Only Whistling Straits, which played at 7,514 yards for last year's PGA Championship, has presented golfers with a longer challenge.
It wasn't enough to fend off today's long-hitting golfers, who have benefited from improvements in conditioning and equipment. Augusta National, which refuses to turn its rough into a U.S. Open-style quagmire, must rely on length and slick, tricky greens to keep scores from going absurdly low.
Club chairman Hootie Johnson insisted that no one has been scoreboard-watching at Augusta.
'Since the first Masters in 1934, this golf course has evolved and that process continues today,' Johnson said in a statement. 'As in the past, our objective is to maintain the integrity and shot values of the golf course as envisioned by Bobby Jones and Alister Mackenzie. Players' scores are not a factor. We will keep the golf course current with the times.'
The club is altering three holes - Nos. 1, 4 and 7 - on the front side and three more - 11, 15 and 17 - on the back.
The tee at the par-3 fourth will move back 30-35 yards, lengthening the hole to about 240 yards. The club was mindful of the late Jones' assessment in 1959, when he said the hole should require a long iron or even a wood. This year, most competitors teed off with a 5- or 6-iron.
'We want to keep the hole as it was intended to be played as a long par 3,' Johnson said.
Then there's No. 11, which leads into 'Amen Corner' and will become the first par-4 hole in Masters history that stretches beyond 500 yards. With the tee shifted back 10-15 yards, the hole will measure about 505 for next year's tournament.
Again, Jones' desires - 'the second shot is usually played with a 3-iron or strong club,' he once wrote - prompted the club to toughen the hole.
At its former distance, some players were going for the green with an 8-iron. Now, even the longest hitters will be forced to use at least a 6-iron with their second shot.
As for the other changes:
-No. 1: The tee will be moved back 15-20 yards, trees will be added to the left side of the fairway to require more accuracy with the driver, and the par-4 hole will stretch to 455 yards.
-No. 7: Adding 35-40 yards will transform the par-4 hole into a 450-yarder. Also, the green will be altered to create a possible right-rear pin position, while trees will be added along both sides of the fairway. 'At Nos. 1 and 7, we want to emphasize accuracy off the tee while continuing to maintain the integrity of the holes,' Johnson said.
-No. 15: The par-5 hole will be stretched to 530 yards by moving the tee back 25-30 yards and shifting it about 20 yards to the left.
-No. 17: The tee box is going back 10-15 yards, lengthening the par-4 hole to about 440.
'The changes on the second nine holes again stress accuracy off the tee and maintaining shot values,' Johnson said.
Construction work began this month, while the club is closed to golf for the summer. The changes should be completed by the fall.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.