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Augusta National, in it’s current state, is one of the most unique golf experiences a pro golfer will encounter.  Full of little intracacies and slopes, Augusta challenges every facet of a golfer’s game, once rewarding the long hitter, now requiring precision accuracy from increased length and severely undulating greens.

A far different course than what Bobby Jones originially designed, Augusta will play to a par 72 and measures 7,435 yards from the tips.  It’s much more of a grueling test than it once was, and while we became accostomed to the brilliant shotmaking and back 9 charges, the course played this year will offer no such comfort, as it hasn’t for the last few years.

After the jump, the front 9…a hole by hole tour.

Tea Olive, par 4, 445 yards

A slightly left to right dogleg that requires a carry over a fairway bunker, Tea Olive is a challenging opening hole.  While the drive is important, the approach shot is key as the green is extremely sloped.  A greenside bunker to left is not a smart miss, and nothing short is any good either.  There’s not a lot of room to miss long or right, but, depending on the pin placement, these are where you want to hang it out.

Pink Dogwood, par 5, 575 yards

Reachable in two, this par 5 is as much of a scoring hole as you’re going to find remaining at Augusta.  A relatively straight-forward drive can lead to a birdie opportunity if you’re smart and don’t find one of the greenside bunkers that guard the front.  Depending on the pin position, you could be dead from here, but this hole plays under par and was the 16th hardest hole at last year’s Masters.

Flowering Peach, par 4, 350 yards

A short par 4, Flowering Peach is a hole you don’t want to lose strokes on.  The smart play is a long iron or hybrid setting up a full wedge on your approach shot to a green that slopes right to left.  Don’t come up short with your approach shot as you’ll face a tough up and down to the undulating green.  While it measures only 350 yards, Flowering Peach still averaged a hair over par in 2008.

Flowering Crab Apple, par 3, 240 yards

The first of what might be the finest set of par 3’s anywhere on earth.  The green is tiered and anything short will fall back as the slope in front of the top level slopes hard from back to front.  Flowering Crab Apple is known for the wind though, as players using a long iron from an elevated tee usually have a hard time guaging which direction the wind is blowing.  Massive bunkers to the left and in the front leave an incredibly difficult sand shot to a slopey green.

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Magnolia, par 4, 455 yards

A very hard par 4 that’s uphill all the way to a heavily sloped green.  Every shot comes under scrutiny at Magnolia, from tee to your final putt.  The approach shot is key here as the green is rounded and falls off on the edges and has a pocket in the back-middle.  The bunker behind the left side of the green isn’t a bad miss, but it shouldn’t be your intended landing spot.

Juniper, par 3, 180 yards

Another par 3 with an elevated tee, Juniper is all about pin placement.  The green changes drastically across its face and, while your target appears to be large from the tee, there isn’t a whole lot of room to miss.  You want to get your par and move on at Juniper as it was the 11th hardest hole in last year’s Masters.

Pampas, par 4, 450 yards

While the landing zone off the tee is pretty narrow, the luxury lies in a level lie for your approach shot.  Usually requiring something like a 5 or 6-iron, your approach requires you to hold the green as bunkers surround the small green.  This is much easier said than done as, even if you pull off two perfect shots, you’re still facing a tough putt.  More often than not, however, you’re in the trees or one of the bunkers and looking at a bogey.  Par is a great score at Pampas.

Jasmine, par 5, 570 yards

Another scoring hole, Jasmine requires a precise drive that carries a fairway bunker.  Your approach shot doesn’t have any bunkers or water around it, but it’s still uphill the mounds surrounding the green make for a fun chip. Jasmine is a birdie hole and there were only 24 bogey’s or worse in 288 total shots last year, so it’s a hole you want to be aggressive.

Carolina Cherry, par 4, 460 yards

Par is good at Carolina Cherry.  The drive favors a power fade off the tee (for righties) as you want to leave your approach shot to have the right angle, keeping the bunkers as out of play as possible.  The green slopes from front to back, and a mid-iron into this green is not likely to hold.  A proper ending for the front 9 before you hit the rollercoaster that is the back.

Tomorrow: The Back 9

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