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Inside the 5 toughest holes at the Masters

Augusta National’s toughest holes can crown champions … or meltdowns.

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Getting around Augusta National is a test for any golfer. But statistically, based on per-hole scoring averages from the nearly nine-decade history of the Masters, these five beauties are the beasts. Prepare to be a little surprised. And a little terrified.

The 5 hardest Masters holes

The 12th at Augusta.

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1. No. 12 – Golden Bell – 155-yard par-3

Rank in terms of difficulty: 4
Scoring average: 3.27
Low year: 3.03 (2002)
High year: 3.55 (1966)

Notable meltdown: “The Masters doesn’t start until the back nine on Sunday”? Exhibit A: In ’06, defending champ Jordan Spieth reeled off four straight birdies to finish the front nine, building a five-shot cushion. Then the brakes started creaking, with bogeys at 10 and 11. Then the wheels came off. Spieth’s weak tee shot here found Rae’s Creek. Happens. Chunking a wedge from the drop area and drowning another ball? Doesn’t. Quad 7. Repeat win canceled.

No. 11 is a fickle beast.

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2. No. 11 – White Dogwood – 520-yard par-4

Rank in terms of difficulty: 2
Scoring average: 4.30
Low year: 4.06 (1995)
High year: 4.64 (1956)

Notable meltdown: No. 11 featured in Greg Norman’s epic 1996 collapse, site of the third of three straight bogeys before a double on 12 handed Nick Faldo the outright lead. But its worst disaster belongs not to the shaky Shark but the steely Raymond Floyd, who, in 1990, dumped a 7-iron into the fronting pond on the second playoff hole with… Nick Faldo.

Not many golf fans see much of the 4th hole at Augusta National, but that surely doesn’t take away from its prestige.

Augusta National Golf Club

3. No. 4 – Flowering Crab Apple – 240-yard par-3

Rank in terms of difficulty: 3
Scoring average: 3.28
Low year: 3.08 (2020)
High year: 3.49 (1956)

Notable meltdown: Let’s begin at the opposite end of the spectrum from meltdown. In 86 playings, the Masters has seen 27 aces on its quartet of par-3s. Flowering Crab Apple is responsible for precisely one — by Jeff Sluman in 1992. Sluman’s mother was there to witness the shot. Think it made an impression? She was later buried with the ball in her casket. So ANGC’s first par-3 might not be its sexiest hole, but it’s certainly among the toughest.

On Sunday in 2012, playing in the final group, Phil Mickelson clanked his tee shot here off the grandstands and into a stand of trees. Take stroke-and-distance and replay the shot? We’re talking Phil the Thrill. Two attempted right-handed punch-outs led to a triple-bogey 6. Mickelson would miss the eventual Bubba Watson/Louis Oosthuizen playoff by two strokes.

No. 10 at Augusta National.

Augusta National Golf Club

4. No. 10 – Camellia – 495-yard par-4

Rank in terms of difficulty: 1
Scoring average: 4.30
Low year: 4.08 (2018)
High year: 4.69 (1956)

Notable Meltdown: While leader Rory McIlroy’s 2011 final-round drive left of left of left might be the single-most-wayward blow ever struck here, leading to a highly consequential triple-bogey 7, Camellia’s signature blunder happened on its green in 1989. Scott Hoch, with two feet for par to win his playoff against — again! — Nick Faldo, doesn’t even scare the hole. Alas, as the man himself soon said, “Hoch, as in choke.”

The cross bunkers on No. 5 form a uniquely death-defying challenge.

Augusta National Golf Club

5. No. 5 – Magnolia – 495-yard par-4

Rank in terms of difficulty: 5
Scoring average: 4.26
Low year: 4.06 (2001)
High year: 4.47 (1956)

Notable meltdown: No. 5 pays homage to the Old Course’s Road Hole, so, naturally, it’s a bear. Somehow, the Golden Bear eagled Magnolia twice in 1995, and Trevor Immelman birdied it thrice in his 2008 win — one of only 11 players, and the only champion, to play the hole in three under. But low-stakes blowouts abound. Four players have made quadruple-bogey 8s here. Think of them less as crashes than as encounters with a nasty, front-nine pothole.

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