The Augusta National Golf Club: Alister MacKenzie’s Masterpiece
Sports Media Group, March 2005
Hardcover | 10-1/2 x 10-1/2 inches | 224 pages | b/w & duotone illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-1587262586 | $35.00
This book reveals the true genius of the Augusta National Golf Club like no other-documenting its original design, chronicling the architectural and design changes over time, and analyzing the philosophies of its creators, Alister MacKenzie and Bobby Jones. The Augusta National Golf Club will help you understand why the course has a reputation of legendary proportion and how MacKenzie single-handedly changed forever the way courses are built.
Golf courses, like any designed landscapes, change over time: contours erode, trees grow and they die. And just like parks and gardens, human uses and desires reshape landscapes. For golf courses, such changes often relate to technological developments in clubs and balls, which have increased the length of accuracy of shots, particularly with professionals in the last few decades. Those developments are dramatic for a course as old as Augusta National, created by golfer Bobby Jones and golf course architect Alister MacKenzie in the early 1930s. The Masters, the annual tournament held annually at Augusta since 1934, has been tweaked numerous times since to keep the course challenging, while at the same time retaining the original design’s intentions and character. Put another way, if Jones and Mackenzie were to magically rise from the dead and wander over to Augusta, would they still recognize their creation? (I’d say yes.)
I’m featuring this book and pondering such thoughts since the Masters is being played this weekend. While most of the attention today is squarely on a potential fifth green jacket for Tiger Woods, who starts Sunday in a tie for second place, much of the pre-tournament coverage had focused on changes to one hole: the fifth. The long par-4 features new bunker locations, new trees, and an extra 40 yards, pushing it to 490 yards. The changes are dramatic but indicative of what the course has been subject to at numerous times since the 1930s. Stan Byrdy’s The Augusta National Golf Club presents a history of the famous design by Jones and MacKenzie, but it is most valuable for its hole-by-hole account of design changes that many Masters watchers might not have been aware of. Illustrations by William Lanier III give side-by-side comparisons of the original and ca. 2003 layouts of each hole. What about changes within the last 15 years? There’s David Sowell’s third edition of The Masters: A Hole-by-Hole History of America’s Golf Classic, published just last month, though it is more interested in how pros have played the course over time rather than how keepers of the course have modified it in response to them.
Stan Byrdy was born and raised in Youngstown, Ohio, and is a graduate of Youngstown State University. Beginning with Jack Nicklaus’ historic win in 1986, he served as golf analyst for WJBF-TV in Augusta, Georgia, for “Masters Reports,” an award-winning local program featuring daily Masters Tournament coverage.