It would certainly be a Masters unlike any other.
Instead of being the annual rite of spring for golf in April, the Masters will serve as an autumn awakening in November. A different version of a Fall Classic, if you will.
Shortly after Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley announced this year’s Masters was postponed – not canceled – due to the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the world, speculation began to run rampant as to when the best players in the world would arrive in Augusta, Georgia, and drive down Magnolia Lane in pursuit of a green jacket.
Word got out that the club was making calls to local schools, rental agencies and government officials to get a sense of how a Masters in the fall would pan out, seeing as every Masters has been played in April except the two years it was held in March.
These bites of information naturally spawned some questions. If the Masters were to be held in November, how would the course play? How would it look? How would it feel?
Past Masters champions Zach Johnson and Trevor Immelman, and former world No. 1 Luke Donald have all played Augusta National in October and offered some clues to playing the course in autumn.
A few basics first: The average temperatures in spring and fall are similar – from the upper-40s to the upper-70s. On average, there’s more rain in the fall, and Northerly winds are the norm, which means players would hit into wind streams on the first hole and on three of the four par 5s.
In April, players play on rye grass and putt on bentgrass greens. In the fall, when the seasonal club reopens in October after closing in late May, the rye overseed is introduced while the Bermuda grass is shaved.
“Playing in October is very different to April in the fact the Bermuda grass was still fighting with the overseed,” Donald said of the 7,475-yard course.
But Donald said the club’s resources, including a SubAir system that controls the temperature and moisture of all the greens and many landing areas in the fairways, would make this Masters course play as similar as possible to April’s course.
“And the greens are always pure there so they’d be fast and true. But there would certainly be some Bermuda grass fighting with the overseed,” Donald continued. “The fairways would be a little bit softer because you’re usually coming off a very warm summer in Georgia, which goes through September, so you’re just starting to cool off in October. With that heat you have to water the course a lot.
“I just think the course would play a bit longer.”
‘It would still be Augusta… still be pure’
Johnson, who held off Tiger Woods to win the green jacket in 2007, said it’s difficult to predict how the course will play.
“My guess is that you would see more Bermuda, but it would still be Augusta National and it would still be pure. It would still be green and it would still be a major championship at Augusta National,” said Johnson.
“And the playability of Augusta National will still be based on Mother Nature, not the grass. It’s Augusta National. It’s going to be pure. You’re going to have great lies; the greens will be pure. It still would be unbelievable.”
Which would be true with the visuals, as well. The vibrant spring colors of the lush dogwoods and azaleas would be replaced by the autumn splendor of various shades of yellow, orange, red and brown hues.
“In the spring, all the color is popping and it’s very lush,” said Immelman, who also held off Woods en route to his green jacket in 2008. He has played Augusta National more than 20 times in October. “Now, in the fall, you’ve got great color, too. It’s just different colors. You have that fall orangey, reddish thing going.
“But it’s still breathtaking.”
And a Masters in November also could be inspiring.
“We’ve become so accustomed to the fact that the Masters signals the fact the major season is starting, it’s spring time for most of America. It signals that we’ve come through a long winter and those who had been locked in by winter are feeling the warmth of spring,” Immelman said. “If the Masters is played in the fall, it would feel a little different. But the world is going through such a tough time right now, and everybody is so unsure how the next little while will pan out.
“The Masters and all the great events in sports would be so inspirational for us to start building back up.”
By Steve DiMeglio
This article originally appeared on GolfWeek.com.