AUGUSTA, Ga. — Is it me, or did the 2024 Masters Tournament concluded last month exude a subtle-but-fascinating Antipodean vibe? I’m not talking about the field itself (though I do think ESPN and CBS could have done with an Aussie Cam, to track the progress of Mssrs. Davis and Smith), but rather the course itself. I came away convinced that the 2024 presentation at Augusta National Golf Club has subtly moved closer to the Sand Belt stylings of Royal Melbourne, as opposed to the iconic American parkland for which ANGC has for many decades served as standard-bearer.

The Good Doctor, Alister MacKenzie, laid out all 18 holes at ANGC (with Robert Tyre Jones) and all 36 at RMGC (with Alex Russell) some 90 years ago. In Georgia, architect George Cobb subsequently authored several changes during the 1950s and ’60s. Yet most golf fans recognize that, between major championships, this golf course is routinely renovated and tweaked. Last week’s telecast revealed a few new cupping areas, enabled by reworked contours on and around the putting surfaces. A few loblolly pines have also gone missing, some by design, some due to old age, and some out of an abundance of caution, due to the massive tree limb that fell to earth during last year’s tournament.

Augusta National rarely comments on any of these adjustments, as we’ve come to expect. What’s more, its broadcaster partners scrupulously (some would say obsequiously) follow the club’s lead in this regard. As do the course design and construction professionals who carry out this annual off-season adjustment work.

Still, I noticed a few things that felt new, and all of them struck me as rather Australian.

First, the bunker edges at Augusta National are looking more and more like something we’d see at Royal Melbourne, Kingston Heath or Metropolitan. I’m not sure when this edging practice actually started, in Augusta, but this year I noticed for the first time just how much of the soil profile is visible at the top of the greenside bunkers especially. Either way, this is very much a stylistic flourish associated with the top courses in Australia, especially those in the famed Sand Belt region south of Melbourne.

The modifier design nerds like to deploy when describing this style of bunker edge is “sharp”. The definition of said edge is indeed very neat and clean, and balls don’t trickle down a collar or embankent into these bunkers: They drop in, directly. To be clear, I’m not about to claim that this style was instituted course-wide this past winter. More likely, it’s been introduced already, perhaps in a few spots, and expanded to include most every green complex, save 14, where no bunkers exist.

Aussie/Sand Belt bunkers and those at Augusta National have long shared two more qualities: steep faces and flat bottoms. This shared characteristic typically means a ball hits the face, doesn’t embed, and rolls back down to a fairly level bunker floor. This architectural choice has a competitive aspect (anything buried in the face would result in a terrifically difficult recovery shot) and an ease-of-maintenance aspect. It also looks smart.

We can agree Augusta National’s bunkers have presented and played this way for years. It seems to me the club has finally added this soil-forward edging presentation to fully complement the effect.

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