This afternoon, the 77th Masters Tournament will conclude and a deserving winner will receive one of Augusta National’s coveted green jackets (unless, of course, there is a playoff). This annual tournament draws thousands of spectators – or rather, “patrons” – to witness current and future golf legends provide one of the most entertaining and epic competitions in the world of sports. Held at the same time and place every year, the Masters has become one of the most storied and historic sporting events in the world. In honor of this, here are some famous facts about the Tournament and its home course that you may not have know.
The Masters is one of the most exclusive sporting events in the world
In order to watch the Masters in person, you must have one of three things: 1) a lot of luck, 2) a very lucky and generous relative or friend, or 3) a boatload of money. Until the 1970’s, it was relatively easy to be a spectator at the Masters – or, as Augusta National calls them, “patrons”. If you wished to receive a pass to the four tournament rounds on Thursday – Sunday, you signed up for the “Patron’s List”, essentially becoming a season-ticket holder for the Masters. Every year, Augusta would give you the option of purchasing the badges for the tournament, the practice rounds on Monday – Wednesday, or both. They were inexpensive and widely available.
Unfortunately, the presence of golf titans such as Palmer, Nicklaus, and Player led to an increase in popularity to the Masters until demand for the tickets began to exceed supply. In 1972, the Patron’s List was closed; it would remain so until 2001, when a wait list was opened, only to close again shortly after. It seemed as though the Masters would remain permanently inaccessible to the majority of aspiring patrons. Augusta National maintains that tickets cannot be sold in secondary markets – only given to family, friends, and acquaintances. This rule was largely ignored, but the only two external sources of tickets – brokers and individual sellers – still charge Super Bowl-esque prices at a minimum.
A break came in 2012, when Augusta changed their policies regarding Patron’s List tickets. When a listed patron died, their tickets are sometimes returned to Augusta by their families. Previously, these tickets were simply taken out of circulation until last year when Augusta made them available to the public through a lottery system. This also includes tickets to the practice rounds, which are much more widely available.
Now comes the crazy part: If you are on the Patron’s List or are lucky enough to be drawn in the lottery, you can obtain practice-rounds tickets for $50 and tournament tickets for $75 by purchasing them directly from Augusta. Otherwise, on an average year, tournament passes can be obtained from a ticket broker for around $1,500 depending on how early you buy them. This year, the passes were going for between a whopping $7,000 and $12,000 on secondary markets as the tournament drew closer. Even practice-round passes were selling for $1,000 – an astounding fact considering that many of them are only single-passes and that the practice rounds have considerably less appeal to patrons. Rarely do you see even Super Bowl tickets go for nearly that amount of money. It is widely speculated that Tiger Wood’s position as unanimous front-runner prior to the tournament helped drive prices in resale markets.
It is easy to see why a trip to the Masters is considered by many to be a once-in-a-lifetime event.
The Masters was conceived by one of the greatest golfers of all time
Not only that, but so was the course it is played on. Robert Tyre Jones was an Atlanta native who learned to play golf by imitating the swing of a local golf pro. By his late twenties, he was one of the most famous and dominant players in the sport. Amazingly enough, he also played as an amateur, meaning he did not compete for prize money. He was Harvard educated and supported himself and his family as a lawyer during his golfing years.
But what is perhaps most astounding is that Bobby Jones retired from golf at the age of 30 at the very peak of his career. Still, this did not mean he departed from the golf world; he got into course design, and was one of the original designers of Augusta National Golf Course as well as a founding member of the Augusta National Golf Club. The Masters Tournament was first played there in 1934, and the rest is history. Bobby Jones passed away in 1971 after a long and lucrative career in course and equipment design, five years after Augusta National Golf Club voted to name him President in Perpetuity.
The Masters is the first of four major golf tournaments played throughout the year
Also known as “the majors”, the list also includes the U.S. Open, the British Open, and the PGA Championship. Winning all four in one year is known as “The Grand Slam”. Tiger Woods and Ben Hogan are the only golfers to have won three in one year; Bobby Jones is the only person ever to accomplish the Grand Slam, although back then the four majors were the U.S. and British Opens as well as the U.S. and British Amateur Championships.
Augusta National Golf Club was male-only until last year
For decades, Augusta National had an extremely exclusive, male-only membership policy. As womens’ roles in society began to change, this policy came under increased scrutiny and criticism. Even as recently as 2002, the president of Augusta National publicly defended the policy, saying that its right to discriminate by gender was as defensible as is that of greek organizations, youth clubs, and the Girl Scouts.
Then, in August of last year, Augusta National admitted its first two women, one of which was former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Hooray!
Holes 11, 12, and 13 are nicknamed “Amen Corner”
Since 1958, this extremely difficult stretch of Augusta has been named “Amen Corner” after Herbert Wind coined the term in an article for Sports Illustrated. He had recently witnessed Arnold Palmer’s near-miraculous play that resulted in a come-from-behind victory to win his first of four green jackets. It has since been known for hosting some of the most memorable moments from the Masters Tournament – and golf in general.
The Masters is an invitational tournament
Not just anyone can sign up to compete in the Masters – there are actually strict criteria to receive an invitation. Previous champions receive lifetime invitations; champions of the other three major tournaments receive honorary invitations for life, but can only compete for five years following their most recent victory; placing highly in the previous year’s Masters or other majors will gain you an invitation, as will being placed in the top 50 players of the Official World Golf Rankings. There are 18 different qualifications that can earn you an invitation, and although many players meet several of them, all you need is one.
Only one green jacket is allowed to be taken from the grounds of Augusta National at a time
The green jackets awarded to the winners of the Masters are the same worn by members of Augusta National Golf Club. However, the jackets are never allowed to leave the club, with the exception of the one belonging to the current Masters champion. He then returns the jacket to Augusta National after one year, shortly after he gives that year’s champion a green jacket of his own.
The only exception to this is the green jacket won by Gary Player in 1961; he took the jacket home to South Africa, after which he repeatedly “forgot” to bring it back, often coming up with rather hilarious excuses as to why it was not being returned. Members of Augusta National eventually decided to let him keep it, and it has remained in his personal collection
The Par-3 competition is one of the most entertaining spectacles in golf
Since 1960, a competition has been held on the day before the first round of the tournament, always a Wednesday. it is a 9-hole shoot-out on Augusta’s all par-3 course, and all invitees are allowed to play, whether the invitation to the Masters Tournament is honorary or not. This year, three of the greatest golfers of all time were the first group to play, providing the crowd with a very entertaining match – Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, and Gary Player. Wives and children of the players often accompany their loved ones on the course, sometimes even serving as their caddies.
Unfortunately, no winner of the par-3 competition has also gone on to win the Masters Tournament. This has developed into a superstition that many of the contenders take seriously. Since the only criteria for having a qualifying score is that the player has to be the one to hit the finishing stroke on each hole, many players will avoid the possibility of winning by having their kids putt for them on the last hole, therefore invalidating their score. The true spirit of the competition is to let loose and hit a few shots on the day before many of the players begin the biggest tournament of their lives.