PGA Member Tim Barter is a veteran of the Augusta National fairways. His first visit came in 2000 when Vijay Singh won and he's walked the fairways for Sky Sports Golf and spoken to all the greats ever since. Here he shares some brilliant insights into some of the more untold stories as we all look ahead to the year's opening Major.

What can’t you see on the TV

When I first went to Augusta the first thing I went to look at was the 18th green, there was a Member standing there and I looked at the green and asked 'Why has it been reduced in size?' – and he replied that it hasn't.

On TV it looks twice the size of that and that just staggered me. Some greens look so big on TV and yet they are not. I remember getting to 17 I’d walked 100 yards off the tee and I was on the left-hand side and I looked to the left and there was another green there, a little tiny green. It was so small and sloping that I thought that it must be the par 3 course but it was the 7th hole on the main course. You know the greens are slopey because you see players putting with their backs to the hole at times but I don’t think you can appreciate how slopey they are and, combined with the speed, that means they are a completely unique challenge. The players don’t play anything like that anywhere else in the world – they face extremely fast greens, and they face slopey greens, but they do not face the combination of both.

Preparation is everything

It is the toughest test of short game that the players face and therefore the preparation part of it, and the knowledge of the course, and the course management are at a premium. You are going to get yourself in situations where, if you miss in the wrong place, you literally cannot get it anywhere near the hole. So the preparation that the players do in terms of understanding the course, and where they can and can't miss, is paramount. Players have said it to me down the years, there is nowhere that they make as many notes.

Obviously the pins are quite often historic, they know where they are going to go – there are only so many flat spots so there are only so many places that they can put them. Knowing how a pin position plays is incredibly valuable. That is why those who don’t know the course well don't play with their mates when they go for a practice round, they will play with the guys who know the course, their guidance is more valuable than on any other course they play. You watch the experienced players and they will take the rookies to certain places and say you need to chip from here because this is the best place to miss to that particular pin. You can’t afford to go over there, so you need to miss here. And if you are going to miss here you need to be familiar how this chip behaves. There is a lot of education that goes on in that respect. The experienced guys don’t shoot at that many flags at Augusta unless the greens are very receptive, they use the contours to feed the ball into the pin, and avoid, like the plague, short-siding themselves on certain holes.

Bogeys are inevitable

Course management wise, tactically, it is an incredibly difficult challenge. The winner will make on average eight or nine bogeys over the course of the week and that is a high number for guys winning tournaments. That is just the severity. If you hit a poor shot and you hit it in the wrong place, then you are likely to make bogey no matter how good your short game is. They make plenty of birdies because they can use the slopes and take advantage of par 5s but it is just the most punishing course if you get out of position. Nothing even comes close.

The changing golf course

It's not often talked about too often but it's very noticeable how much the course changes from one day to the next. The powers-that-be are trying to make sure that the players have the ability to adapt because that is one of the things they want to test. Some of the guys go up a week in advance and play the course for a recce, others have told me there is no point because they change it so much in the last few days.

Phil Mickelson has said that if you are unsure whether to chip or putt from certain situations, then you should do that work as late on Wednesday as you can. Because they will closely mow a swale at the last minute, or allow a closely-mown area to grow changing the possibilities. Historically they say the greens get so much quicker Wednesday night to Thursday morning, and firmer. So, again, it is another one of the unique challenges there, that they do just change the examination on almost a daily basis. Quite often we've seen a very scorable set-ups for the first and last rounds and really testing set-ups for the middle two.

Where to tune up your putting

One of the things that the players have told me down the years is that the putting green between the 1st and the 10th tees is the best one to go and putt on as it more closely replicates what you are going to see on the course. The other practice putting greens aren’t quite as quick they don’t think. There is also a putt there that they say is the fastest, trickiest putt that you will find. And the best way to prepare for what you are actually going to see when you are out on the course is to go and putt that putt for a few minutes every day.

When Charl Schwartzel won, he asked Nick Price for advice on how to prepare for Augusta, and Nick said for several weeks before the tournament, whichever events that he was playing in, to find the fastest putt he could find. It might be an almost ridiculous putt to a pin position that wouldn’t actually be there but stick a tee in the ground and actually go and putt that putt over and over and try and get some feel for the incredibly fast and sloping greens you're going to face. Many players also ask the greenkeepers at their home clubs to make their greens super, super quick in the week before the Masters to help them dial in their feel.

The underrated hole

The 3rd is a sleeper hole. This is a 350-yard par 4 and normally you would be saying they are going to be averaging well under par because they can virtually all drive the green and, yet, historically it averages just over par. There are many factors with the green being the biggest one, it is incredibly slopey and the run-offs are so severe. There is no really obvious tactical plan to play this hole, hence you can sit and watch players take it on in all different ways.

Every player that you talk to says that they have tried everything and they can’t figure out a safe way to play it. many have told me they would take four fours in a heartbeat because you are almost certainly going to make a five on one day when you get out of position. If you lay up off the tee you leave yourself a fuller shot in which is ideal to get to the front pins because you can spin it. But if you pitch it on the green and spin it off, it will go down the steep bank. If you miss it left it will spin down the steep bank, and again very difficult to get up and down from there. And if you miss the fairway with a lay up you are almost guaranteed to make five.

Many who go with the driver will leave themselves a fiddly 30-yard pitch and therefore can’t create a lot of spin. So those front pins are a nightmare to get to, and it is easy to leave it short and run down the bank or knock it too far and suddenly your chance of a three disappears. It is a real conundrum. It is genius really. I think that I have read that it is the hole that has had the least change over the years. It has had less change than any other hole, to keep up with technology and so on, because they don’t need to, because they know it drives the players nuts.

Experience is crucial

I loved to watch Bernhard Langer play the course because his understanding of Augusta was extraordinary. To be able to compete as he did, and Freddie Couples did, up until they were 50 and beyond, was purely down to their understanding. Langer was hitting 4-irons when others were hitting wedge. But if you understand the nuances and you control your ball as well as he does, then you can score, and that is a fascinating watch. Go and watch a guy who is not long enough really to compete on this course, be able to compete just through his craft and his ability to shape the ball and understand where he needs to land it and to understand when he gets out of position what he needs to do to limit the damage.

Mickelson would have been fascinating to watch because, again, his understanding is extraordinary of the place. He can turn up there not being competitive, as he did last year, and he finished second because he understands Augusta. He walks in there thinking I have got a one shot a round advantage over everyone else before I even start because I understand where to miss, where not to miss and how to get up and down if I do miss in the wrong place. So guys who don’t understand it struggle and guys who do understand it plot their way around it in a very effective way.