White Dogwood: Augusta National Golf Club's Toughest Hole

The 11th hole at Augusta National, statistically-speaking, is the toughest on the golf course.

The 11th hole at Augusta National, statistically-speaking, is the toughest on the golf course.

How to approach Augusta National Golf Club’s toughest test: White Dogwood, the 505-yard, par-4 11th. 

When asked what he made of Augusta’s 11th hole, the world’s greatest ever golfer laughed and offered a word of warning. “Be really careful there or you’ll walk away with a big number,” said Jack Nicklaus. It’s easy to see why. Up until 2002, White Dogwood had played as long as 455 yards, with a generous bailout area on the right-hand side of the fairway. But, having witnessed various big-hitters drive to within a short pitch of the green, Masters Tournament Chairman Hootie Johnson resolved to toughen its defences before the 2002 tournament.

“Our objective is to keep this golf course current,” he announced, as Tom Fazio arrived to change nine of the holes. The yardage on 11 went up to 505 yards and 36 mature pines were transplanted down the right. Several of those trees were subsequently removed to enhance ‘patron viewing’, but the hole has remained unchanged since 2006.

As the winds that haunt Amen Corner do their best to intervene, the hole snakes right then left to a green flanked by water to its left and a bunker to the right. Little wonder that White Dogwood has been Augusta’s toughest hole statistically since 2005. In 2015 it surrendered just 22 birdies and no eagles in all four rounds, taking back 90 bogeys and 13 double bogeys or worse in return. In 2016, expect a similar story. Because as Nicklaus warned, the 11th is an accident waiting to happen.

1 The Central Line
“First, you deal with the fear,” said Stewart Cink. “That’s how you start the 11th. The fairway is so narrow that you’re just aiming for the centre; even if you (end up in) the rough, you’re just hoping you stay between the trees.” Bernhard Langer bemoans the changes. “You used to have an option to go way left or way right,” he remembered. “I used to argue all the time with Seve as to which was the better side to come into the green from. Now the right side is taken away. It seems like they took 40 or 50 yards away from the fairway.”

2 Approach With Caution
Before Fazio’s tweaks, players used to play to the right edge of the green or beyond, to leave a long putt or chip then tap in for par. But the ground being lowered to the right of the green has changed things. “You rarely go for a flag unless it’s on the right and then you still have to be disciplined,” says Cink. And lucky. “Darren Clarke once hit what looked to be a great shot in that was going to pitch short and bounce up,” recalls caddie Billy Foster. “But it hit one of the humps and flew left into water.”

3 Slope Of No Hope
Somewhat nondescript by Augusta National Golf Club standards, the 11th green is around 50 yards deep and features one general slope – back right to front left, that sucks balls towards the pond. Augusta’s hardest hole is even tougher when the pin is positioned to the left side of this green, as it tends to be on the first two days. Most opt for a cautious approach, heading for the relative safety of the dry right-hand side. By the final round, with the whole world watching, the pin position is usually set to the front and right of the green, encouraging the more controlled iron players to take a more attacking approach.

The Champion’s Approach
In 2015, Jordan Spieth sprayed his four tee shots across the full width of the fairway, and on Sunday he arrowed his drive into the new trees on the right. Each time he played safe with a second shot to the right side of the green. The champion made a solid par every time.

Floyd’s Choke
It was into this pond, back in 1990, that Raymond Floyd pulled his 7-iron approach on the second extra hole to lose his play-off against Nick Faldo. “The pressure got to me,” he rued.

The Mize Miracle
The point from which Larry Mize chipped in to beat Greg Norman in a sudden-death play-off in 1987. The American’s approach had left him with a 140-foot chip, across level ground that now sits three or four feet lower than the green. The ball pitched just short of the green, bounced twice and hurtled to the hole. A birdie three secured a Green Jacket.

Nick Wright