This painting features the 7th hole of Augusta, a short but very difficult par 4 of 360 yards...that is, when I did the painting back in
1993! Since that time, the hole has been lengthened several times because of the advances in golf club and ball technology.
From 1993 to 2002, the pros on the PGA Tour increased their driving distance 20 yards; in 1993 they were hitting it 260 yards,
in 2002, they were averaging 280 yards off the tee. This led to Augusta National making the hole longer by 50 yards, most likely
anticipating a continued increase in driving distance in the future - which turned out to be accurate.
According to Tom Fazio, "...long hitters were driving it past the trees and onto the upslope, leaving them a 50 yard approach they
could hit with no spin and stick close to the hole." This was something that had never been done before; so the club had no choice but
to lengthen the hole by 50 yards and make it play a lengthy 410 yards.
In 2003, club manufacturers increased the area size of the driver to 365 cc while at the same time, players switched from a wound
ball to a 3 piece solid core golf ball, thereby increasing the distance again to an average of 286 yards. When the driving distance
cracked the 290 yard barrier in 2011, the club made another change to the 7th hole, increasing its distance another 40 yards, to a
whopping 450 yards - totally changing the playing characteristics of the hole.
Many golf design experts questioned this decision because it changed the way the hole was originally designed to be played by the
architects of Augusta National: Alistair McKenzie and Bobby Jones.
Before the hole was lengthened, the question was: should the player hit driver, 3 wood, or a long iron through the narrow tunnel of
trees? A poorly struck driver could lead to tree trouble and bogey or worse. But the reward of a good drive could lead to birdie when
the player needed to make a charge. Another strategic point was if the player wanted to protect a lead and play it safe with a long iron.
Now, the decision has been made for the player; they need to hit a straight driver down the pipe and then a middle iron to the green.
Boring? Hard to say but the club had no choice but to make the hole longer because of the advances in golf ball and golf club
I spent the entire week of the '91 Masters sketching the 7th hole from every angle and decided to use this vantage point from the tee
box for the painting. This view was chosen because as luck would have it, I had to move to the left side of the tee box in order to have
a clear view of the far right greenside bunker, which was blocked by the last pine tree along the right hand side of the fairway.
This change in the vantage point eliminated the overpowering effect of the mowing stripes on the tee box which pointed directly at the
green; much like a beginner's perspective drawing class where the students practice drawing railroad tracks going off to a vanishing
point on the horizon.
What I ended up with was a nice triangulation of 3 major elements in the painting; the green off in the distance, the pampas grass
cluster, and the tee box. This is a classic design formula which forces the viewer's eyes to look at the green and its menacing bunkers,
the pampas grass, and then the tee box. By the way, I'm standing on the back of the second tee box, which is hidden from view. It's the
teeing area the pros played from in the 1993 Masters.
The original painting is in the private collection of Dr. James Bryan, an avid golfer and member of Latrobe Country Club.