How to Master Augusta National Golf Club

Bubba Watson and Jordan Spieth have won three of the last seven Masters. So who better to guide you through the intricacies  of Augusta National Golf Club than the 2012, 2014 and 2015 champions. 

Other than the fact, of course, that they both have Green Jackets hanging in their no doubt expansive closets, it is difficult to assert too many similarities between Bubba Watson and Jordan Spieth. The 2012 and 2014 Masters champion Watson is a tall, lean, self-taught lefty who invokes incredulity with the ferocity of his driving and the extremity of his shot-shaping. In many ways, he is the epitome of the modern big-hitting Tour pro who can bring even the longest course to its knees with his raw power. Watson is also mercurial, tetchy and, dare we say, at times a little too precious.

The 2015 Masters champion Spieth is the articulate, impeccably mannered corporate-darling poster boy of the modern game. However, his affable demeanour disguises an intense killer instinct. Fellow Texan Ben Crenshaw’s first encounter with the 20-year-old Spieth left the 1984 and 1995 Masters champion reflecting that it was like “looking into the eyes of Wyatt Earp”. Spieth cannot overpower a course like Watson, and so relies on good old-fashioned preparation and course management to build a score. Blessed with a stunning short-game and a putting stroke to die for, he’s at his most comfortable on and around the greens. 

It’s not surprising, then, to discover that Watson and Spieth take wildly contrasting approaches to overcoming the challenges provided by an often uncompromising Augusta National. Golf World writer Brian Wacker caught up with Watson and Spieth in Hawaii last month to talk to both players about how they play each and every hole. Below, you’re given an all-access pass into the minds of two of the game’s modern greats and an invaluable lesson in strategy and course management. 

Hole 1 - 445 yards, par 4

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Bubba: ”Depending on the weather and the strength and direction of the wind, I’ll hit driver or 3-wood off the tee. Either way, I’m trying to cut it off the right fairway bunker back toward the fairway. That bunker is playable to a degree, but you really don’t want to be in it if you can help it.”
Jordan: ”On many holes, I like to work my way back from the pin to the tee. But this isn’t one of them. From the fairway, the only ‘gettable’ pin is the Sunday flag, which the last couple of years has been middle right. Other than that, I’m playing to the centre of the green and looking for a two-putt par.”


Hole 2 - 575 yards, par-5

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Bubba: “On many holes, I like to work my way back from the pin to the tee. But this isn’t one of them. From the fairway, the only ‘gettable’ pin is the Sunday flag, which the last couple of years has been middle right. Other than that, I’m playing to the centre of the green and looking for a two-putt par.”
Jordan: “Unlike Bubba I’ll hit 3-wood to stay short of the sand. I can reach the green but I rarely try. I either hook it around the trees left and short when the pin is right, or flare it right of the right bunker if it’s left. Either one leaves a 40-yard pitch and a 10-footer for birdie at worst.”


Hole 3 - 350 yards, par-4

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Bubba: ”This hole is so tough. I might lay back short of the bunkers off the tee when the Sunday pin is in the far left corner, but lately I’ve been hitting driver here because I seem to make more pars that way. This hole isn’t about making birdie; it’s about getting your par to keep the round going.”
Jordan: “If the pin is toward the back of the green, I’ll hit driver. If it’s left or in the front, I’ll lay farther back to have a full shot with something that I can get up in the air and stop quickly. The green is a very tricky one for me. It runs hard right-to-left and a little towards the back as well.”

Hole 4 - 240 yards, par-3

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Bubba: “You’re really just trying to hit the green. It’s such a difficult hole. When the pin is on the right, the guys will sometimes hit it in the left bunker on purpose because that’s the safest play and you’re fearful of other things that can happen if you miss it right or long.”
Jordan: “Just like Bubba said, you hit to the centre of the green, take your two putts and get out of there! You’d take a par here every single time. The most ‘gettable’ pin during the week for me is just over the greenside bunker on the right where the ball can feed down towards the hole.” 


Hole 5 - 495 yards, par-4

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Bubba: “The left fairway bunker is very much in play for me off the tee so I try to hit 3-wood to the flat area short of it so I can see the green. The green is so tricky that, realistically, I’m aiming for a flat 10ft circle in the middle of the putting surface. If you end up hitting it close and make birdie, then you got lucky. Anyone who says they’re not trying to hit to that 10-foot circle there on the green is lying to you.”
Jordan: “Same here, most likely a 3-wood off the tee, which leaves me a 7 or 8-iron in. Again, I play to the middle of the green unless the pin is front. The pins are normally placed above a massive false front so you play to the middle because that leaves you an uphill putt to every pin. You can get a lot of 15-footers that you can make on those greens. When you don’t have to deal with the ridges you can be aggressive, but it’s very important to stay below the hole.”

Hole 6 - 180 yards, par-3

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Bubba: “When the pin is on the left this is a hole where you’re thinking birdie. I made birdie when it was on the right in the opening round in 2012, but in all honesty you’d take par here all four days. Depending on the weather it can be anything from an 8 or 9-iron to a 6-iron for me.” 
Jordan: “The pin is gettable if it’s front left, and if it’s back left I’m trying to get it in close. But if you miss, make sure you miss short. The right pin, I’m just trying to get it on the correct tier. Normally, it’s around a 7-iron. It’s a tough shot when the pin is in the front but if you pull it off you’re rewarded.”


Hole 7 - 450 yards, par-4

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Bubba: “I often hit what I call a “dink” driver. It’s never a full driver for me, though, because the fairway narrows and you’re trying to hit into the green from a sharp downslope. It’s a birdie hole when the pin is in the bowl and you’re hitting a short-iron in, but you must be in the fairway.” 
Jordan: “Like Bubba says, it’s all about the tee shot. The narrow fairway slopes left-to-right and the trees cut in both sides. I hit driver to the flat spot then a wedge or 9-iron. Two pins you can get at where the ball feeds down are front right or middle left. I’ll aim at the others only if I have a good yardage.” 


Hole 8 - 570 yards, par-5

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Bubba: “When it’s playing downwind I can get over the bunkers off the tee. I’m just trying to hit it in the middle of the fairway and avoid those bunkers because that gives you a good scoring opportunity by being able to reach the green in two or by leaving yourself a fairly short-range chip.”
Jordan: “Some days the green is reachable in two, some days it’s not. I try to miss in a location where it’s an easier up-and-down. For the back left pin, you can be way right and pitch across. Miss left and you don’t have a chance. All the par 5s at Augusta are about missing it in the right location.”


Hole 9 - 460 yards, par-4

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Bubba: ”I aim at the right trees and cut it down the hill. The approach is difficult for everybody but I’m trying to hit a fade off a hook lie with a wedge! You can hit it just onto the three-tier green and have a 60-footer up two levels, or come up short and see it spin off. I try to carry it to the second level.”
Jordan: “I try to drive it down the right. If it turns over I’ll get more distance and if it doesn’t it’s better than being left. Into the green it’s the opposite for me than Bubba. The lie encourages a left-to-right shot but the green also goes left to right so you have to turn one right-to-left to hold it on there.” 


Hole 10 - 495 yards, par-4

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Bubba: “I swing away and hit a big slice to catch the slot that will help it run down the hill. When the pin is at the front I’m trying to protect par because the ball can spin back into the fairway and leave a difficult chip. The middle and back pins I go at and try to leave myself inside 20 feet for birdie.”
Jordan: “I try to hit a big hook with the driver or 3-wood. It’s tricky; I have to commit to my start line well to the right. I usually have a 7-iron in and I like to play a little hold shot – a left-to-right shot. That green pitches back-to-front but it seems to putt quicker to the back, so that’s also odd.”


Hole 11 - 505 yards, par-4

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Bubba: “I got lucky with the ice storm they had in 2014. It took away some of the tops of the trees so now I can aim at the trees off the tee and cut it because I can get over those trees, no problem. Even with the new tee pushed back, depending on the weather, I’ve hit anywhere between a wedge and a 5-iron into the green. Most of the time, though, it’s a 7 or 8-iron for me whereas some of the other guys will have longer clubs into the green.”
Jordan: “Because it’s such a tough, long hole you try to get a little bit extra out of the tee shot, but that’s not the way to go about it. Make four here and you’re in business. With the right-side pins you really don’t want to bail out. You need to stay in the shot and if it funnels to the left side of the green you can still two-putt. Miss it right and you’ll likely have that same putt for par instead of for birdie. On the left pins you have a little room to bail out.”


Hole 12 - 155 yards, par-3

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Bubba: “I’m just trying to hit the green. Most of the time it’s a wedge or 9-iron. Certain pins are more of a birdie opportunity for me than others. I prefer the pins on the left side of the green. When it’s on the right, I’m playing much safer and simply trying to land it in the middle of the green.” 
Jordan: “The wind swirls in the trees but once the ball gets to its peak trajectory, it’ll get hit by whatever the direction is on the day. So play it over the centre bunker and hit the green. If I get a good number to any of the pins on a calm day, other than the Sunday right pin, I’ll go at it with a short iron.”


Hole 13 - 510 yards, par-5

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Bubba: “I play a big slice. If it’s downwind, I can get over the trees and leave something really short into the green. From the fairway it’s a great birdie or eagle chance. I never try to attack the back pin. I’m mostly just trying to land it in the centre and have at worst a two-putt.” 
Jordan: “I don’t try to get too fancy with the tee shot. I usually hit 3-wood. It’s been more successful for me to get a hook around the corner. I then have a long iron in and a big decision as to whether I go for it or not. It’s a very tough shot. Anywhere on that green and you’ve conquered the hole.” 


Hole 14 - 440 yards, par-4

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Bubba: “I just cut it up the fairway to leave a pitching wedge or sand wedge into a two-tiered green. The right pin you aim left and let it funnel down off the slope, which I did in 2012 and made birdie. The left pin is delicate – push it and it’s an impossible chip. So I play safe and usually leave a 30-40 footer. “
Jordan: “I aim down the right centre and turn it over. It’s a crazy green but you can make birdie because the ball feeds down to the hole from the left. Miss on the wrong tier and you leave a difficult putt.
I prefer to miss right. Miss left and the ball will go straight down the hill. It won’t stop.”


Hole 15 - 530 yards, par-5

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Bubba: “I’m trying to hit a dead straight, low bullet so I don’t get stuck behind the trees like I did back in 2014. Sometimes, if the weather’s bad, you can’t even get to those trees. In that case, I play a 3 or 4-iron and try to cut it off the right trees. Everyone has a chance to reach the green in two if you hit a halfway decent tee shot. The front centre part of the green is the biggest part of the green, so I just try to hit it in there and two-putt.”
Jordan: “It’s a pretty easy drive, but I try to hit it down the right centre for the best angle into the green and to avoid being blocked out. Again, Bubba has a big advantage here. I usually have a hybrid or a 4-iron into that green. You can go long but that leaves a difficult pitch on back or left pins. It’s a difficult green to hold. The right bunker can be a good bail out because I can get to any pin from there. Hit two really good shots and you can have a look at birdie.”


Hole 16 - 170 yards, par-3

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Bubba: “When the pin is front left or back left, it’s just a perfect cut shot for me with a mid-iron. I seem to play those kinds of pins well. Everybody in the field has trouble with the front right and back right pin positions, so I’m just aiming into the bowl in the middle of the green.” 
Jordan: “My favourite hole. We’ll see the back left pin on Thursday or Friday, then we’ll see it towards the middle on Sunday. I try to keep the ball below the hole on all of them. The back right pin is tough to birdie but it’s an easy par because if I’m down the ridge I know the speed and line.” 


Hole 17 - 440 yards, par-4

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Bubba: “When it’s downwind, I often hit 3-wood because the fairway narrows so much. Either way, I aim at the trees and cut it. From the fairway it’s a birdie chance with a short-iron. The back right pin is tough. If I pull it, the ball goes down the slope and leaves a difficult chip back up to the hole.”
Jordan: “Driver down the middle, find where the pin is and hit in to that side. On back left pins I want to get all the way back because the green goes downhill. It’s easier to miss long and chip back up to the hole than face a downhill 20-footer. The uphill right pin is still wicked fast.”


Hole 18 - 465 yards, par-4

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Bubba: “This is difficult because it’s tight and my cut goes straight at the traps. Last year, I hammered a 3-wood at the sand knowing I couldn’t reach. The longer shot in takes away some advantage but I’m still hitting a shorter iron than others. On the back pins, you play smart and take a two-putt.”
Jordan: “I try to hit a left-to-right tee shot and fade it off the bunker. Again, I want to know where the pin is so I can get at it from the best angle. I really just want to hit it in the centre of the green either on the bottom or top shelf. If I’m on the right level I can make birdie from any of the pins.”