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'What the Hell Are You Doing?'
Walter Bingham
April 05, 1999
Bob Jones has seen the changes at Augusta National, and he's not happy
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April 05, 1999

'what The Hell Are You Doing?'

Bob Jones has seen the changes at Augusta National, and he's not happy

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Is this Hootie Johnson I'm talking to? You're the new chairman of Augusta National, right? Well, this is Bob Jones, and I'm really hot. Yes, yes, the Bob Jones, or Bobby, as the scribes used to call me. None of your business where I'm calling from, or how. The question is, What the hell are you doing to my golf course? Look, just because some kid came along two years ago and made a barrel of birdies doesn't mean you have to panic. This Tiger—and what kind of name is that, anyway?—he starts reaching the par-5s with a driver and a wedge, and you bring in the bulldozers and rearrange what Alister Mackenzie and I took three years to build. Why, Granny Rice once called our course a Cathedral in the Pines. You wouldn't put eye shadow on the Mona Lisa, would you?

Stop that blubbering now and let me get specific. Take the 2nd hole. Pink dogwood, Cliff Roberts called it. Lovely par-5, a dogleg left that the longer hitters in the field could reach in two. Our patrons loved to sit behind the green and cheer the approaches that carry the bunkers in front of the green. So you go out and hire this Tom Fazio fellow to move the tee back 25 yards and build some damned stone wall so our patrons won't have to look at our equipment storage area. Stone wall? I plant dogwoods and azaleas to make the course a 365-acre garden, and you build something that looks like the start of a Kmart. So what you've got now is a par-5 nobody in the field can reach except for Tiger, and maybe this other kid with the dark glasses.

Let's go to number 11. Year in, year out one of the toughest holes on the course, a nifty par-4. Tell me this, Whose bright idea was it to make it even tougher? Because of the pond Alister and I put in to the left of the green, Ben Hogan, no less, once said that if his approach ever wound up on the green, he had made a mistake. He much preferred to bail out to the right of the green and take his chances with a pitch and putt. A little conservative, maybe, but that was Ben.

Now you've raised the green by two feet. You've removed the two bunkers behind the green and added one more toward the right front. The boys who go right will be chipping uphill to a green that slopes back toward the water like an Olympic bobsled run. You also diddled with the area behind the green, steepening the terrain toward the water. Hootie, Hootie, Hootie, you've got to remember mat these players, these gentlemen, are my guests. Don't try to humiliate them.

No, I'm not through. You tinkered, if that's the word, with number 15, another par-5. In other words, you tinkered with history. I'm sure you know that on an April afternoon in 1935 Gene Sarazen stood on the crest of the hill, took his four-wood and knocked his ball into the cup for a double eagle. He went on to win, which is important, or else the shot would've been a footnote. That shot put our damn tournament on the map.

It looks to me as if you saw a bunch of full-grown pine trees on sale at a local nursery, bought the lot of 'em and had them planted willy-nilly all over the 15th. "Let's see," you must have said. "We'll stick a dozen over here on the right side of the fairway, and maybe eight more a bit farther along. The other six we can stick down there to the right of the green." Is that what you said, Hootie? And because the bulldozer was in the area anyway, you had the driver knock down most of those fairway mounds someone else put in there several years back. What'd you figure, that too many drives were landing on the downhill sides and rolling into the next county? That too many birdies and eagles were exciting the gallery in the greenside grandstand? What in heck were you thinking, Hootie?

Last of all, what's all that long grass you let grow to either side of the fairways? You fellows run out of lawn mowers? You know I always kept my course manicured. You're starting to make Augusta look like Quad Cities.

Hootie, I want to promise you one thing: Next time you have the urge to play golf architect, I'm going to take you down to Amen Corner some dark night and show you I still know how to hit a wedge.

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