In the town of Augusta, Georgia, in the first full week of April is where you’ll find some of golf’s most iconic traditions and exciting moments. Talented golfers from all over travel to the small city to participate in the legendary Masters Tournament and compete for The Green Jacket. To celebrate the upcoming event, let’s take a stroll down Magnolia Lane to see how the Masters was created and learn more about one of the most prestigious events in golf.
The idea for Augusta National Golf Club came from Bobby Jones, a Georgia native, who had recently retired from golf and wanted to build a course. He sought advice from an investment banker, Clifford Roberts, who he had met several times during the mid-1920s. The two came across a 365-acre former plant nursery named Fruitland Nurseries. Jones immediately fell in love with the property and said, “Perfect! And to think this ground has been lying here all these years waiting for someone to come along and lay a golf course upon it.”
Construction on the course began in the first half of 1931 and opened in December 1932 where a limited amount of members could play. By January 1933, a formal opening took place and in 1934 the first Masters was held. At this time, it was known as Augusta National Invitation Tournament even though Roberts had suggested it be called the Masters. Roberts wanted it to reference the “masters of golf” who played in it, but Jones believed the name to be immodest; by 1939 the name was officially changed to the Masters.
It took no time for the Masters Tournament to become a popular fixture in the golf world. Since Jones was one of the most admired golfers of his day, the Masters inherited his popularity. The Masters Tournament is just as popular to this day and due in part to its traditions.
The Masters offers cash prizes as well as trophies but perhaps the most notable of awards given is the Green Jacket. In 1937, Augusta National members would wear green sport coats so that fans could recognize them. By 1949, this concept expanded to winners being presented with green jackets. Sam Snead, the winner in 1949, was the first person to receive the jacket and all previous winners were retroactively given replica jackets (winners are not allowed to keep the green jacket but they can have a replica made).
There are several other traditions that take place before and during the weeklong event. This includes pre-tournament events, such as youth golf competitions and the Augusta National Women’s Amateur. In addition, there is a Par-3 contest, which was introduced in 1960 and is played the Wednesday before the tournament starts. In this event, golfers may use their children as caddies, which helps to create a family-friendly atmosphere.
Since 1963, it is customary to start the tournament with an honorary opening tee shot at the first hole, typically by one of the legendary players. There is also the Champions’ Dinner (first held in 1952 by Ben Hogan), which is officially known as the “Masters Club”. This dinner includes only past winners of the Masters and selected members of the Augusta National Golf Club have been included as honorary members, usually the chairman.
- The shade of the Green Jacket is Pantone 342.
- Each hole on the course is named after a flower to pay homage to the property’s former use as a plant nursery.
- Bobby Jones co-designed the course with Alister MacKenzie. MacKenzie died in January 1934, after the construction had finished but before Augusta National was fully covered with grass.
- There is a main driveway leading from Washington Road to the clubhouse known as Magnolia Lane. There are 60 magnolia trees on either side that were planted in the 1850s.
- Jones played in the Masters 12 times – every year it was held between 1934 and 1948. His best finish came in his first appearance, when he shot 6-over 294 and finished T-13.
- Because of World War II, the Masters was not held in 1943, ’44 or ’45
- While Augusta National does not reveal the identities of its members, some of the reportedly better-known members are NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens and Jack Nicklaus.
- Augusta National was “Tiger-proofed” after 1997 when Tiger Woods effectively transformed the par-5 holes into par 4s by easily reaching their greens in two shots. Club officials decided to make changes – primarily adding length – after Woods won his second green jacket in 2001. Even with the changes, Woods won again in 2002. And again in 2005. More changes were made before the 2006 event, including the addition of trees and the narrowing of fairways.
- Jack Nicklaus holds the title of most Masters titles and has won six Masters titles (1963, ’65, ’66, ’72, ’75 and ’86). Tiger Woods is one back, having added a fifth title in 2019 (1997, 2001, ’02, ’05, ’19). Nicklaus and Tiger Woods are the only golfers to have won the Masters in three separate decades.
Even though the Masters isn’t really a “championship” like other golf majors, such as the US Open, The Open, and the PGA is it known as a major. This is because majors have historically been determined by popular opinion. Yes, Jones’s popularity helped it become a major but it is also because the event is an early spring tournament and those who have won at Augusta are revered as “quality players”.
The Masters Tournament is back in full swing this year after being delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Tune in from April 5th to April 11th to see who will be awarded in the Green Jacket at the 2021 Masters Tournament.