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Play Away: Almost Augusta

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then the twelfth hole at Augusta National is arguably the most complimented hole in history. The clones of No. 12—and there are dozens scattered across the South—strive to duplicate the brilliance of a hole once described by Jack Nicklaus as the most demanding tournament hole in the world.

While their proportions may mirror the original, the trees are never as tall, the setting is never as perfect and the greens are never as glassy as at Augusta. Still, tee your Titleist on these five replicas and squint real hard. For a fleeting moment, it's Sunday at the Masters.

BEAR'S BEST ATLANTA, Sixth Hole, Suwanee, GA
Architect: Jack Nicklaus, 2002. Greens Fees: $79-$99. Tee Times: 678-714-2582, www.bearsbest.com
An imitation of an imitation, this hole is actually a reproduction of the par-three twelfth at Muirfield Village, itself inspired by Augusta's infamous twelfth. (Got it?) But thanks to Nicklaus, a six-time Masters champion, this third-generation clone is nearly as potent as the original. The shot is played over the Chattahoochee River to a wafer-like green defended in front and behind by bunkers. As at Augusta the wind swirls here, so have your caddie choose the club. Besides, this nice bit of legerdemain is located in Georgia, so it's got that going for it. ****

Architect: Ron Garl, 1986. Greens Fee: $150. Tee Times: 352-671-3933, www.goldenocala.com
Crest the hill on the tenth fairway here and the par-three eleventh looms into view. And what a faithful view it is: the bridge, the creek, the bean-shaped green, the well-placed bunkers fore and aft. All that's missing is a more capricious breeze and taller, more stately trees. The green isn't as slick as the National's marble-like surface, but a ball hit with too much spin onto its front edge will roll back down the bank into the water—unless you're as charmed as Freddy Couples. ****

RENDITIONS GOLF CLUB, Seventh Hole, Davidsonville, MD
Architects: Edsall Golf Group with Jeff Sheehan and Spencer Clements, 2002. Greens Fees: $79-$89. Tee Times: 410-798-9798, www.renditionsgolf.com
Renditions is among the more technically sophisticated knockoff courses around, and the mimicry here at the seventh is precise. After gazing at the faux leaderboard beside the pond at the sixth (itself a replica of Augusta's eleventh), players stroll to the seventh tee to do battle with the swirling winds at this do-or-die one-shotter. The surroundings are a bit bare—nothing can touch Augusta's cathedral-like setting—but the terrain itself is quite accurately represented. ***1/2

WORLD TOUR GOLF LINKS, Fifth Hole, Myrtle Beach, SC
Architect: Mel Graham, 1999. Greens Fees: $75-$175. Tee Times: 843-236-2000, www.worldtourmb.com
This Myrtle Beach smorgasbord includes a strong, albeit slightly spartan replica of Augusta's twelfth. The slim, raised green, a scant fourteen yards deep, is realistically bunkered, with a sizable maw in front and two smaller pits in back. A simulation of Rae's Creek purls in front of the green, while the arched stone bridge across the water is a clever copy of the Hogan Bridge. On the downside, the striplings framing the green are a far cry from Augusta's skyscraper pines. And swirling winds?Only when a low pressure system moves in. ***1/2

TOUR 18, Sixth Hole, Humble, TX
Architect: Dennis Wilkerson, 1992. Greens Fees: $69-$89. Tee Times: 281-540-1818, www.tour18.com
In 1992, this former oil field northeast of Houston transplanted hundreds of dogwoods, plus azaleas and crepe myrtles, to create the stage for this take on the twelfth. Of course, the scrubby Texas landscape is no match for the world's most beautiful parkland course. The front of the green is also not as steep or wide as Augusta's. What's more, Augusta's grass varietals cannot be reproduced in steamy Houston: the TifDwarf Bermuda green is neither as subtly contoured nor as slick as the real thing. Other than that, the hole's just great. ***


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