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The Masters: Three essentials for success at Augusta National

What does it take to prevail on one of the world’s greatest courses? Tim Gavrich breaks down the skills needed to score at the home of the Masters.

Augusta National Golf Club, like many of the greatest golf courses in the world, is more than the sum of its 18 constituent parts. Try as golfers might to break it down shot-by-shot, it defies simple compartmentalisation.

There is a distinct flow to the place, with the first 11 holes challenging players in the fairly familiar way that many championship courses do before a run of all-time thrilling golf from holes 12 through 16 that functions like the big vertical drop of a roller-coaster, especially on Sunday. The 17th and 18th are less a denouement than a return to the stately opening theme, the final act of one of the game’s great dramas.

Still, Augusta National is a golf course, and a demanding one at that. Though different styles of player have prospered there over the years, there are several concrete skills that tend to come in handier than others.

Confidence off the tee

Tentative driving may be excusable at some major championship courses where gnarly rough eventually swallows everyone up, but at Augusta, a strong command of the driver can mean pressing one’s advantage at several key holes.

Shaping tee shots from right to left on the second, eighth, 10th and 13th holes means shorter approaches, often from flatter lies than the rest of the field. This requires a level of confidence that even the best golfers can’t conjure every week. But those who find it here end up playing a simpler golf course than those who do not.

Consistent contact

Most elite professional golfers hone their swings on the practice tee, hitting tens of thousands of shots from perfect, flat lies. Augusta National confronts them with multiple variables, the primary one being the sidehill lies they must contend with on practically every non-tee-shot full swing.

What’s more, the tendency of the setup staff to groom the fairway grass toward the tee box means the players face a preponderance of into-the-grain lies, which demand absolutely solid contact not just on full shots, but on greenside pitches and chips as well.

Course management

Tiger Woods’ combination of prodigious power and sublime skill in executing golf shots has caused many fans of the game to overlook what might be the greatest asset in his career at the Masters: his mind, and particularly his ability to dissect a golf course.

Whenever Woods sets out on a round at Augusta National, it is clear he is following a specific plan that accounts for the day’s conditions and hole locations. Equally top-of-mind is a keen sense of where not to miss certain shots, borne of years of experience playing the course.

Missteps in execution happen, but a deep understanding of how to play Augusta National makes the process less intimidating. What’s more, it goes a long way toward the seemingly insurmountable task of breaking the course down into digestible parts.

Watch all eight episodes of “Lessons with a Champion Golfer ” with Charl Schwartzel exclusively on GolfPass and get GolfPass Video Free for 2 Months. The 2011 Masters champion shares his techniques and tips on driving, short game and putting, while showcasing the varieties of putters and putting grip styles he has used to win at the highest level.

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