Nicklaus and Palmer shared their views on stage at Golf Digest’s recent Panelist Summit of golf course raters in Orlando. The resulting story, “A Crack in the Code,” can be viewed at now http://www.golfdigest.com/masters, along with video clips of Nicklaus‘ and Palmer’s comments and a review of Augusta National’s golf course changes by Golf Digest senior editor of architecture, Ron Whitten.
According to the article, Nicklaus and Palmer, who have ten Masters titles between them and are both Augusta National members, are disappointed they weren‘t consulted on any changes to the course that have occurred since 1998. The changes at Augusta National, including those to six holes last summer, include lengthening the course and tightening it by expanding bunkers, transplanting trees and introducing rough. Nicklaus and Palmer also believe the changes to Augusta National since 1998 have disrupted the architectural values of the course originally intended by its designers Bobby Jones and Alister Mackenzie.
“I think they‘ve ruined it from a tournament standpoint,” said Nicklaus. “Augusta has meant a ton to me in my lifetime. It’s a big, big part of my life, and I love it. That’s why I hate to see them change it.”
Arnold Palmer was also critical. “I love the place; just love everything that happens here. But now, I‘m not so sure. It’s changed dramatically from the course I knew the last 50 years.”
Tom Fazio, the architect who executed the changes, declined to respond and deferred his comments to the club, in keeping with Augusta policy.
Hootie Johnson, the chairman of Augusta National, said last year of the most recent course changes, “Our objective is to maintain the integrity and shot values of the golf course as envisioned by Bobby Jones and Alister Mackenzie. We will keep the golf course current with the times.”
Golf Digest’s April issue includes a companion story by senior editor Jaime Diaz defending the new changes to Augusta National. “In short, the Masters is about inspiring the most exciting golf talent, and it’s the specific demands of the course that are most responsible for its gaudy list of winners and scintillating leader boards… the club made the latest changes with the purpose of ensuring that players will be hitting longer and more challenging shots into the greens on the six altered holes.”
Golf Digest www.golfdigest.com