Another aspect of the wonderful event that is the Masters centers around Augusta National Golf Club, and the iconic course that was designed by Bobby Jones and Dr. Alister MacKenzie. Perhaps no one is more qualified to discuss that design and the changes that have come over the years than Golf Digest Contributing Editor Geoff Shackelford, who joins host Mitch Laurance on Golf Connections and “A Month of Masters”, presented by East Coast Golf Management.
Mitch begins the show by thanking Billy Mac for his “Augusta, Sweet Augusta”, which always provides a great backdrop for the conversation to follow. Mitch intros Geoff to listeners, noting that in addition to writing for Golf Digest, Geoff is also a regular contributor to Golf Channel’s ‘Morning Drive’, and is an award-winning author on the subject of golf course architecture, especially on the legendary designs of the “Golden Age of Golf Course Architecture” from the 1920’s, notably his book “Grounds for Golf”.
Mitch asks Geoff about his introduction to the game, and Geoff explains his years growing up, playing for the Pepperdine University golf team. Mitch asks Geoff when he knew he was not only hooked on the game, but on course design. Geoff’s answer about drawing golf holes and falling in love with architecture explains it all. Find out why George Thomas’ book “Golf Course Architecture in America” was instrumental to Geoff, and about the connection Geoff had to Thomas when Geoff’s father joined Riviera Country Club in LA, a Thomas design. (GOLF CONNECTIONS! Just sayin.) Hear why the chance to play Riviera repeatedly was so important, why it leant itself to Geoff’s growth as a course design student, and how it contributed to his love of the game in general. Mitch asks if Geoff is excited that we’re able to see Riviera year after year on the PGA Tour, which leads to an interesting discussion about how Geoff feels people are starting to be more connected to the subtleties of great courses and their designs, thanks to the increased coverage and discussions.
Mitch then asks Geoff to connect Augusta National, Bob Jones, Alister MacKenzie and St. Andrews and its Old Course. Geoff then explains why the Old Course is considered to be the bible for course designers, about an essay he just finished for Golf World that takes certain course designers to task in the modern game, and why the Old Course is so tied to Augusta National. He talks about MacKenzie’s ties to the course, why Jones struggled with it at first, and why it’s worth repeated attempts to play there and learn.
Mitch then moves on to Augusta National, and its original design, noting Geoff’s book “Grounds for Golf” again, which he says is a truly fun and informative book written for all golfers. He asks Geoff about various aspects of architecture that make it appealing, starting with strategy. Geoff’s explanation of different elements of great course design is fascinating, as he begins to connect Augusta to Bob Jones’ love of St. Andrews’ elements (and credits David Owens, Augusta historian), tells a great a story about Jones’ design of the 11th hole and why a round played by Jones with his father was of particular interest in his life. Geoff explains why comedy and whimsy is so important to great holes and why laughing at ourselves is also paramount. Again, a unique way of looking at the game and its courses, typical of Geoff’s point of view. Again, he connects Bob Jones and St. Andrews to the whimsical nature of the game, and talks of his own course design work with Gil Hanse (designer of the new 2016 Olympic Course) follows the same pattern.
Mitch then asks Geoff about the nature of temptation at Augusta, and he discusses the role of temptation on Amen Corner, at the 12th and 13th hole specifically. Mitch and Geoff talk about Ben Crenshaw and his Dad, and why their relationship is a perfect example of what makes the holes at Augusta so totally enthralling. Mitch then asks Geoff about the changes made over the years to Augusta National, and Geoff explains why those changes are unique in the game. Mitch fills Geoff, and listeners, in on a way to see every change to the course on one timeline, found at historyshots.com/augusta.
In closing, Mitch asks Geoff about what it’s like to go to Augusta now, as a course designer and expert, and Geoff explains why sometimes it’s difficult on certain holes. He explains why he considers #11 at Augusta a complete travesty relative to Jones/MacKenzie original design, and why the spirit of the course, even after the changes made over the years. Geoff talks about the lengthening of the course, which holes are ‘too long’ even now, and why success on other holes has been accomplished. Geoff talks about how the people at Augusta are really connecting to the original vision and how that vision will eventually be accomplished at The National in the next 10-15 years.
Mitch closes the show by mentioning Geoff’s design work on a great Rustic Canyon course and his redesign of the LA Country Club North course, asks Geoff if he wants to do the next redesign on Augusta (answer is ‘no’, and Geoff tells why he hopes Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw should do it), thanks Geoff for his time and expertise, and reminds viewers to follow the run up to the Masters by listening to other shows on TheGolfDirector.com, including George Honeycutt and Hugh Royer III’s “Coverage of the Majors” before and during the event, and that Golf Connections is produced and broadcast by the Zeus Radio Network for TheGolfDirector.com.