US Open and Masters champion, Lloyd Mangrum, called it “the nastiest, meanest short hole in the world”. Jack Nicklaus called it “the hardest tournament hole in golf”.
After what happened there in the final round of The Masters last year, I doubt if anybody in the past 12-months has had the courage to ask Jordan Spieth what he thinks of it? Not a lot in a positive sense, I reckon, because Jordan would like to forget it.
But face it again he will and must and very soon too. One can only imagine how nervous it will make him feel. He will be fretting about it throughout his practice rounds and during many sleepless nights, which will become even more sleepless as the long, build-up to the imminent Masters Tournament draws to a close.
Thinking about the hole in question, the par-3, 12th at Augusta National too much won’t do him any good. Every week in golf is different, every day is different, every round is different; every hole is different.
Nobody in the whole history of golf has ever hit two consecutive golf shots that were exactly alike. Spieth could birdie that hole on the first three days this year and he will still look across at it nervously to study in which direction the flag is fluttering as he walks down the hill on Augusta’s 11th in the fourth round.
“What club should I hit? Will the wind change? Will I play safe or go baldheaded for another two?” (Of course, the decision might depend on where he is standing on the leaderboard.) Truthfully, probably the wrong approach.
I’m sure Nicklaus with six green jackets would advise: “Always, in every situation, play for the fattest part of the green and hope for the best that you might sink the putt. You can’t win it here but you can most certainly lose it.”
More green jackets have been lost at Augusta’s 12th than any other hole. It happens every year that somebody bombs out of contention right there, in or beside Rae’s Creek. Tom Weiskopf made a 13 once and ‘recovered’ the next day with a sparkling 7. Sam Snead once made an 8, tore up his card and withdrew.
Toney Penna hit the flagstick and still made 5. Gary Player putted off the green twice—on consecutive days.
In 1973, Sam's nephew, J.C. Snead double-bogeyed it in the final round and lost by a single shot to Tommy Aaron. In 1977, Hubert Green was four under par after 11-holes on Friday when he buried his tee shot in one of back bunkers, bladed his recovery across the green and into the creek, he dropped another ball in the bunker.
It, too, plugged but he scrambled it out to 20-feet and sank the putt for one of the ‘bravest’ double bogeys in the history of The Masters.
Needless to remark, Green made no further impression that year.
Even Augusta expert, Jack Nicklaus has had his trials and tribulations at the ‘nastiest of holes’; he double-bogeyed No. 12 on Saturday in 1981 and lost by two shots to Tom Watson the following day.
Even when Nicklaus won his sixth and last green jacket in 1986, he managed to butcher the 12th getting away with an ugly bogey in his unforgettable back nine of 30-strokes.
Gary Player had the Masters ‘won’ in 1962 until he messed up the 12th on Sunday and finished in a three-way tie. In the playoff the next day, he arrived at No. 12 with a three-shot lead he bogeyed it again and lost. In 1987, Jodie Mudd bogeyed the hole twice and doubled it once and lost by a shot. No wonder we haven’t heard of him since.
How is it possible that a 155-yards long hole can cause so many problems? The green is nine yards deep and 35-yards wide. There are three bunkers guarding it: two behind the green in and one in front.
The front bunker isn't too bad but the ones at the back are hellish; almost guaranteeing you a downhill lie, which is exactly what you don't need with Rae’s Creek at the other side of the shallow green.
Bobby Jones, who helped Dr. Alister MacKenzie to design the golf course wrote: “On 12, distance must be gauged very accurately, and the wind sweeping down along Rae’s Creek is deceptive to the player standing on the tee about to hit...once the tee shot has been played into the creek, the short pitch to the shallow green is terrifying.”
The wind Jones spoke about cost Arnold Palmer the 1959 Masters. Leading on the last day, Palmer hit a shot that the wind knocked into the creek. He pitched too far after taking a penalty drop and wound up with a 6. No matter where the flag is always play for the centre of the green is the sound Nicklaus dictum and who am I, or Jordan Spieth, to argue?
Finally, only three holes in one have been recorded at No. 12 during The Masters. In 1947, Claude Harmon (Butch’s father); in 1959, an amateur William Hyndman III and Curtis Strange aced it in 1988 and that’s all, folks. It seems a puny return for what appears a puny 155-yards on paper. Puny my foot!
Words of the Wise
Every golfer derives a special pleasure from playing one golf course over any other - Bob Jones