The fifth hole at the Augusta National Golf Club will never make anybody’s list of the world’s great golf holes.
Even at Augusta National during the Masters tournament, it is virtually anonymous. Television ignores it, not many spectators take the time to look at it, and the players would just as soon skip it.
The players don’t like it for good reason. It is uncommonly difficult. The top 24 players here last year were 13 strokes over par on the hole. Only two par-4 holes on the course give the players more trouble, and one, No. 10, is 485 yards long.
No. 5 is listed at 435 yards, but as Hubert Green said, it is uphill and plays at about 470. But what really makes it difficult is the severity of the second shot. The ball must be struck to a two-tiered green that slopes sharply downward in front. A ridge running across the green makes sinking a putt from below the hole virtually impossible.
The fairway doglegs left and has a couple of enormous bunkers guarding the dogleg. There are no bunkers in front of the green and only one behind it. For the pros, it has a generous driving area, and if they hit their best shots under normal conditions, they can shoot for the green with a 6-iron. “But I have hit as much as a 2-iron,” John Mahaffey said.
Hubert Green has hit as little as a 7-iron and as much as a wood. “It is one of the hardest holes I’ve ever played,” he said. “It has lots of length, and the green will not hold a bounce-up shot.”
Often, he said, he will shoot over the green and approach the hole from the rear. The trick, Mahaffey said, is to approach the hole with as high a shot as you can hit.
Getting the second shot to the second tier of the green is a must, Curtis Strange said. “It is one of the hardest holes on the course.”
Even if he hits his drive perfectly to the left center of the fairway, he said his second shot can vary from a 6-iron to a wood. “It’s a hole nobody sees,” he said. “People don’t know much about it.”
Robert Trent Jones Sr., the noted course architect, said: “They use the second tier in the Masters, and that makes it a great hole.”
Jones, who redesigned some holes on the course years ago, said No. 5 is one that doesn’t need remodeling. “They haven’t touched it and they’re crazy if they try to change it,” he said.
Art Wall once sank a 5-iron second shot for an eagle 2 on the hole. And Thursday, Ken Green rolled in a 70-foot putt for a birdie from about 10 yards off the front of the green. However, as the scores made there by the top 24 players last year showed, par is better than average.
Years ago, when Dave Marr was a young fellow, he was paired here with Ben Hogan. On the fifth hole, Hogan drove to the right side of the fairway and Marr to the left side. A strong wind was blowing in their faces.
Hogan motioned for Marr to come over and watch his second shot. Hogan then hit a wood shot that faded from left to right and stopped 8 or 10 feet from the hole.
“That’s just about as great a golf shot as you’ll ever see,” Hogan told Marr.