Each spring when The Masters rolls around every golfer worth his Footjoys feels a stirring inside. Much of it is the anticipation of our first major but plenty of it is just because, well…it’s The Masters.
This tournament, although the youngest of the four majors has grown to be the most beloved by fans and players alike. Jack Nicklaus said it very well, “I don’t think about winning the Masters as part of the slam. You want to win the Masters because of what it means to the game.”
And not to disparage the U.S Open (the toughest course) or the Open Championship (the oldest) or the PGA Championship (the best field) because The Masters is played on Augusta National each year we have grown to know and appreciate that course and the history and traditions that go with it.
If you think you have seen or heard everything there is to know about Augusta National think again.
In the Spring issue of Links Magazine James A. Frank shows us pieces of Augusta that have never been seen by the public and have been locked away for 80 years.
In The Lost Drawings of Augusta National Frank has uncovered two actual sketches by Augusta National designer, Alister MacKenzie which he scribbled while working with Bobby Jones back when Augusta was still just a dream.
It seems that the good Dr. Mackenzie sent two drawings of holes he thought were never going to be built to his good friend Dr. David Scott-Taylor and they stayed locked away until recently.
MacKenzie had made no sketches of any individual holes at Augusta and these two not only contain his signature but that of Jones also. The current owner is working to sell them at auction and I can only imagine the price these will command.
Why are these drawings—which LINKS is showing to the public for the first time—important? Besides being the only individual hole sketches by the architect, they bear the signatures of both MacKenzie and Jones, and are dated October 7, 1931, which, according to contemporary reports, was one day after the two men began laying out the course. So the design was fresh in their minds. Also, each sketch has its own significance, and together they add to the storied history of one of golf’s most famous venues.
Apparently Mackenzie had designed his 4th hole (now the famous par 5 13th) as a 440 yard par 4. But Jones and partner Clifford Roberts wanted it as a par five. Amazingly in his communication to Dr. Scott-Taylor he beamed about his 4th hole as his favorite on the course.
His sketch of the now famous par 3 16t hole (his 7th) was labeled “Alternative Plan” and the existing hole only came into being after the original hole was reworked. And it is exactly as MacKenzie’s newly found sketch shows it.
Ironically, in this year when Augusta National seeks to acquire land to lengthen the par-five 13th hole, one of the drawings relates to that hole (labeled the 4th in the days before the nines were reversed for the 1935 Masters): MacKenzie’s intent was for the hole to be a 440-yard dogleg par four. He called for three bunkers between the front and right side of the green and Rae’s Creek, large mounds on the other side of the creek, and a large bunker on the right side of the fairway where it turned left.
“The par 4 plan was just his favorite hole on the course,” Scott-Taylor wrote in his journal a few months after receiving the drawings and having lunch with MacKenzie and their wives in London. (The journal and letters were in the vault with the drawings all these years.) “He is so proud of that 4th hole, he expounded on its greatness and merit.”
While the 13th hole still shows MacKenzie’s design principles—and genius—at work, it is the drawing of what was the 7th hole, now the 16th, that is more noteworthy. It is titled “Alternative Plan,” yet it shows the hole precisely as it exists today. How it came to be raises some questions, particularly about Bobby Jones.
When the course opened, the par-three 16th was a fairly humdrum affair. It played about 145 yards with Rae’s Creek on its right side, two bunkers on the left, and no lake. Competitors in early Masters complained that it was too easy, so in 1947, Jones hired Robert Trent Jones Sr. to create a new hole. Young recently asked Bobby and Rees Jones, Trent’s sons, how their father came up with the design.
“Their dad told them that he was having lunch with Bobby Jones when the subject was brought up,” Young says. “[Bobby] Jones took a napkin and had Trent sketch how he—Bobby—wanted the hole to look after it was rebuilt.” Curiously, it was exactly the same design as MacKenzie’s Alternative Plan.
There can be no question that Bobby Jones knew where the design had come from: In his letter to Scott-Taylor that accompanied the drawings, MacKenzie said it was Jones who requested a second concept and he signed the drawing of it.
Yet Bobby Jones never credited MacKenzie with the idea.
These drawings are so very rare and certainly will be snapped up for a huge sum by some well heeled golf fanatic. But thanks to Links Magazine and Frank we can at least get an appreciation for the passion and skills that MacKenzie had.
If you’re a fan of golf, The Masters, Augusta National, Bobby Jones, history or open to something truly amazing and unique you have to read this article.
This is simply a remarkable find and a wonderful piece by Frank.