Posted March 25, 2014 by John Baintree in News

How Tough Is Augusta National?


Golf courses across the United States, Asia and Europe are rated for handicapping by applying the USGA Course Rating and Slope Rating system in use for more than 30 years the system attempts to apply an objective measurement to the complex matter of a courses difficulty.

Given that the requirement to rate according to this system was enshrined un law as long ago as 1991 it seems odd that of all the courses in the United States, Augusta National still holds out and refuses to be officially rated.

One time cub chairman Hord Hardin was on record as saying “We don’t need a handicap system. Our members already know each other’s games”. So with comments like this in the public domain, securing a rating for famous course became an underground challenge for the nation’s most subversive golfers.

Having breached the legendary security at the club (rumoured to be in place to stop lady players storming the grounds) a bunch of intrepid raters met one sunny morning. The rating system then used took into account topography, fairway, recoverability, water hazards, trees, bunkers, greens and the psychological impact of the course.

The results of the unofficial survey were unsurprising. Most U.S. Open courses rate at 110 against a rating of 72 for standard U.S. courses. Augusta National scored a rating of 148 making it the most difficult in the country.

Fast forward some twenty years and things in Augusta don’t seem to be changing much. Apart from the layout of the course, that is. Following the 1991 unofficial rating – which so favoured the club – you might have expected the club to allow an official update to the rating.

So what exactly is it that makes the course such a tough one, even for seasoned professionals? Watching the course from the comfort of your home hides one of the most difficult aspects of the course. – slopes. TV tends to flatten out the bumps and certainly fails to give a true players-eye-view of the course.

Take the famous 18th hole – the second shot here is up a very steep hill that completely obscures the view beyond the top. This makes the penultimate shot on the course one for those who have the strongest nerve. Similarly the first hole has a downward slope so steep that it would make a challenging sledding track, should snow ever fall in this part of the world.