One of the loneliest spots on the course at Augusta National is about to get even lonelier as a big change is coming to the 2023 Masters. The governing bodies in golf have not yet decided to roll the ball back or change equipment regulations, so Augusta National took matters into its own hands with its course and lengthened the iconic 13th hole.
This move had been rumored for years, of course, and talk only heated up after Augusta National purchased land from the adjacent Augusta Country Club that would allow it to push its tee box back up.
The 510-yard hole has come under much scrutiny over the last decade as several golfers have attempted -- successfully, in most cases -- to turn it into a drive-and-pitch play off the tee. Historically, the 13th has been one of the great risk-reward holes in the sport, offering golfers who were willing to take on the creek running in front of the green a look at eagle but wreaking havoc for those whose approach shots came up short. That dramatic risk-reward option, with the first major of the year on the line, hasn't really presented itself many years.
In April, Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley was asked about whether one of the most famous holes in golf would ever change.
"There's no timetable," said Ridley. "Nothing to announce at this time. That's something that certainly we have considered and will continue to consider. Admittedly, and I've said this before, the 13th hole does not have the same challenges that it has historically. I can just remember as a young guy watching the Masters, you know, some of the triumphs and tragedies. And while we still have those, the fact that players are hitting middle to short irons into that hole is not really how it was designed.
"My reluctance to date has been that it's such an iconic hole," Ridley added. Probably along with 11 -- or 12 rather, and maybe 15. I mean, probably the three holes where the most history has been made at Augusta National.
So that probably, you know, has been sort of a counter to doing anything. At some point in time, it's something that we likely will do. We just don't have anything to say about it right now. "
Things have changed since April, apparently, as satellite photos show that the tee box has been moved and trees have been planted in surrounding areas. This will, in most cases, make it difficult for most of next year's Masters competitors to put themselves in a position off the tee where reaching the green with a wedge or short iron is simple and straightforward.
The unfortunate part about all of this is that it could be avoided by regulating equipment. Perhaps that doesn't pose a challenge to Augusta National given its resourcefulness and position in the game, but not every club or course can spend millions for an extra 40-60 yards of distance on every hole.
"We won't know [if equipment changes are coming] for some time because there's sort of a process that sort of everyone has agreed to as to how any equipment changes such as this are going to take place," said Ridley in April.
"So we really can't make any predictions as to what's going to happen, but I think if there are some marginal modifications to the equipment rules, from what I have observed over the past few years with the players and their athleticism, their strength, their size, the efficiency of their golf swings, I don't think that we are going to see courses being shortened.
"So perhaps the two sort of factors might converge, but I don't think that what the governing bodies do is going to have a direct impact on what we might do at 13 or any other hole on the golf course."
That's an interesting admission from somebody in the know. He's essentially saying that even if the ball is rolled back or driver neutralized, the effects probably will not be so great that moving the tee back on No. 13 -- which ANGC has now done -- wouldn't be necessary.
As for the move itself, it's going to be one of the big stories at the 2023 Masters. Just as No. 15 was lengthened ahead of the 2022 Masters (a move that led to no eagles being made for the first time since 1966), this change to No. 13 will affect the outcome of the golf tournament. While 50 or so yards (it's tough to tell in the photo above) is not a massive shift, perhaps the bigger problem for players will be that they are not as able to cut the corner up the left side because some of the overhanging trees block that ball flight.
Some players like Tony Finau, Bubba Watson, Cam Young and Rory McIlroy may still attempt a line way out to the left, but the hole is certainly going to engender a wide array of strategies than it has in the past. More and different strategy is what you want when you're watching and experiencing championship golf. While the path to get to this point (lack of equipment regulation) has been frustrating, this is ultimately a good decision and should be a net positive both for ANGC as well as the Masters.