The 2013 #Masters: Results-Based Pin Placements

Posted on April 9, 2013 | in 2013 Masters, Golf, Root Cause Analysis | by

Masters Week is finally here! All of the golf world has descended upon Augusta, Georgia for the next six days for the 2013 Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club.

While you’re not supposed to believe everything you read on fan message boards (or on the internet in the first place, for that matter), here is a pseudo-rumor I have also heard from multiple reputable sources regarding pin placements during the Masters:

The hole locations are decided on by the competition committee. Usually they will go out over the course early on the day of play and select the placements according to how they want the hole to play that day. Often they will also roll a ball form different angles at the potential spot before cutting the hole to be certain that the hole will play fairly.

Each green at Augusta National only has a very few possible locations because of the extreme slopes. The areas where the hole can be made are relatively small when compared to the actual size of the greens. It takes very precise approach shots to take advantage of most of the possible hole positions.

“Pin placement” is the designated geographic location for the hole on a golf green.

masters pin placements 2011

Sunday pin placements for 2011 Masters (Source:

Based on the quoted message board post (and the rumor provided on high authority), this is an example of using results-based activity planning. It’s essentially the opposite of root cause analysis – instead of starting with a problem and working backwards to identify the potential causes of the problem, you start with an intended result and work backwards to control the potential inputs or causes to attempt to achieve that result.

Here’s how Augusta National Golf Club would use results-based activity planning for The Masters. The ANGC competition committee would determine what kinds of scores they would like to see from the field. Examples of “kinds of scores” could include highness or lowness scores (scores relative to par) or scores tightly bunched together. Maybe the first couple of rounds see top scores of -9 or -10 and they’d like to bring the scores closer to par.

Based on their intended results (the scores), the committee examines what is and is not out of their control with regard to scores.

Out of their control on a round-by-round basis? The weather, the elements, the technology, outlier players with strokes of luck, Sunday pin placements (here’s why), among other things.

In their control? Pin placements on greens other days of the tournament and condition of the grounds for play.

Before each round begins, the competition committee selects pin placements on each hole the night before/morning of, and sets up the course accordingly before play begins on subsequent rounds. Traditionally, the Sunday pin placements have been placed in the same locations on each green every year. The committee uses GPS technology, control of grass height in the roughs, moisture in the surfaces of the greens, and weather forecast projections to dictate player activity hitting to the greens and on the greens, which will control the player scores.


They also use a stimpmeter, a tool that helps measure the speed and direction of putts on golf greens. A golf ball is released on an incline and the direction and final resting location help establish how a green will play in given conditions.

Based on prior year knowledge of how greens play (and subsequent changes to rebuilt greens year after year) the club can control how scores play out to better demonstrate mastery of the game of golf.

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