When Augusta National Golf Club moved its tee back on No. 4, it transformed the par-3 into one of the most difficult holes on the course.
The tees were moved back in 2006 to 240 yards, adding 30 to 35 yards to the hole. As a result, the hole has become a test of ball striking and control from long irons, hybrids and even fairway woods.
Historically, No. 4 is tied with No. 12 as the third-toughest hole during the Masters Tournament, with a 3.29 scoring average. It ranked sixth in 2012 at 3.22.
“I think you can argue the front left pin on four, especially if the tees are back, is the hardest hole on the golf course,” 2007 Masters winner Zach Johnson said. “You can’t hit it right of the hole. You’re making bogey at best. You have to be short or left. That’s really what it is. It’s a small landing area with a fairly long club.”
Long clubs are the norm off the tee, from Tianlang Guan’s fairway wood Thursday to Webb Simpson’s hybrid. Simpson and Luke Donald were the only golfers to birdie the hole Thursday. Its scoring average for the first day was 3.215, making it the eighth toughest hole.
“It was a good birdie,” Simpson said. “I got off to a slow start but hit a really good shot into there. I got a good read off Peter’s (Hanson) putt and it went in. It was 17 or 18 feet.
“It’s a tough hole. We don’t play many holes that are that long for par-3s, so I was just hoping to get there, and I picked up a shot on the field.”
Known to some as the palm tree hole because it has the only one on the course, at the right of the green, No. 4 plays from 175 to 240 yards, depending on the tee and hole placement.
Gallery guard Jan Fink, who has watched over the hole for seven years, said the custom is for Augusta National to use a shorter tee one day during the tournament – usually Friday – when it plays at its shortest.
Now known as Flowering Crab Apple for the three crab apple trees in front of the palm tree, No. 4 is a good spectator hole, according to those who sit at the tee. The green sits well below the tee, allowing patrons to see the complete ball flight.
“It’s really an underrated hole,” Fink said. “This hole is tough, and it’s gotten tougher over the years.”
Jeff Sluman has the only hole-in-one in Masters history at No. 4, hitting a 4-iron from 213 yards in 1992.
The hole has claimed many victims. Henrik Stenson owns the record for highest score with 8 in 2011. Phil Mickelson’s chances in the 2012 Masters dwindled after a triple bogey; he finished two strokes back of Bubba Watson.