Ever wanted to take on "Amen Corner"?
You can. It probably won't be at Augusta National Golf Club, the home of The Masters. But there are plenty of knockoffs out there.
If imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery, then it seems that many clubs want to be like Augusta. Its prestige, exclusivity and allure is so strong that its holes have been copied throughout North America. Some appear at replica courses such as Tour 18 Dallas and Tour 18 Houston in Texas and World Tour Golf Links in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Other clubs -- such as the private Golden Ocala Golf & Equestrian Club in Ocala, Fla. -- don't like the term "replica" at all.
"We don't consider ourselves as having replica holes," Golden Ocala General Manager Joe Donnelly wrote in an e-mail. "We have tribute or hole(s) patterned after Augusta holes. As I am sure you know, the actual holes in Augusta are spectacular and impossible to replicate."
Whatever the proper wording may be -- replicas, copies, tributes -- the point is this: Most of us will never get to see Augusta National in person, let alone play it. So the public-access courses that give golfers a taste of Augusta are certainly intriguing. In my mind, if I birdie a hole that looks and plays somewhat like a hole on Amen Corner, I'm bragging to anybody who will listen that I could conquer the real thing, too.
Where you can play Amen Corner
Four public courses -- Tour 18 Houston (holes 5-7), Tour 18 Dallas (holes 16-18), World Tour Golf Links (holes 4-6 on the Championship nine) and the Renditions Golf Club in Maryland (holes 6-8) -- all have their own three-hole versions of Amen Corner -- a par 4, par 3, par 5 sequence similar to holes 11-13 at Augusta National.
For those in need of a refresher, No. 11 at Augusta -- a 505-yard par 4 called "White Dogwood" -- features a pond near the green. It ranked as the toughest hole on the course in 2014. Larry Mize's improbable chip-in here led to his playoff win over Greg Norman in 1987. Next up is the 155-yard 12th hole -- "Golden Bell." Everybody in the field has trouble picking the right club to hit the narrow green surrounded by three bunkers. Rae's Creek in front seems to derail somebody's green jacket hopes every year.
No hole personifies risk-reward better than Augusta's 510-yard 13th hole -- "Azalea." Lefties such as Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson have an easier time fading the ball around the corner of the dogleg left than righties do trying to draw it without hitting their tee shots into Rae's Creek up the left side. The second shot, usually off a downhill lie, must clear the creek and hold a tilted green surrounded by four bunkers.
Take each replica hole of Amen Corner for what it's worth. All four clubs have built stone bridges like Augusta. Both Renditions and Tour 18 Houston have Masters-like leaderboards to add more familiarity.
The par-3 17th at Tour 18 Dallas -- the remake of No. 12 at Augusta -- rates as the easiest hole on the course. That's certainly not the case at Augusta, where the tiny par 3 was the fourth toughest hole in 2014.
The description of the seventh hole on the Renditions website admits "the surroundings are a little bare -- nothing can touch Augusta's horticultural perfection" about its version of Augusta's 12th hole, but adds: "The hole is accurately represented and does visual justice to the original."
It's interesting to note the modernization of Augusta National isn't reflected in the yardages of the replica par 4 and par 5 holes at all four courses. All the clones of No. 11 and No. 13 at Augusta still play 455 yards and 485 yards, respectively -- distances left behind as Tom Fazio and Augusta have lengthened and "Tiger-proofed" the layout over the years.
The World Tour Golf Links also has a par 3 that mirrors Augusta's 16th hole, the place where Tiger chipped in his improbable "swoosh" shot in 2005.
Architect Ron Garl's tributes to Augusta National
Florida-based architect Ron Garl designed two-thirds of Amen Corner at the Wooden Sticks Golf Course, near Toronto, and Golden Ocala, the host of the LPGA Tour's inaugural Coates Golf Championship presented by R+L Carriers in January 2015. His eight "tribute" holes at Golden Ocala were some of the nation's original replica holes. Golden Ocala features look-a-likes for No. 12 at Augusta (159-yard 11th hole), No. 13 (473-yard 12th hole) and No. 16 (179-yard sixth hole). The bridges, the creek -- it's all there for members and guests to enjoy.
Wooden Sticks uses the words "inspired by" when describing its 188-yard third hole (Augusta's 12th) and 510-yard fourth hole (Augusta's 13th) on its website. There's a bunker missing behind the green. Golf Advisor's Brandon Tucker enjoyed his experience at the course in 2009.
Other courses with Augusta National replica holes
The Castle Course at Northern Bay Resort in Arkdale, Wis., near the Wisconsin Dells remains the only replica course in the Midwest. It sports seven replica holes, six in regular rotation on the PGA Tour schedule, including versions of Augusta National's par-3 16th (the 194-yard third hole) and par-5 13th (the 510-yard 11th hole).
The Brickshire Golf Club in Providence Fork, Va., opens its round with a 393-yard par 4 "emulating" the 350-yard third hole at Augusta National, aka "Flowering Peach." This Curtis Strange/Tom Clark course visits holes at Pinehurst, St. Andrews Links and Riviera Country Club, too, with varying degrees of success.
I walked and photographed much of Golf Manitou, a unique replica course in Mont-Tremblant, Quebec, stocked with 14 par 3s and four short par 4s, all mimicking famous holes from around the world. Its par-3 16th hole is supposed to be modeled after Augusta, although I didn't see the resemblance. That's the problem, right? As hard as these courses try, they're never the real thing.
So have you played any of these Augusta National replica holes? And did it give you a taste of the real thing? Join the conversation below.