Everything You Need To Know About Amen Corner

AMEN CORNER

The most famous three-hole stretch in golf.

Originally played as holes 2-4 by its masterminds Alister MacKenzie and Bobby Jones (as seen in MacKenzie’s 1932 sketch above), it wasn’t until the second invitational tournament that the nines were reversed to the present-day setup. Named by author Herbert Warren Wind, 11 through 13 seem to play a pivotal role in the tournament every year -- giving us incredible shot-making and heartbreaking disaster. These three holes – a par 4, par 3, and par 5, respectively – loiter in the back of every player’s mind from the moment they tee off until they make the turn and stare down the hill from the 10th tee.

A BRIEF OVERVIEW...

There is a lingering sense of trepidation as golfers move through this section of the golf course.  Rae’s creek, which most prominently defends holes 12 and 13, sits at the lowest (and darkest) point on the property. The temperature drops, the wind swirls, and odd things always seem to happen as the shadows lengthen on Sunday afternoon. Let’s take a closer look at each hole, and what makes it such an infamous section of golf history

HOLE 11 – Par 4 - 505 Yards “White Dogwood”

Hole 11 at Augusta National has endured the most changes at Amen Corner (at least in recent history).

To Note:

  • It was lengthened by 35 yards in 2002 and then an additional 15 yards to its current yardage of 505 yards.
  • The committee at Augusta has planted over 30 mature pine trees down the right side of the fairway all but removing any strategy from the tee. Players are forced to rip driver and are generally still left with a long iron or hybrid into an awkward and demanding green.

This is where the 11th hole is most interesting though. Two huge kicker mounds sit short and right of the green, demanding an exacting shot down the hill. They were originally designed to help players run the ball onto green but now, if players come up short and left of the mounds, very often kick the ball into the pond guarding the front of the green. Players who bail right end up kicking further right, leaving an incredibly fast chip down the slope of the green towards the water. The 11th has become an incredibly difficult start to this famed stretch of golf.

Historical Highlight: Larry Mize chipping in from long right of the green on the second playoff hole to defeat Greg Norman in 1987 – making him the first Augusta-native to ever wear the green jacket

Hole 12 – Par 3 – 155 yards “Golden Bell”

The 12th hole is one that has remained basically the same since the 1950’s. Generally nothing more than a short iron, this is easily the most daunting shot in Amen Corner and, perhaps, the most intimidating on the entire course. Made difficult by swirling winds and the small, narrow green (which has gotten even smaller over time), the genius of this hole is the slight angle at which it’s positioned relative to the player. The back right of the green sits further from the tee than the front left and, with the creek running parallel, makes distance control a premium.

This is tested most on tournament Sunday when the customary back-right hole location is cut. Because of the angled green, players looking to get anywhere near the hole are forced to hit a precise shot. If the tee shot is fanned slightly (by a right-hander) like Jordan Spieth’s in 2016, more often than not, the ball ends up flying into the creek or rolling down the closely-mown bank into the water. If that same player pulls their shot in an effort to avoid the hazard, they’ll generally find the back bunkers or, worse, the pine straw above them.

Amazingly, there have only ever been three holes-in-one at the short twelfth, and none since 1988. The play for many golfers is to the middle of the green. This generally leaves a mid-range birdie putt and an easy two-putt for par, something any player would gladly take at the start of their round.

Historical Highlight: Jordan Spieth’s catastrophic 7 in 2016 is certainly high in the list but another very similar instance occurred in 1992. Walking to the 12th tee with the lead, Fred Couples trying to hit a safe shot, instead fanned his short iron right – almost identical to what Spieth would do 24 years later. Instead of rolling back into Rae’s creek though, it miraculously hung up in the rough, allowing Couples to chip close for par and ultimately win the tournament.

Hole 13 – Par 5 – 510 yards “Azalea”

Again, a hole that hasn’t changed significantly for some time (due mostly to the property limitations) this is one of the great par-5’s in all of golf. The hole hooks dramatically around a large collection of pine trees with Rae’s creek lingering up the left side the entire length until it ultimately cuts in front of the green. These days, even though the majority of players can reach the green in two fairly easily, there is no lack of excitement on Amen Corner’s final stretch. The ideal tee-shot moves hard right to left, allowing the dramatic slope carry the ball toward the green and, preferably, to a flatter lie in the fairway. The more aggressive the line, the more the player is rewarded with a level lie. Drives that bail right, now often end up miles from the green in the rough or, worse, the familiar Augusta pine straw.

It is from here that players are left with a difficult decision. Astonishingly, Zach Johnson won the event in 2007 after laying up on every single par 5 for the week. Although many players won’t hit more than a mid or long-iron into number 13, indecision tends to creep in when they see the ball sitting 10 or 12 inches above their feet, creating an awkward hook lie when most golfers are trying to visualize a fade. This indecision often materializes as a weak miss into the creek.

While big numbers are usually rare on Azalea, for the opportunity to make an eagle this weekend and release one of the customary late-Sunday roars, a player must hit two fantastic shots under pressure and then generally make a sloping, downhill putt. Anyone who can do that from the last few groups has probably given themselves a great chance to put on the green jacket.  

Historical Highlight: From recent memory, it’s hard not to think of Phil Mickelson’s incredible 6-iron shot from the pine straw in 2010. Sitting behind a tree and looking at 187 yards to clear the creek, most golfers would have laid up without a second thought. It’s Phil though. He hit one of the greatest shots in Masters history, flying it through a small gap to about eight feet for eagle. Although he missed the putt, the birdie propelled him to his third green jacket.