A property change has the wheels turning on possibilities for Augusta National’s fourth and fifth holes.
The two holes have long been landlocked by Old Berckmans Road, which runs just behind the No. 4 green and parallel to the No. 5 tee box. Now under control by Augusta National Golf Club and turned into a service road for the course, the road is no longer a hindrance for possible changes to those holes.
“Certainly that creates options which heretofore did not exist and, bingo, those are a couple of the holes that we now have under consideration,” Augusta National Chairman Billy Payne said during his annual news conference Wednesday.
No. 4 is historically one of the course’s most difficult holes, ranking second toughest last year and fourth all-time. The difficulty starts with the length, which sets up as a 240-yard par-3 on the card and requires a long iron into a green guarded by two bunkers.
Because of its length, a couple of former Masters Tournament champions, Larry Mize and Ben Crenshaw, saw no need to change the hole and couldn’t think of possible upgrades.
“You don’t need to make 4 any harder, in my opinion,” Mize said. “I think 4 is hard enough with that green, trying to hit a shot from all the way back. It’s about a 230-yard shot, so I don’t think you need to change anything there.”
No. 5 could be a different story.
It was revamped in 2003 by moving the tees back and extending the two fairway bunkers by 80 yards to put them in play. The hole was re-measured at 455 yards and it takes a 315-yard drive to carry the left-side bunkers, meaning many golfers could no longer cut the hole’s length to the left.
The most recent changes helped average out the scoring on the hole, which had reached a historic low two years before those modifications. Similar changes could again be made by freeing up the area around the tee boxes and pushing them further back to make the tee shot even more difficult.
“Playing the hole has really changed over the years,” Crenshaw said. “It doesn’t play anywhere near how it played in the beginning. In an effort to get it back and play it a bit further back, the bunkers were meant to elongate the hole. I don’t know what the thought would be if you had the space to put it back.”
Changes at the fourth and fifth could also simply be a matter of convenience. The fourth tee is close enough to the third green, and the fourth green is close enough to the fifth tee, that golfers have to be aware of each other during play. The new space could be a way to separate the holes.
Regardless of potential changes, Mize echoes the thoughts of many over the years that the two holes are challenging and fun to play.
“They’re two great holes,” he said. “I don’t know if you need to change too much there. Par is a good score on both of them.”