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Tunnel Vision
Alan Shipnuck
April 08, 2002
Employing the latest in engineering technology, we solved the mystery of the swirling winds that make the 12th hole at Augusta so tough
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April 08, 2002

Tunnel Vision

Employing the latest in engineering technology, we solved the mystery of the swirling winds that make the 12th hole at Augusta so tough

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According to Maxfli, a typical eight-iron shot is in the air for slightly more than five seconds. At Augusta that journey is fraught with peril. On the tee the wind is in the golfer's face, quartering slightly to the left (east), in the direction of the 11th fairway. About 25 yards into its flight the ball encounters a crosswind blowing to the east [A]. Another 40 yards toward the green, as the shot is approaching its apex, the ball is slammed by a wind shear, with gusts blowing to the west toward the 13th fairway [B]. This wind dissolves into low-speed swirling 20 yards from the green, as the ball is passing over Rae's Creek [C].

The 12th hole has played a pivotal role at numerous Masters, and no wonder—the wind a golfer feels on the tee barely hints at the turbulence his ball will experience in the air. With its secrets revealed, will the 12th (statistically the second-hardest hole, after the 10th) be tamed? Doubtful, says Greg Kopp, the project leader at Western Ontario. "The challenge used to be trying to figure out the wind," he says. "Now the players have all the information, but they may wish they didn't. It's still a frightening shot into a very difficult wind."

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