Written by John Butler
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Topics: History, Grass

Thursday, 6 April 2006

image for Augusta To Be Turned Into One Big Bunker For 2007 Masters
An artist's conception of what Augusta will look like in 2007

Next year's US Masters will be contested on the first course in major championship history consisting entirely of sand. Tournament organisers announced on Tuesday that the grass across all 18 holes at the famous Augusta National will be uprooted to make way for approximately 100,000 tons of white, powdery sand.

The many picturesque banks of azaleas, wisteria, forsythia and dogwoods - all the vibrant foliage for which Augusta is famous - will also be hacked down and removed.

The move is seen as an attempt to curb the game's bigger hitters who, capitalising on the advancing technology of equipment, have made some holes "a little too reachable".

Augusta National chairman Hootie Johnson said: "Since the first Masters in 1934, this golf course has evolved and that process continues".

He added, "These new alterations will present a completely new type of challenge".

The par-72 Augusta National in its current guise contains 44 individual sand traps and six main water hazards. Next year's course will contain no water hazards and just the one bunker albeit a bunker measuring 609 acres.

Construction work will begin next month with the completion scheduled for around October. Organisers have given assurances the course will be ready to play come April of next year.

World Number 1, Tiger Woods has expressed concern about the planned alterations suggesting that a number of players already uncomfortable playing out of sand will be unable to compete with some of the sport's better bunker players.

He said, "I get the feeling a lot of players will feel uneasy playing on an all-sand course. Plus it remains to be seen how we can all adapt to putting across sand - could be difficult to judge the break... it'll certainly be interesting though".

Woods' rival, Texan Phil Mickelson, welcomed the changes, saying, "I think it should be fun. It'll certainly require a great degree of skill and nerve". Mickelson is acknowledged as one of the game's best bunker players.

The Par-72 Augusta National, the only permanent venue for any of golf's four major championships, was designed by Mackenzie and Jones and opened for play in 1932, but it's safe to say next years event will be unrecognisable from the one on which Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan et al made their name.

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