US Masters - the 12th hole
Philip Reid takes a look at the short par 3, slap bang in the middle of Amen Corner
Freddie Jacobson of Sweden hits his tee shot on the 12th hole during the third round of the 2013 Masters. Photograph: David Cannon/Getty Images
The 12th hole lies at the heart of Amen Corner, that stretch that takes in the approach to the 11th green, all of the Par 3 short hole, and the first two shots on the Par 5 13th. And, although it measures a mere 155 yards, the hole known as ‘Golden Bell’ has devilish intent to go with its heavenly appearance.
Through the years, the 12th - which features water to the front and bunkers to the rear of a green that measures just ten yards in depth - has broken many a heart. Lloyd Mangrum, who was twice second in the Masters and given the nickname Mr Icicle for his capacity to deal with pressure, referred to it as “the meanest little hole in the world.”
Why is it so difficult? Well, a swirling wind in this corner of the course means that players are constantly teased when standing on the tee, with club selection liable to change in an instant. Players can expect to hit anything from a five-iron down to a wedge. It is even difficult when the wind doesn’t blow, with players - playing off a low tee with the green partially obscured - punished for any indecision.
Anyone who flies the green, either into the bunkers or the planted area above them, is left with a very difficult recovery shot to a sloping green that brings Rae’s Creek into the equation.
Tom Weiskopf hit five balls in the water to score 13 on the hole in the 1980 Masters and, if he was a victim of the short hole, then Fred Couples was very much a favoured son en route to his Masters win of 1992.
On that occasion, Couples - who is back this week for a 30th appearance in the tournament - under-hit a tee shot that for all the world seemed destined to spin back into the creek. Only, it didn’t! Somehow, the ball defied gravity and stayed on the bank in front of the green from where he managed to get up-and-down for an unlikely par on a hole which ranked second toughest on the course that year.
“I’m not sure what would have happened, either in that Masters or, quite frankly, in my career, if the tee ball I hit there had rolled back into Rae’s Creek instead of holding up on the bank . . . . I think I’m safe in saying that it was the biggest golfing break I ever got in golf,” recalled Couples.
Harris English got to experience the hole’s benevolence in a practice round on Sunday, when he “ripped” a wedge from the tee and recorded a hole-in-one. They say you shouldn’t waste your best shots in practice - although English, a 24-year-old who played the course regularly during his college days, wasn’t complaining on this occasion.