No architect since Alister MacKenzie has left more of an imprint on Augusta National than Tom Fazio, who’s been involved in a number of lengthening and tightening projects for the club over the years. Though those subjects weren’t open for discussion, the 69-year-old designer did agree to talk to Senior Editor Tom Cunneff—after getting approval from Augusta National—about what he loves most about the course and how it’s influenced his own work.
This will be my 43rd straight Masters. They kind of blend together. I still remember Cliff Roberts, Charlie Price, and Herbert Warren Wind under the tree. Every part of it is so special. All the memories bundle up together like they happened at the same time. It’s the right time of the year, too, with the flowers. Then there’s all the champions of the past. It’s the total package. Is there anything better? I can’t pick one thing. I just love the whole environment, the setting, the history.
From a design standpoint, the greens are very strong. I also like the variety of the golf holes. I like the fact that there are short golf holes, short by today standards anyway. It’s been narrowed a little with the first cut and some trees but the ball and clubs go straighter. People said when the course was lengthened that it was only going to help long hitters, but look how many so-called average length players have won the tournament since 1999. Look how many shorter hitters play very well.
Dan Jenkins said something about the discussion of the changes because of the golf ball. It was something to the effect that Augusta is like everyone’s own personal golf course because they know it so well. They watch it for hours and hours every year. They’ve never been there, but they know it. There are very few places like that. People can visualize every part of it.
I’m not into copying even what I’ve done in the past, but the influence is the beauty, the setting, the wow factor, the views, the open spaces. Not many people realize how few fairway bunkers there are. There are only nine on the front, four of which are on the 3rd hole alone, and there aren’t any on the back except the two on 18. The MacKenzie bunker on the 10th doesn’t count. I’ve had clients ask after looking at my plan, “Don’t you think we need more bunkers on this course?" And my automatic replay is, “How many do you think they have at Augusta National?” They just don’t believe it. They have to count them. But then you go to one of the great courses in the world, Oakmont, and look how many they have. They have four times as many and it works for them, so there’s no standard.