The 2013 Masters gets underway today in Augusta, Georgia, thus marking the real start of the golf year. However, the Masters isn’t just a big deal because it’s the first of the four major tournaments in men’s pro golf. It’s a big deal because no other tournament packs as much tradition and ceremony into five days. How could they, really? The Masters is the only major tournament that takes place at the same golf club—Augusta National—every single year.
Today, in honor of the Masters and the unofficial start of golf season, we present you with this list of things you may not have known about the world’s most famous golf tournament. Before you head on over to CBS to catch Tiger Woods teeing off, you should take a look.
The Augusta National Golf Club opened for business in January 1933. It was conceived three years earlier by perhaps the greatest amateur golfer of all time, Bobby Jones, a lawyer who put his plan into action with the help of co-founder Clifford Roberts. The two are pictured above in 1956.
The club held the first Masters Tournament, then called the Augusta National Invitational, in late March, 1934. The field was mostly comprised of friends and associates of Jones, who had retired a few years earlier, and the event was won by Horton Smith.
11. The Founding
The land on which the August National Golf Club sits was originally an indigo plantation. Then, from 1857 on, it was a tree nursery.
When Jones and Roberts purchased the land, they hired legendary British golf course architect Dr. Alister MacKenzie to design their course. MacKenzie designed a course typical of his heritage, modeling Augusta after places like St. Andrews which, with its billowing contours, promotes a strong ground game and genuine "links-style" golf. However, MacKenzie died before August was completed, and Bobby Jones started making changes almost immediately. Eventually, the course became more favorable to an aerial game.
Today, after significant alterations under the supervisions of a variety of different course architects in just about every decade, the only thing left from the original design is the routing of the holes. Interestingly, some people say that the changes to August over the years have "ruined" American golf. How? Because the course promoted a style of play that only works on lush courses that are simply unattainable (or at least prohibitively expensive) in most places.
10. Evolution of the Course
From the outset, Augusta National was one of the most exclusive golf clubs in the world. It was and still is invitation-only.
Unfortunately, the club's invitation practices were a little problematic. You see, it's not just that they only invited the 1% to join. It's that, until 1990, they didn't invite a black person. And until 2012, they didn't invite a woman.
And don't think for a moment that the lack of black members was some kind of oversight or something. Until 1983—seriously, 1983—all the caddies at Augusta National had to be black. In fact, club co-founder Clifford Roberts once said, "As long as I’m alive, all the golfers will be white and all the caddies will be black."
So basically, the whole club was a bunch of old rich white men pretending they lived in the pre-Civil War south.
Today, of course, the club allow both women and African Americans. In fact, in 2012 they got a two-for-one by inviting none other than Condoleezza Rice. Other members of Augusta include Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Lou Holtz, Lynn Swann, and Darla Moore—the other woman inducted in 2012.
9. Club Membership
Interestingly, although the Masters is perhaps the most famous of the four major tournaments, its field is the weakest. Why? Well, it has to do with founder Bobby Jones. As mentioned already, he was one of the greatest amateur golfers of all time, and he had a special interest in promoting the amateur game. As a results, the Masters is required to include quite a few amateur players, including the U.S. Amateur champ (who always plays the first two rounds in the same group as the defending Masters champ), the U.S. Mid-Amateur champ, the Public Links champ, and the British Amateur champ, just to name a few. When you add to these all the past Masters Tournament Champions who receive lifetime invitations, what happens is a lot of spots are taken from other pro golfers at the top of their game. Thus, you're actually more likely to see the biggest names in golf win the Masters than other tournaments, because they're competing against a weaker field.
8. The Field
Without a doubt, the king of Augusta is still the great Jack Nicklaus. He won the tournament an unmatched six times. After Jack there's Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods, who have both won the tournament four times. And then there are Jimmy Demaret, Sam Snead, Gary Player, Nick Faldo, and Phil Mickelson, who have each won it three times. The first non-American to win the Masters was Gary Player in 1961. The oldest to win it? That was Nicklaus, who was 46 when he won it in 1986. And of course, the youngest, at just 21 years old, was Tiger Woods.
7. The Winners
Every year since 1960, Augusta National holds a Par 3 Contest on the Wednesday before the tournament. It's supposed to be a light-hearted family day out on the course, with kids and wives and grandkids serving as caddies for their dads, husbands, and grandpas. Personally, I think it's just an excuse for the players to show off their hot wives, but whatever.
In any case, while 13 Masters champions have won the Par 3 Contest, none of them ever won it in the same year that they won the Tournament—not even Arnold Palmer. He won the Masters in '58, '60, '62, and '64, but the Par 3 Contest in '67. Tom Watson won the two closest together, though. He won the Masters in '81 and the Par 3 Contest in '82.
6. The Par 3 Contest
I mentioned in the introduction that the Masters is the only major tournament to be held in the same place every single year, which is why the traditions at the Masters are so strong. However, this wasn't always Bobby Jones's vision for Augusta National. In the 1930s, not long after opening, he petitioned the USGA to hold the U.S. Open at August. However, they turned him down, saying that the Georgia summers would just be too unbearable for the golfers. Thus, if Augusta wanted to hose a major event, they'd just have to create their own...which they did.
5. Only in Augusta
As you might imagine with a golf club so hell-bent on tradition that they didn't allow black members until 1990, there are a lot of interesting rules at the Masters. For example, fans—who are called "patrons"—are not allowed to run. You run, you get kicked out. Also, there are no autographs allowed, and you can have no electronic devices of any kind.
The most interesting rule, though, is now defunct. Until 1983—the same year that the club stopped using only black caddies—the golfers taking part in the Masters could not use their own personal caddies. They had to use one of Augusta's caddies, who always wear their signature white jumpsuits.
4. The Rules
August National is obviously a very conservative place. Surprisingly, however, it happens to be one of the most environmentally sustainable golf courses around. According to National Geographic, the course's natural trimming means groundskeepers need minimal amounts of water, pesticides, and fertilizer to keep the court looking lush. On top of that, they've introduced a number of eco-friendly policies—such as the use of an advanced rain-prediction system and a reforestation program—to make the place even greener.
So the folks at Augusta are tree-huggers. Who knew?
3. Green Greens
Given that a bear and a brat at a Major League Baseball game costs about $42 these days, you would probably assume that concessions at one of the stuffiest and most exclusive golf clubs in the world would be pretty pricey. But that's just not the case. Apparently the desire of the folks running August National to see everything stay like it was in the 1930s extends to the food, which just might be the cheapest in all of pro sports. A signature "pimento cheese" sandwhich? That'll cost you just a buck-fifty. Seriously, just $1.50. And if you're a high roller, you can get one of the premium sandwiches, like the "Masters Club," for $2.50.
But is there beer, you ask? You bet. And a "premium import" will cost you just $3.75. That means you can have two beers and four sandwiches for a grand total $12.50. Is that not insane?
2. Cheap Eats
So what's the deal with the famous Green Jackets? Well, some time in the 1930s, as the story goes, Bobby Jones thought it would be a good idea for Augusta National members to wear the green jackets during the Masters Tournament so that patrons, players, and media types could easily identify members. To this day, each member is fitted for a jacket, once made by Brooks Brothers, but now made by Hamilton of Cintinnati, Ohio. The tradition of giving a Green Jacket to the winner of the winner of the Masters began in 1949, and the first player to receive one was Sam Snead.
So do the winners get to keep the Green Jackets? Yes...but no. For one year, they can take that green jacket anywhere they want. In fact, the winner's jacket is the only one allowed to leave Augusta. However, when that year is up, the player has to return the jacket to Augusta National. They keep is there for him, ready for any time he returns to play at the club. If he wins the Masters again? Same jacket. Unless he's put on a few pounds, in which case he'll get a new one.
It should be noted, however, that just because a guy won the Masters and has a green jacket waiting for him in the clubhouse for eternity, that doesn't make him a member. He's not. That's still invite-only.