The 5 Worst (And 4 Best) Aspects of The Masters
To say The Masters is a divisive sporting event would be an epic understatement. The biggest tournament in golf, the one most rooted in tradition, gets called to task by critics for exemplifying aspects of exclusivity, elitism, and good ole’ fashioned bigotry. And it’s hard to argue with the evidence. Black members and women have been late additions to Augusta Country Club’s membership roster, and only under huge pressure from the media. The Masters and Augusta are linked in a fashion that no other event and venue in sports is, so it’s hard to extricate The Masters golf tournament from the practices of the country club that holds it.
However, there are elements of tradition and integrity to The Masters that may be hard to see beyond the obvious social issues that Augusta has been slow to acknowledge and face.
So, with a mixed bag of findings, let’s examine the five worst and four best aspects of The Masters.
Some sporting event tickets are just really, really expensive, but obtainable. Not Masters tickets. By the time the allotment to VIPs and club members is doled out, there are scant few for the masses. Now, it warrants mentioning that Augusta works to keep attendance low, and anyone who’s ever been to a crowded golf tournament sees the virtue in that. But keeping such tight reins on access to the public supports the worst stereotypes of both golf and country clubs.
The Worst 5. The Tickets are Impossible to Get
This might seem like a silly complaint, tantamount to “Does the Super Bowl always have to be for FOOTBALL teams?,” but The Masters, steeped in all its tradition, will never escape the shadows and the policies of Augusta. To give an arm’s-length organization that much power over a sport’s biggest event seems to be a conflict of interest, as The Masters exists to serve Augusta far more than Augusta goes out of its way to serve the goals of the organization. And anyone who says otherwise hasn’t been reading about Augusta for the past 50 years.
The Worst 4. It’s Inextricably Tied to Augusta
Yup. 1983. Not 1949. Not 1970. 1983. If you need any indication that Augusta values tradition of righteousness, things like this should change your mind pretty quickly. Not only is it a bad practice for the quality of golf (though I’m sure those caddies were savants when it came to playing the course), it’s bad practice for humanity. Tradition can be virtuous, but it can also be a plague that stifles change and progress. We’ll see what side of the line Augusta sits on with the next two items as well.
The Worst 3. Until 1983, Golfers Had to Use Club-Supplied Black Caddies
Black members weren’t allowed to join Augusta until 1990. Until then, it was public knowledge that the club had no interest in allowing black members. Until 1959, all caddies HAD to be black, and as a practical matter, they continued to be so for years and years after the policy was relaxed. As you could imagine, a relaxing of policy doesn’t mean a practical change, and, like so many other country clubs, allowing black people and wanting black people are two very different things. Augusta isn’t the only perpetrator in this regard, but it is the most visible, and thus, deserves the most pressure.
The Worst 2: Its Treatment of Blacks
Sadly, it’s not surprising to learn about these practices at a southern golf course, but it’s still disappointing. It’s not like they struggled with the decision to let women in 40 years ago. This was 2012. They were digging their heels in and preventing classes, races, and genders of people from joining for the sake of being exclusive and difficult. And that’s just terrible. It was only under ridiculous pressure from sponsors (and even then, Augusta let the sponsors walk and didn’t replace them) that the club changed it’s tune. It’s hard to get excited about the progress of an institution when it only progresses kicking and screaming.
The Worst 1: Women Weren’t Allowed Until 2012. Yup, 2012.
The Masters and Augusta are likely doing just fine, financially. And while a refusal to bend to the wishes of the public or sponsors may result in some backwards policies, it also allows for a simplicity and earnestness in the event that you won’t see in more crass sponsored events. You’ll see instances of this below, but it’s nice to know that the operations of the event aren’t done with an eye towards milking the viewers and spectators for everything they’ve got.
The Best 4: It’s Not Motivated by Money
There isn’t much offered at Augusta in the way of concessions, but what is offered has been around forever and seems to have had its prices set about 300 years ago. Beers are $3. So are BBQ sandwiches. Coffee is $1.50. And they have $2 Georgia peach ice cream sandwiches. And I bet they’re really, really good. Import beers are $4. A-HA! That’s how they f*ck ya. With the imports. Nice try, Augusta.
The Best 3: Concession Prices
Every year, right before the tournament starts, the previous year’s winner hosts a dinner for all the other previous winners. And they get to pick the menu. The whole thing is pretty cool and old-guard, and you get to see the international winners like Vijay Singh force “Seafood tom kah, chicken panang curry, baked sea scallops with garlic sauce, rack of lamb with yellow kari sauce, baked filet Chilean sea bass with three flavor chili sauce and lychee sorbet” upon a bunch of country club snobs. Then you’ve got Bubba Watson’s menu, which reads like it was designed by a third-grader with “Traditional caesar salad to start. Entree of grilled chicken breast with sides of green beans, mashed potatoes, corn, macaroni and cheese, served with cornbread. Dessert of confetti cake and vanilla ice cream.”
The Best 2: Masters Champions Dinner
The green jacket represents a lot of things. It represents history, tradition, and the fact that golfers, by and large, dress like a**holes. It also makes for a pretty cool moment when the champion slips it on. There are a lot of trophies out there, but the green jacket seems like an otherworldly tradition, free of frills or sponsors. It’s a nice touch to an even that seems sheltered from the outside world in ways that are both very good, and very bad.