The placement of the flags is one of the most controversial matters in any golf tournament, because it can so drastically affect the difficulty of the play. The selection of the pin area and the exact location of the hole is decided on the morning of play by a committee appointed for the purpose. The decision is affected by the condition of the putting surface itself, the state of the weather to be expected and the holding qualities of the ground. Naturally, the job of placing the holes on tournament days is one which calls for a considerable knowledge of the game and good judgment. I am sure that the players involved would be interested, too, in having a committee composed of individuals of benign and charitable natures.
Even though it is too much to expect that persons selecting pin locations in the very early morning should be able to foresee weather conditions throughout the day, it is nevertheless important that they have in mind what conditions are likely to confront the players. They should also take into account the playing condition of the fairway from which shots to a particular green are to be played.
I think it is also most rewarding for spectators watching the play to be aware of the effect of variables in wind and lie of the ball. If a player is to be asked to play a quickly stopping shot to a closely guarded green, he has every right to expect that his ball will have a very good chance of finding a clean lie where the gripping effect of his club will enable him to control the ball. If the fairway in question, or the fairways in general, are not in good condition, the holes should never be cut too close to guarding bunkers.
Although a following wind tends to rob the ball of backspin and to increase the problem of stopping a pitch, in much the same way as a lush lie, I do not believe that it offers the same argument in favor of leniency in the placing of the holes. After all, the wind is a circumstance of play wholly outside the control of those running the tournament and, unlike a bad lie, it is not subject to the vagaries of chance. Since, within reasonable limits, it is the same for all players, the difficulty of the problem may very properly be decided by the committee. If one were to set out to make a golf course as difficult as possible, he would place the holes forward with the wind behind, and at the back of the greens with the wind against. It must be in the light of this basic principle that the committee's decision for each particular hole is made.
A TRICKY FACTOR
It may not be readily apparent why a far-back location increases the difficulty when playing against the wind. An opposing wind is a great comfort to the player when the flag is located immediately behind a bunker guarding the front of the green. The ball can then be played boldly over the bunker with assurance that it will not finish too far past the hole. But if the pin be moved to the back of the green, and trouble lurk behind, the player must be bold indeed and extraordinarily accurate in his judgment of distance in order to bang his ball right up to the flag. Several greens at Augusta, with shelf like areas along the back and an abrupt fall-off or bunker in the rear, are well suited to emphasize the problem.
I sincerely believe that the general concepts which have influenced the construction and later modifications of our course have been quite sound from the standpoint of making the game more enjoyable for the people who support it. I believe our members could be counted upon to testify unanimously to this effect. As for the other side of the coin, I feel quite certain that the contestants in the Masters Tournament would attest very nearly as unanimously that the course provides a real competitive test. It is a fact that hardly ever has any player done exceptionally well in Augusta who has not had a quite respectable record in tournaments played elsewhere.
I believe it is true that with modern equipment and modern players, we cannot make a golf course more difficult or more testing for the expert simply by adding length. The players of today are about as accurate with a medium or long iron as with their pitching clubs. The only way to stir them up is by the introduction of subtleties around the greens.
The finishes of the Masters Tournament have almost always been dramatic and exciting. It is my conviction that this has been the case because of the make-or-break quality of the second nine of the golf course. This nine, with its abundant water hazards, each creating a perilous situation, can provide excruciating torture for the front runner trying to hang on. Yet it can yield a very low score to the player making a closing rush. It has been played in 30 during the tournament and in the medium 40s by players still in contention at the time.
I hope the following description will communicate a fair appreciation of the important playing features and characteristics of the golf course.