AUGUSTA, Ga. – It was the first question Augusta National chairman Billy Payne was asked on Wednesday and he acknowledged it is the “subject de jour.”
Reports have been swirling in recent weeks that the club was negotiating with adjacent Augusta Country Club to purchase a parcel of land in order to move the tee back on the 13th hole.
“That was right off the bat, wasn’t it?” Payne laughed when asked about the iconic par 5. “As we do every year, and historically forever, we are always looking at options for numerous of our holes ... As a consequence, 13 is one of those holes we are studying. We have made no decision whatsoever.”
Payne also addressed the possible expansion of the fourth and fifth holes, which had been landlocked by Berckmans Road to the west but this year’s rerouting of that road has given the club room to grow.
On Tuesday, Jack Nicklaus was asked about the possible expansion of the 13th hole and he offered a few options before reverting to a familiar lament.
“I think with the length the guys hit today, the simplest solution is change the frigging golf ball,” Nicklaus said. “What's happened is the golf ball has not changed a lot since probably 2005 or 2006, I suppose. As I said, they've basically hit the limits to that, but the guys haven't hit the limits.”
The idea of a “Masters golf ball,” which would not perform as well as modern golf balls, has been discussed for many years, but Payne continued to largely dismiss that idea.
“We retain all options. At the same time, it's not something we would want to do [implement a Masters golf ball],” Payne said. “We would only resort to equipment as the last resort because we believe that the governing bodies in golf deal with that very effectively.”