Jack Nicklaus: How To Play A Second-Shot Course Like Augusta


Augusta National is the quintessence of a second-shot golf course. Wide fairways prevent you from feeling like you’re in a straightjacket off the tee, but that doesn’t mean you can mindlessly whale away. The perceptive player recognizes that his ability to attack the flag with the approach is largely determined by the drive—much more than on an average course. A difference in position of just 10 or 15 yards in the fairway might mean everything. On a second-shot course, you use the tee shot to truly create your second.

This type of design happens to be my favorite. To me, hitting driver is the most fun part of the game. A second-shot course encourages everyone to let it fly all day. Low-handicappers are engaged by the spectrum of conservative-to-aggressive choices off every tee.

Beginners take comfort in the relative ease of starting with a ball in play.

Illustrated here is Augusta’s par-4 ninth, which runs back to the clubhouse. It’s a perfect example of the second-shot philosophy, though we could’ve analyzed almost any par 4 on the property.

Augusta National GC's par-4 ninth
Illustration by Chris O’Riley

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‘A difference of 10 or 15 yards might mean everything.’

Jack Nicklaus playing the 7th hole at Augusta National GC
Photo by Augusta National/Getty Images

For my six Masters wins, Augusta National was even more of a second-shot course than it is today. Take the seventh hole. We used to play a wide variety of tee shots there, but now with trees thick along the left, everyone just hopes to hit it straight. Anywhere in the fairway works. The inventiveness on the second shot begins and ends with the location of the flag.

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