One of the most well-known stretches of golf celebrates its 55th birthday this year. No introductions are necessary for the trio of holes known as Amen Corner – the par-4 11th, the par-3 12th and the par-5 13th at Augusta National.
But in 1958, when Herbert Warren Wind coined the term in an article he crafted for Sports Illustrated, few could have predicted the phrase would prove to be as enduring as it has become.
Here is what Wind wrote: “On the afternoon before the start of the Masters golf tournament, a wonderfully evocative ceremony took place at the farthest reaches of the Augusta National Golf Club down in the Amen Corner where Rae’s Creek intersects the 13th fairway near the tee, then parallels the front edge of the green on the short 12th and finally swirls alongside the 11th green.”
Wind said he derived the term from a 1930s jazz song titled “Shoutin’ at Amen Corner,” by Milton “Mezz” Mezzrow. Wind’s intention was to reflect golf’s version of baseball’s hot corner or football’s coffin corner. As it turned out, there are some doubts about Wind’s recollection of the song he credited as inspiration. Experts have been unable to locate the recording. There is, however, a song called “Shoutin’ in That Amen Corner,” written by Andy Razaf, recorded by the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra, and sung by Mildred Bailey in 1935.
Amen Corner has been responsible for countless Masters moments, including one that transpired on the final day of play in 1958. Arnold Palmer hit a tee shot at the 12th that embedded in the bank of Rae’s Creek, and a question arose as to whether a local rule would apply.
With his original ball, Palmer made double bogey. But he also played a second ball, in case rules officials would grant him a free drop. After taking a drop, Palmer got up and down for par. He went on to eagle the 13th and learned two holes later that he was indeed allowed the free drop. Palmer proceeded to win the tournament by one shot over Doug Ford.
In the final round in 1992, Fred Couples’ tee shot at No. 12 came up short of the green, but surprisingly did not roll back into Rae’s Creek. It clung to the grassy bank instead. Couples made an easy par and went on to win the Masters, his only major title.
In 2010, Phil Mickelson played the 12th and 13th a combined 4-under par over the weekend and eventually won his third Green Jacket, defeating Lee Westwood by three shots.
So happy birthday, Amen Corner. History again is waiting.