Masters: Chairman Ridley committed to continuous improvement

The Augusta National Golf Club is committed to exploring opportunities for continued changes to enhance the experience of the patrons and deepen the challenge for golfers at the Masters

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Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka walk down hole No. 1 fairway during Practice Round 3 for the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club, Wednesday, April 10, 2019.

10 April 2019: Since Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts gave expression to their imagination at the Augusta National Golf Club, tradition endured without the need to straightjacket the club that hosts the Masters tournament. On the eve of the 83rd Masters, chairman Fred Ridley reiterated the club’s commitment to innovation, evolution and continued change to make the tournament better with each passing season.

Ridley announced a number of ambitious infrastructure and digital-technology initiatives to add to the experience of an already outstanding Tournament. In an interesting remark, Ridley said, the tournament was “bound to a tradition of constant improvement,” citing the philosophy of Augusta National co-Founder Roberts’ that “nothing stands still.”

A new project involved building a tunnel under Washington Road to facilitate the construction of a new “state-of-the-art television and digital compound.”

“With the much-appreciated support from the city of Augusta and the state of Georgia, this summer we will begin a multiyear development of a portion of our project north of Washington Road,” Ridley said. “Site work is already under way, and in a matter of weeks we will commence construction of a tunnel connecting an area near Gate 1 to new development on the north side of the road.”

The work on the proposed Global Broadcast Village will not disrupt traffic. “It will improve the environment and services for those, who along with (reporters), help tell the story of the Masters,” Ridley said. “And through our ability to adapt and expand this facility, it will serve us well as we deliver quality content for our fans, anywhere, anytime.”

Some improvements shall start showing up this week on all Masters digital platforms.

“For the first time ever in golf, we will capture virtually every shot of every player during every competitive round,” he said. “This extensive library of content will be available on our website and apps through the leader board and track feature. Within minutes of every shot, this added content will allow our fans online to follow their favorite players from their drive off the first tee to their final putt on the 18th green.”

The chairman was obviously delighted over positive feedback from the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, which finished Saturday with a dramatic final-round duel between Jennifer Kupcho and Maria Fassi. Kupcho forced her way to victory with a blistering back nine that included an eagle on the 13th and a five-under score over the final six holes.

“Our latest grow-the-game effort brought 72 of the world’s top women amateur golfers together here in Augusta,” the Chairman said. “Thanks to our valuable partners and with the enthusiastic support of our membership and our exceptional staff, we believe we have created a platform that will not only increase interest in this important segment of our sport but in a larger sense will shine a bright light on the amazing accomplishments of women everywhere.”

“Our hope and our ambition is very simple: to make a difference,” he added, “and we believe the Augusta National Women’s Amateur is a good start.”

Besides the ANWA, initiatives such as the Drive, Chip and Putt into its seventh year now, the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship and the Latin America Amateur Championship are all helping Augusta grow the game.

“We believe all three of these collaborative efforts are achieving their stated goal: to inspire a new generation of golfers who will make this sport their passion for a lifetime,” Ridley said.

The big change on the course has come at Magnolia, the fifth hole. The hole was lengthened by 40 yards to 495 yards. The change repositioned the fairway bunkers so that they remain in play off the tee.

“An exciting by-product of this construction is the improvements to our patron experience,” Ridley said. “For the first time, we will route patrons down the right side of the fourth hole as well as behind the green, providing attractive vantage points for this challenging par 3. The new tee at No. 5 also provides for new viewing areas, so we believe these holes are much improved from the patron perspective.”

The club is also studying the feasibility of other changes to the course, including any potential opportunities to deepen the challenge at the 13th hole.

“Admittedly, that hole does not play as it was intended to play by Jones and MacKenzie,” Ridley said, referencing co-Founder Bobby Jones and Augusta National architect Alister MacKenzie. “The ‘momentus decision’ that I’ve spoken about, and that Bobby Jones often spoke about, of going for the green in two is, to a large extent, no longer relevant.”

In doing so, we fully recognize that the issue of distance presents difficult questions with no easy answers,” Ridley said. “But please know this – the USGA and the R&A do have the best interests of the game at heart. They recognize the importance of their future actions. You can be assured that we will continue to advocate for industry-wide cooperation and support of the governing bodies as they resolve this very important topic.”