It might be one of the most well known courses on earth, but a relatively small number of people have actually walked its property.
One of the main reasons Augusta National Golf Club is so well known is because it hosts one of the four major golf championships every year.
In that way, the Masters is unique amongst the four biggest tournaments. Unlike the U.S. Open, the Open Championship and the PGA Championship, the Masters is played at the same course every year.
Another reason the course is so familiar to people who have never been there is because of the television coverage, which has the fewest commercials of any golf broadcast on this side of the Atlantic.
Coverage began in 1956 and at first featured only the last four holes. In the 55 years since then, coverage has grown to include the entire course and features the leaders' entire round on Sunday.
A smaller number of people have walked the grounds simply because the course is a private course, unlike venues that host the other major championship. Those sites tend to be public courses
In preparation for this year's 75th playing of this extraordinary golf tournament, let me lead you on a walking tour of the course. I want to point out what you can expect to see this weekend in terms of how the players will attack the course as well as the exquisite beauty of this piece of land.
Jack hits his opening tee shot as an honorary starter
The opening hole of Augusta National is not to be taken lightly. At 445 yards, this par-4 has teeth.
The hole doglegs from left to right and there is a bunker guarding the inside of the dogleg. Only the longest of hitters are able to carry that bunker.
The correct play is a left-to-right shot. Any ball that is played too straight off the tee may find the trees to the left of the fairway.
The second shot is played uphill to a large, undulating green. There is a deep bunker that guards the left-front of the green from which an up-and-down is very difficult.
Of course, the fact that it is the opening tee shot of a round of the Masters compounds any "first tee jitters" players may have.
Look for players to play this hole relatively safely. They want to get their rounds off on the right foot and a bogey is not the way to do that.
Scott Verplank hit the most memorable shot on this hole, a holed-out 4-iron for an eagle in 1987.
The 11th green
The second hole is a birdie opportunity, but it is not an easy birdie.
At 575 yards, this downhill par-5 that curves from right to left is reachable in two for the long hitters.
A bunker guards the outside of the dogleg and sits about 300 yards off the tee. The best tee shot is left of that bunker.
The second shot typically will be from a downhill, side-hill lie. Players will want to shape their approaches from right to left, but the green is set up to receive shots played left to right.
Speaking of the green, it is huge with several different areas for holes to be cut. It is guarded by two bunkers to the front-right and front-left. In a recurring theme around Augusta, if you do not find the right level of the green where the hole is located, avoiding a 3-putt can be tricky at best.
Between the bunkers is an opening through which shots can be run up and on the green.
In the four days of competition, look for at least one player to run a ball up the front of the green, around the bunker guarding the right and close to a hole cut on the right side.
That was almost the shot Phil Mickelson made in 2003. Phil a 90-foot putt for birdie from the front of the green after he had played his tee shot into a drainage ditch to the left of the fairway, took a penalty drop and hit his third from the pine straw with a driver!
The short par-4 3rd
The third hole at Augusta is a short par-4 of only 350 yards.
The longer hitters can hit this green from the tee, but most players will lay up short of the four bunkers on the left side of the fairway leaving them a full second shot into this smallish green. Most players will tell you that it is not the percentage play to take a shot at the green with driver.
The hole plays uphill and most players will try to just reach the top of the hill. Even if they accomplish that, they will not able to see all of the green.
The green is small and anything short can roll back off the green some 40 yards. In that way, this green is unlike other greens on Augusta or most other courses. On this green, long is better than short.
There is a sliver of green on the left that is protected by a bunker.
Precision with the approach shot is a must.
In 2003, while leading the tournament in the final round, Jeff Maggert found one of the fairway bunkers. His next shot caromed off the face of the bunker and struck Maggert, which is a two stoke penalty. Maggert scored a triple-bogey on the hole and would finish the tournament in fifth place, five back of champion Mike Weir.
The par-3 4th hole
At 205 yards, this par-3 is not for the faint of heart.
The green sits about 20 yards below the tee, but even with that help, there are times when even the longest hitters need a long iron or wood.
The wind is the reason for this issue with club selection. This is a another recurring theme around Augusta, particularly on the par-3 holes. Players must know what the wind is doing. Trying to decipher how the wind is blowing as it swirls through the pines can make studying hieroglyphics seem like reading a Dick and Jane book.
This green is very wide. If players hit to the opposite side of the green from the hole, a putt of more than 80 feet is a distinct possibility.
The green has a mound in the middle of it and two shelves that are not very big. Finding the proper area near the hole is not easy, but if players can do it, a look at a birdie is a possibility.
If you offered players four pars on this hole without having to play it, most of the field would take it and be happy.
Jeff Sluman is the only man to have aced this hole. He did that in 1992.
Mickelson hitting over the bunkers on 5th
Magnolia is a mid-length par-4 of 455 yards that plays uphill.
The play off the tee on this dogleg left is to favor the left side of the fairway while avoiding the two deep bunkers that protect the inside of the dogleg. Those bunkers are about 300 yards off the tee, so the shorter hitters do not have to worry too much about them.
There is a bunker to the back-left of the green, but the front is open, allowing shots to run up on the green.
The green has two tiers and the hole is nearly always on the upper tier, so it is not unusual to see players land their approach shots short to run them up the green to the back portion.
The bunker is not the only trouble behind the green. Shots that are going long and miss the bunker, can run down a slope into a stand of trees.
Obviously, it is important that players pull the right club from the bag on the approach.
Jack Nicklaus loved playing this hole in 1995. The Golden Bear holed his second shot for eagle in the first and third rounds!
From the tee on the 6th hole
The second par-3 on the course measures 180 yards, but it plays far shorter than that due to the drop in elevation from tee to green.
The two-level green has a mound on the right that will repel shots. Naturally, the competition committee will put the hole on or near that hump for two days of the event.
Players will be hitting middle irons to this green in the hopes of making par. As with the fourth hole, par is a good score here.
The entire green is undulating and slopes to the left, where the most accessible hole position is.
The hole position determines how hard this hole plays.
When it is on the right, the hole is one of the hardest on the course. When it is on the left, it is one of the easiest.
In the second round of the 1991 Masters, Jose Maria Olazabal needed three chips and two putts to make a quadruple-bogey seven. He would finish in second place, one stroke behind champion Ian Woosnam.
Off the tee on 7
The seventh is a tricky par-4 of 450 yards that plays straight away.
The tee shot is played through a chute of trees to a very narrow fairway and is usually struck with a fairway wood or long iron. The best tee shot will find the left side of the fairway.
Once in the fairway, a mid- to short-iron is left to an elevated green that is completely surrounded by five bunkers. Compounding the issue is the fact that players cannot see the green surface from the fairway.
Finding any of the bunkers makes for a difficult up and down, but the back bunkers are especially punishing.
The green is not large, so if a player can find the putting surface with his approach, he will have a look at a birdie.
This hole is consistently one of the players favorites, many of them pointing out that a hole need not be excessively long to prove a good test of golf.
Ernie Els has eagled this hole in two separate Masters playings. He is the only man to have done that.
The wall of green up to the 8th green
The eighth at Augusta is a par-5 of 570 yards.
The tee shot must avoid the massive bunker on the right side of the fairway. Players who find that bunker have no shot at this green in two.
Having avoided the bunker, players face a virtual wall of grass as the second shot is played up a hill to the green. Players going for the green must shape their second shot right to left to avoid trees and severe mounds to the left of the green.
The green is long and slender. It is set at an angle from the approach. There is mounding to the right of the green as well but not as severe as the mounding on the left.
Players who cannot reach in two will play to the right of the green to try to get the best angle along the long axis of the green.
Because the green sits in the middle of a series of mounds, shots that just miss the green typically bounce on. More than one player has taken advantage of this fact. When I say shots missing the green will typically bounce on, I mean if they miss the green by a yard or two. Any more than that and the mounds will repel shots, leaving a very tricky up and down over those same mounds.
In the first round of the 1967 Masters, Bruce Devlin holed a 4-wood from 248 yards. He is the only man to have made an albatross on this hole.
The 9th green
The closing hole on the front nine is a par-4 measuring 460 yards.
The tee shot is played down a hill to the corner of the right-to-left dogleg. There are no bunkers in the fairway, but it is still very important to find the fairway.
The reason for that is because the second shot is up a hill to a green that slopes from back to front severely.
There are two bunkers on guard to the left of the green and getting up and down from either one of them can be incredibly difficult as players have to try to judge the amount their ball will break once it is on the green.
The front of the green is a false front and if a player's shot does not have enough length to make it up onto the green proper or has too much spin, the player will find their ball rolling back toward them as they walk up to the hole.
This was the exact fate that befell Greg Norman in 1996. Norman completely unraveled in the final round after taking a six-shot lead over Nick Faldo into the day. He would eventually lose the Masters by five to Faldo, but the beginning of the end for Norman was his second shot spinning off the ninth green and rolling down the hill.
A good look at the large bunker well short of the green on 10.
A par-4 of 495 yards, No. 10 plunges down a hill and turns from right to left. A very long second shot awaits players who do not turn their ball around the corner enough, but trees await a shot that curves too much. Most of the pros will play a 3-wood off the tee to keep the ball from running through the fairway.
If players land their tee shots in the right place, their balls will catapult forward, giving them dozens of yards of extra distance.
Walking down the fairway, players will notice the most distinctive feature on the hole: The massive, 60-yard-long bunker in the middle of the fairway that sits well short of the green.
While the bunker itself is not in play for Masters competitors, it does provide an optical illusion by making the green look closer to the player than it is.
When the hole was originally built, the green was to the right of that bunker. In 1937, the green was moved to a small rise beyond the back of the bunker.
The green slopes dramatically from right to left and drops off the left side. If you are to the right of the hole, a three-putt is a real possibility. If you are left of the green, you are probably in the trees and a bogey is about the best you can hope for.
Historically, this is the hardest hole on the golf course.
The most memorable shot on this hole has to be Scott Hoch missing a two-foot putt that would have won him the 1989 Masters. The miss allowed the playoff to continue, and Nick Faldo won on the next hole.
The 11th green
White Dogwood was never an easy hole, but in 2006 her worn-down teeth were sharpened to a razor point.
The beginning of "Amen Corner" was lengthened to its present length of 505 yards while trees were added to the right side of the fairway. The fairway itself was shifted to the left and the result is a very long par-4 that requires a left-to-right shot to find the fairway.
The tee shot, which must travel 265 just to reach the fairway, crosses over the crest of a hill leaving a downhill second shot.
There is a bunker guarding the back, right side of the green, but it is rare that players are in that bunker.
The key feature on this tricky hole is the pond that rests to the immediate right of the green. The changes made in 2006 were specifically designed to bring that pond into play. If players hit their tee shots too straight, not only do they risk running into trees, the second shot will be over that pond.
This marks the first time players will see water on the course, and they will have water in play on four of the next five holes.
Just getting on the green is half the battle as a three-putt is a real possibility. The green is large, and if you play too safely, away from a left-side hole location, you could be faced with a long, slippery putt toward the waiting pond.
The most notable shot on this hole was the chip in for the win by Augusta native Larry Mize over Greg Norman in 1987. The shot traveled about 140 feet and secured the win in the second playoff hole. This was as close as Norman ever got to winning the Masters.
The beautiful, but deadly 12th hole
Books can and have been written about this tiny little heart-breaker, the middle of Amen Corner.
At a mere 155 yards, this might be one of the hardest par-3 holes on the planet.
The tee shot comes from an elevated area to the right of the 11th green and the first thing the player must do is figure out what the wind is doing.
There are any number of theories on how one might deduce what the lofty zephyrs are going to do to their ball en route to the 12th green, but the one I like the most is to try waiting until both flags on the 12th and 11th greens are flying in the same direction.
This is the lowest corner of the course so the wind swirls through the pines making an accurate assessment of the wind dicey at best.
The hourglass-shaped green sits on an angle with the right portion further away from the tee than the left. This difference can be as much as club more if you are going to shoot at the right side of the green. Of course, to shoot at the right side of this green is to go against the advice of one the best ever.
Ben Hogan once said that if he ever hit a ball at the right side of 12, it was a miss.
In front of the green runs Rae's Creek and a bunker, both just waiting to swallow any shot not struck purely. Behind the green sit two bunkers. The bunkers behind are slightly elevated above the level of the green, making a shot struck from either of them an exercise in breath control. Having to play from those bunkers with Rae's creek taunting you should you catch the ball a millimeter thin has to be enough to induce hyperventilation.
Tom Weiskopf made the record for the highest score in relation to par on any hole in the Masters on this hole. He made a 13 in 1980. His 13 is also tied for the highest score made on a single hole in Masters play.
The most famous shot on this hole, though, is called "Couple's Cling." In 1992, Fred Couples lofted a shot toward the right side of the green. The shot came up short and started rolling back into the water only to stop, as if suspended by some mystical force before it could fall in.
The ball clung to the side bank of Rae's Creek as if it were hydrophobic. How Couples managed to keep from sprinting to the green before the ball lost its grip is a mystery to me.
Couples would chip up to make par and won the tournament by a single stroke.
Going for the green on 13
Azalea is the very definition of risk-reward.
At 510 yards, this par-5 is reachable by all but the shortest of players or if you happen to find trees with your tee shot. Of course, that didn't stop defending champion Phil Mickelson last year, but I digress.
The hole dramatically swings from right-to-left, and most players will take a 3-wood off the tee to keep from going through the fairway should they hit their tee shot too straight.
A tributary of Rae's Creek winds its way through the trees to the left of the fairway and emerges to cross directly in front of the green. A shot that falls short of the green or has a little too much spin, will find its way into the stream.
Over the green is not bargain, either. Four cavernous bunkers await a shot that is played with too long a club or too much adrenaline. Even if players don't find the bunkers, the chip from the collection area that lies between the green and the bunkers is a bogey or worse almost without fail.
The green itself has different levels and slopes from back to front. It is imperative that players find the correct level of the green, especially if the hole is cut in the front. It is not unheard of for a player to putt his ball from the back of the green, off the front and into the water.
There are a couple of shots that stand out on this beautiful hole. Jeff Maggert made the first and only albatross on this hole in 1994 when his second shot with a 3-iron found the hole.
More recently, Phil Mickelson drove his ball into the trees right of the fairway during the final round in 2010. His ball on pine straw and behind a tree, Phil found an angle to play a 6-iron which dropped onto the green "like a butterfly with sore feet," as Slammin' Sammy Snead once said. Mickelson two-putted for a birdie and went on to win his third green jacket.
The treacherous 14th green
This 440-yard par-4 is the only hole on the course without a hazard of any kind, but that does not mean this hole is easy.
What players must decide on the tee is what club they can hit that will stay in the fairway while giving them the shortest club into the green.
Most of the time, they will pull a 3-wood out of the bag.
The hole bends ever so slightly to the right, but the fairway slopes from left to right meaning a shot that curves to the left is required or the ball is likely to roll into the first cut of rough on the right.
Where the difficulty of this hole lies is on the green. To call this green undulating is like saying fish are good at swimming.
There are distinct sections on this green, and if a player is not on the proper section of the green for the day's hole location, a three-putt or worse is a virtual certainty. No less of an authority than Jack Nicklaus has said, "This is the only hole at Augusta National without a bunker, but the contours of the putting surface more than make up for that missing hazard."
Having made it through the trials of Amen Corner, the last thing players want to do is let their guard down on a hole they perceive as easy. This hole can easily bite them when they are least suspecting it.
Curiously, this hole has surrendered more eagles than any other par-4 on the course.
The most famous shot has to be from 2006 when Fred Couples missed a four foot putt for birdie. He then missed his par putt as well. His three-putt for bogey pushed him to a tie for third.
A view of the 15th green from the stands
Like the 13th, this hole is about risk-reward, as well as playing good strategy.
Fire Thorn was lengthened in 2006 to its present yardage of 530 yards. The tee was also pushed to the left bringing into play the stand of trees that intrudes on the left side of the fairway and makes the trees that were planted to the right of the fairway more of a hazard.
Players have to really pound their tee shot because they will want to have as short a club in their hands as they can if they are going to go for this green in two. If they are hitting a long iron or a wood, the ball can easily run off the back of the green and down a slope toward the 16th tee. There is a stand of trees back there that could make that pitch back up to a green running away from players exciting.
Fronting the green is a pond that is ready to punish any second shot not played with a long enough club.
If a player cannot or chooses not to go for this green in two, he is faced with a huge decision: How close to the pond does he want to lay up?
Here's the dilemma: If he runs up too close to the pond, the third shot will be a half-wedge that will be difficult to stop near the hole. That will leave a tricky downhill putt toward the water. If he leaves his layup too far back, he will be hitting down the hill to the green and will still have to figure out how to stop the ball near the hole while staring right into the water.
Too much spin on approach shots to the front of the green will leave players searching for the drop area as those shots will roll back off and into the water.
The green itself does not have much in the way of undulations, but it is sloped from back to front fairly severely.
There is a bunker that guards the right side of the green, but it does not see much action in Masters play.
One of the most famous shots in all of golf was struck on this hole by The Squire, Gene Sarazen. In 1935, Sarazen sat 235 from the green and smacked a 4-wood that found the hole for an albatross two. The two helped Sarazen win the second Masters ever played.
The shot has come to be known as "The Shot Heard 'Round the World."
The 16th green
This picturesque par-3 has been the sight of many a famous moment in the Masters.
At 170 yards, it is not overly long, but it plays entirely over water, and the green is well guarded by a pond and three bunkers.
There is a ridge that runs through the length of the green that will push any shot to the left side of the green. This includes putts from the right side of the green or shots played from the right bunkers.
Stopping the ball on the upper portion of the green from one of those right side bunkers is nearly impossible. Look for more than a few bogeys to be made when the hole is cut on the right side of the green.
On the other hand, when the hole is in its traditional Sunday placement, toward the back left corner, the ridge will help players get the ball close.
The play depends on where the hole is located. When it is on the right, a left-to-right shot should be used to stop the ball on the sloping green. When the hole is on the left, any shot will do as long as if falls near that ridge so it can be pushed toward the hole.
Two of my favorite shots were played on this hole.
One was in 2005 when Tiger Woods playing from to the left of the left-back corner of the green. He chipped the ball up the slope of the green where it reversed, rolled back down the hill and dropped for a birdie two. Woods would go on to win his fourth Masters.
The other was in 1986 during the final round when Jack Nicklaus was in the midst of an amazing stretch of golf at the age of 46. Having just made an eagle on 15, Jack laced a seven iron toward the hole. He would say later that he didn't watch because he couldn't see the ball, but at the time, he bent over to retrieve his tee. As he did, his son, who was caddying for him said, "Be right."
Still without looking, Jack replied, "It is." The ball dropped on the ridge and rolled a few feet from the hole. From there Jack made birdie. He scored a 30 on the back nine that Sunday and won the tournament, his sixth.
The tee shot on 17, with Ike's Tree guarding the left
Standing on the tee of this 440-yard, uphill par-4, you get to see one of many landmarks around this glorious course: Eisenhower's Tree.
Rumor has it that he hit the tree so often when playing the course that he petitioned for its removal. He was, of course, turned down. To this day it serves at a reminder of the history of this golf course.
Ike's Tree stands about 195 yards from the tee meaning players have to try to play around it with a right-to-left shot.
The drive will normally land on the up-slope, deadening its roll out, but if players can get it far enough up the fairway, they should have a good look at the green.
Bunkers protect the front and left of the green with the one in front seeing the most action. While carrying that bunker, players have to be aware of flying the ball into the back half of the green. That portion actually slopes away from players. If a player goes out the back of the green, he will have almost no chance of making par.
A similar fate usually awaits players who miss the green right.
The good news is that, after five of the last six holes with water in play, there is no water the rest of the way home.
The bad news is that neither 17 nor 18 are holes to be taken lightly.
The shot to remember on this hole also comes from the final round in 1986. Jack Nicklaus stared down a 12-footer as it rolled into the cup for birdie. He lifted his putter in one hand as the ball toppled in for his final birdie of the round and television viewers heard the venerable Vern Lundquist announce, "Yes, sir!"
The 46-year-old would win his record sixth Masters that day.
The finishing hole at Augusta is a mirror image of the 10th. Where 10 plays downhill and curves right to left, 18 plays uphill and doglegs left to right.
Holly, with a par of 4, measures 465 yards for Masters competitors and she plays every yard of that length.
The tee shot is played through a chute of trees and must be played short of two cavernous bunkers that guard the corner of the dogleg.
If a player can hit a right-to-left shot from the tee, he might be left with a mid to short-iron into this tiered green.
If he doesn't have a left-to-right shot in his bag, however, the only real option is to play a shorter club off the tee to stay out of those fairway bunkers. Of course, that strategy means that you are playing a longer iron into the green.
The hopes of many a Masters contender have been buried in the sand of those fairway bunkers, so they must be avoided.
The second shot into the elevated green must find the correct level of the green or a three-putt is a nearly unavoidable.
Bunkers guard the front-left and the right sides of the green. An up-and-down from those bunkers is difficult, especially the front-left one, which is deep.
A ridge in the green can be used as a backstop to get close to front hole locations, especially on Sunday, but the tiers themselves are relatively flat meaning if players find the correct level with their approach, they should have a good look at birdie.
Holly is a fine a finishing hole as you will find on any golf course.
It would be nearly impossible to pick any one shot or event on this hole. There was Ben Crenshaw sobbing after holing his final putt 1995, claiming an emotional win after losing his long-time coach and mentor, Harvey Penick.
There was Phil Mickelson's jump for joy after he holed is final putt to secure his first major victory in 2004.
And, of course, in 1961 Arnold Palmer was walking up the fairway after his drive, accepting congratulations for another Masters win. He promptly dumped his approach into a green-side bunker, and took a double bogey. His collapse allowed Gary Player to be the first man not from the United States to win the Masters.
At the end of the tournament, someone will be helping a player slide into the Green Jacket, the symbol of the Masters and Augusta National Golf Club.
Will it be a young player just bursting onto the scene, or will it be a seasoned veteran putting an exclamation point on his career?
Will it be a first-time major champion or someone who has taken a major championship already?
One thing is certain: The men who are playing the Masters this week will have played four competitive rounds on one of the most pristine and beautiful courses on earth.
Augusta isn't easy, but then again it shouldn't be.
Winning the Masters should require a player make every shot in the bag and this course will test a player's ability to imagine and create shots.
I hope you enjoyed this look at one of the best golf tournament venues to be found anywhere.