
“We think there are multiple options where we could increase the difficulty of the hole and restore the shot values, only one of which deals with extending the length,” Payne said in 2016. “So we are in the middle of all of those studies, a lot of arithmetic, lot of design issues.”
Augusta National’s plans regarding the 13th may have accelerated after the ice storm in 2014 destroyed some of the towering mature pines that protect the azalea-covered left flank of the hole that runs along the tributary of Rae’s Creek. Bubba Watson was able to take advantage of the thinner canopy by hitting his drive on Sunday over and through the trees to leave himself with only a 140-yard wedge into the green en route to his second Masters victory.
Acquiring the land from its neighbor also gives Augusta National more control of its perimeter, allowing greater access for maintenance and tournament infrastructure as well as providing a wider cushion around the par-3 12th green to possibly clear more trees to allow better sunlight and air circulation.