18/05/2024

Patch revamp is ‘just going to be fantastic,’ Masters chairman says

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Patch revamp is ‘just going to be fantastic,’ Masters chairman says

Augusta National Golf Club has retained two of golf’s most respected course designers, Tom Fazio and Beau Welling, to lead the renovation of The Patch.

Augusta National Golf Club has retained two of golf’s most respected course designers, Tom Fazio and Beau Welling, to lead the renovation of The Patch.

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Augusta National Golf Club Chairman Fred Ridley held a news conference Wednesday, offering an update on the Masters as well as plans to improve the Augusta Municipal Golf Course, which is nicknamed The Patch.

“We are on a great path to make significant improvements to The Patch and First Tee,” Ridley said.

Management and improvements at The Patch are being accomplished through a partnership between Augusta National, the city of Augusta and Augusta Technical College.

The project was announced during Ridley’s news conference for last year’s Masters.

Ridley said an April 2026 opening is anticipated.

He said there’s “almost unlimited potential” for The Patch.

“We have reached an agreement with the city of Augusta to lease this facility, and over the past year we have had multiple community input sessions with the many stakeholders who frequent The Patch. With the insightful feedback we received, we are on a great path to make significant improvements to The Patch and to the First Tee facilities,” Ridley said.

He said the club has retained two of golf’s most respected course designers, Tom Fazio and Beau Welling, to lead the renovation of The Patch.

The golf course has a lot of history, “and we’re going to honor that history,” he said.

For example, he said they won’t build a new clubhouse.

“There’s been a lot of history in that clubhouse,” he said.

The main focus will be on trying to provide a great golf course, he said.

It will really be a hub for junior and high school golf.

He also noted how excited he is about the golf course management program at Augusta Technical College that The Patch is a part of.

“While planning is still in process ... I think it’s just going to be fantastic,” Ridley said.

Dr. Jermaine Whuirl, president of Augusta Tech, agrees that the end result will be spectacular.

“Oh, it’s unbelievable,” he said. “You know, we’ve spent a year working on it. And to have the lease on with the city about a week and a half ago now, really moves this project forward. And we look forward to Jan. 1 2025, is coming around the corner.”


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Projects like The Patch improvement, as well as the Hub for Community Innovation, are among a number of philanthropic efforts in recent years by Augusta National.

Ridley said Augusta National historically has been “somewhat passive” in publicizing its philanthropic focus, working mainly in the background.

“We have sort of kept it a secret,” he said.

However, he said the club has learned that it can mobilize more help for these projects from other quarters if more people know about them.

“While we don’t really seek any credit because we always like to work with others to – one plus one equals three – but we have to recognize with all due humility the convening power that Augusta National has,” he said. “And we ought to use that convening power to do good things.”

That was the club’s intention in becoming more visibly active in the community, he said.

And he feels that’s making a difference.

Growing the game of golf

Ridley pointed out that golf is growing as a sport, and that is among Augusta National’s goals.

Participation is up, and new courses and clubs are increasing around the world, he said.

“I believe everyone agrees there is excitement in the air this week,” Ridley said.

“The best golf has to offer is on center stage.”

When asked about why Augusta National has been behind efforts like the Augusta National Women’s Amateur and Drive Chip and Putt, he said it’s “really just to continue to perpetuate the mission of this club,” which is to grow the sport.

ALSO AT THE NEWS CONFERENCE:

  • Ridley noted the change to hole No. 2, with an adjusted tee location that will add a new challenge. Adding distance to the course has become standard operating procedure in recent years, he noted.
  • He discussed the opening of the club’s new hospitality facility, Map and Flag, across Washington Road. The second phase will debut during the 2025 tournament.
  • Underground parking at Augusta National will open for players next year, he said, with a second phase including three levels opening in two years.

He was asked about the balance of using new technology and maintaining the legacy, mission and mystique of Augusta National.

He said the club wants to progress and continue the mission to grow the game.

But he also said the club wants to reach out to new people in new ways.

“So I think it’s a case of being – maybe having a degree of self-awareness and accept and be comfortable who we are but at the same time not be afraid to try things from time to time,” he said.

“So I think what we’ll do is continue to use the great intellect and creativity of the folks on our staff in our content and digital endeavors but at the same time try to be true to our mission and who we are and just remember those things that Mr. Roberts and Mr. Jones had in mind when they created the club.”

But it’s a balance that’s not always easy, he said.

He was asked if, considering the success of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, there has been any thought about doing something in the future that would give access to the course for professional women, like a one-off tournament.

I think the answer is yes,” Ridley said, but there are some “fundamental difficulties” in that.

“We happily were able to find a way to have a competition for juniors and a competition for women amateurs sort of wrapped around the Masters Tournament, and it just seems to fit really well,” he said.

“To have another tournament of any kind would be very difficult based on our season, based on the fact that this is essentially a winter and spring golf course,” he said.

Plus, “we need to make sure that we really respect the mystique and the magic of the Masters,” he said. “So we would have to think long and hard to have another golf tournament.”

Distance concerns

Ridley repeated his support for the USGA and R&A pushing forward with a plan to change equipment standards aimed toward making the golf ball go shorter distances. And he used his own number Wednesday.

“I’ve said in the past that I hope we will not play the Masters at 8,000 yards,” Ridley said. “But that is likely to happen in the not-too-distant future under current standards.”

New testing standards are designed to make elite players hit up to 15 yards shorter, but they don’t go into effect until 2028. The PGA Tour and the PGA of America are opposed to rolling back how far the golf ball can go, but Ridley was hopeful they adopt the standards to avoid “a great deal of stress in the game, which it doesn’t need right now.”

Ridley also said there was no plan to introduce a tournament for female professionals at Augusta National.

“We happily were able to find a way to have a competition for juniors and a competition for women amateurs sort of wrapped around the Masters Tournament, and it just seems to fit really well,” he said. “To have another tournament of any kind would be very difficult based on our season, based on the fact that this is essentially a winter and spring golf course. It’s not open in the summer. It doesn’t play the way we want it to play in the fall for a major tournament.”

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