Television Misses What Makes Augusta National So Hard
There are some folks that say that watching a big-time college or NFL football game live isn't as good an experience as watching on TV. As a season-ticket holder for both the LSU Tigers and the New Orleans Saints, I respectfully disagree.
There are also those who say that watching The Masters on your giant flat-panel TV while lounging on your couch is better than being there in person. I won't argue that point one way or the other, but I can tell you one thing you will miss on your XBR: Slope. It's the main thing that makes Augusta National the incredible course that it is.
TV flattens out the hills and bumps and knobs that give this course its teeth. For example, the second shot at 18 is straight up very steep hill, and because of that severe slope you can't see much, if any, green from the fairway. All you can see is a sea of people, a TV tower, two big bunkers, and a little yellow pin in the middle of it all. Trust me, if you ever get to see it live, you'll realize how good a shot Sandy Lyle played out of that fairway bunker and how Greg Norman could easily do something silly.
The hill below the first tee is so steep, you can kick a Nerf soccer ball 80 yards off of it, and if snow ever fell on No. 10 [pictured above], you could go sledding right down the fairway. And if you can't fly your tee ball 280 yards, you will have several uphill lies to flags that are even farther up the hill. If you go the Chip Beck route and lay up on No. 15, you'll be greeted with a right-to-left downhill lie to a super-shallow green with water front and back. Good luck.
If the slope in the fairways wasn't intimidating enough, there's the utter fear that results from pros faced with navigating pitch shots off tight lies to Augusta's ultra-quick, sloping greens. Some of those shots are so tough that I couldn't pull them off more than two out of 10 times in a casual round.
Don't miss No. 1 long, or No. 1 short. You'll wish you didn't. If you miss No. 13 left and the pin is left, it's 4th down. Miss No. 14 long and left, and you may get a free pass to a 30-yard come-backer from the fairway. I saw first-time Masters participant Ted Potter Jr. putt two balls off green at 14 and send one short chip off the putting surface as well. He's a PGA Tour winner, folks.
Television just can't capture that essential essence of one of the greatest courses in the world. The announcers will try to tell you about it; they do it every year. But until you get a chance to see if for yourself -- and I hope someday you do -- you'll just have to take my word for it: The National is some kind of tough.
Brian Manzella is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher.
(Photo: Fred Vuich / Sports Illustrated)