Augusta National Golf Club
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The 10th fairway and green in 2006
|Location||Augusta, Georgia, U.S.|
|Elevation||160–310 feet (50–95 m)|
|Established||1933, 86 years ago|
|Tournaments hosted||Masters Tournament|
PGA Seniors' Championship
Augusta National Women's Amateur
|Designed by||Bobby Jones and|
|Length||7,768 yd (7,103 m)|
|Course rating||78.1 (unofficial)|
|Slope rating||137 (unofficial)|
|Course record||63 - Nick Price (1986),|
Greg Norman (1996)
Augusta National Golf Club, located in Augusta, Georgia, is one of the most famous golf clubs in the world. Founded by Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts on the site of the former Fruitland (later Fruitlands) Nursery, the course was designed by Jones and Alister MacKenzie and opened for play in January 1933. Its first club professional was Ed Dudley, who served in the role until 1957; Dudley was one of the top tournament professionals of his era, with 15 wins on the PGA Tour. Since 1934, the club has played host to the annual Masters Tournament, one of the four major championships in professional golf, and the only major played each year at the same course. It was the top-ranked course in Golf Digest's 2009 list of America's 100 greatest courses and was the number ten-ranked course based on course architecture on Golfweek Magazine's 2011 list of best classic courses in the United States.
The club long held racist and sexist policies: Augusta National had no African American members until 1990 and women until 2012. The club, which long required all caddies to be black, barred black golfers from the Masters Tournament until Lee Elder participated in 1975. In 1997, Tiger Woods became the first person of color to win the tournament; Vijay Singh later became the second.
The course was formerly a plant nursery, and each hole on the course is named after the tree or shrub with which it has become associated. Several of the holes on the first nine have been renamed, as well as hole #11.
|2||Pink Dogwood||575||5||11||White Dogwood||505||4|
|3||Flowering Peach||350||4||12||Golden Bell||155||3|
|4||Flowering Crab Apple||240||3||13||Azalea||510||5|
Lengths of the course for the Masters at the start of each decade:
Unlike most other private or public golf courses in the US, Augusta National has never been rated. During the 1990 Masters Tournament, a team of USGA raters, organized by Golf Digest, evaluated the course and gave it an unofficial rating of 76.2. It was re-evaluated in 2009 and given an unofficial rating of 78.1.
The golf course architecture website GolfClubAtlas.com has said, "Augusta National has gone through more changes since its inception than any of the world's twenty or so greatest courses. To call it a MacKenzie course is false advertising as his features are essentially long gone and his routing is all that is left." The authors of the site also add that MacKenzie and Jones were heavily influenced by the Old Course at St Andrews, and intended that the ground game be central to the course. Almost from Augusta's opening, Roberts sought to make changes to minimize the ground game, and effectively got free rein to do so because MacKenzie died shortly after the course's opening and Jones went into inactivity due to World War II and then a crippling illness. The authors add, "With the ground game gone, the course was especially vulnerable to changes in technology, and this brought on a slew of changes from at least 15 different 'architects'." Golf Course Histories has an aerial comparison of the architectural changes for Augusta National Golf Club for the year 1938 versus 2013.
Among the changes to the course were several made by architect Perry Maxwell in 1937, including an important alteration involving the current 10th hole. When Augusta National originally opened for play in January 1933, the opening hole (now the 10th) was a relatively benign par 4 that played just in excess of 400 yards. From an elevated tee, the hole required little more than a short iron or wedge for the approach. Maxwell moved the green in 1937 to its present location – on top of the hill, about 50 yards back from the old site – and transformed it into the toughest hole in Masters Tournament history. Ben Crenshaw referred to Maxwell's work on the 10th hole as "one of the great strokes in golf architecture".
For the 1999 tournament, a short rough was instated around the fairways. Referred to as the second cut, it is substantially shorter than the comparable primary rough at other courses, with an average length of 1.625 inches (4.13 cm). It is meant to reduce a player's ability to control the ball coming out of this lie, and encourage better accuracy for driving onto the fairway.
The second shot at the 11th, all of the 12th, and the first two shots at the 13th hole at Augusta are nicknamed "Amen Corner". This term was first used in print by author Herbert Warren Wind in his April 21, 1958, Sports Illustrated article about the Masters that year. In a Golf Digest article in April 1984, 26 years later, Wind told about its origin. He said he wanted a catchy phrase like baseball's "hot-corner" or American football's "coffin-corner" to explain where some of the most exciting golf had taken place (the Palmer-Venturi rules issue at twelve, over an embedded ball ruling and how it was handled, in particular). Thus "Amen Corner" was born. He said it came from the title of a jazz record he had heard in the mid-1930s by a group led by Chicago's Mezz Mezzrow, Shouting in that Amen Corner. In a Golf Digest article in April 2008, writer Bill Fields offered new updated information about the origin of the name. He wrote that Richard Moore, a golf and jazz historian from South Carolina, tried to purchase a copy of the old Mezzrow 78 RPM disc for an "Amen Corner" exhibit he was putting together for his Golf Museum at Ahmic Lake, Ontario. After extensive research, Moore found that the record never existed. As Moore put it, Wind, himself a jazz buff, must have "unfortunately bogeyed his mind, 26 years later". While at Yale, he was no doubt familiar with, and meant all along, the popular version of the song (with the correct title, "Shoutin' in that Amen Corner" written by Andy Razaf), which was recorded by the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra, vocal by Mildred Bailey (Brunswick label No. 6655) in 1935. Moore told Fields that, being a great admirer of Wind's work over the years, he was reluctant, for months, to come forth with his discovery that contradicted Wind's memory. Moore's discovery was first reported in Golf World magazine in 2007, before Fields' longer article in Golf Digest in 2008.
In 1958 Arnold Palmer outlasted Ken Venturi to win the tournament with heroic escapes at Amen Corner. Amen Corner also played host to Masters moments such as Byron Nelson's birdie-eagle at 12 and 13 in 1937, and Sam Snead's water save at 12 in 1949 that sparked him to victory. On the flip side of fate, Jordan Spieth's quadruple bogey on 12 during Sunday's final round in 2016 cost him his 2-stroke lead and ultimately the championship.
"The Big Oak Tree"
"The Big Oak Tree" is on the golf course side of the clubhouse and was planted in the 1850s.
Also known as the "Eisenhower Pine", a loblolly pine was located on the 17th hole, approximately 210 yards (192 m) from the Masters tee. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, an Augusta National member, hit the tree so many times that, at a 1956 club meeting, he proposed that it be cut down. Not wanting to offend the president, the club's chairman, Clifford Roberts, immediately adjourned the meeting rather than reject the request. In February 2014, the Eisenhower Tree was removed after suffering extensive damage during an ice storm.
During a visit to Augusta National, then-General Eisenhower returned from a walk through the woods on the eastern part of the grounds, and informed Clifford Roberts that he had found a perfect place to build a dam if the club would like a fish pond. Ike's Pond was built and named, and the dam is located just where Eisenhower said it should be.
Rae's Creek cuts across the southeastern corner of the Augusta National property. It flows along the back of the 11th green, in front of the 12th green, and ahead of the 13th tee. This is the lowest point in elevation of the course. The Hogan and Nelson Bridges cross the creek after the 12th and 13th tee boxes, respectively. The creek was named after former property owner John Rae, who died in 1789.
Rae's Creek runs in front of No. 12 green, has a tributary evident at No. 13 tee, and flows at the back of No. 11 green. It was Rae's house which was the farthest fortress up the Savannah River from Fort Augusta. The house kept residents safe during Indian attacks when the fort was out of reach.
Augusta National Golf Club has about 300 members at any given time. Membership is strictly by invitation: there is no application process. In 2004, USA Today published a list of all the current members. Membership is believed to cost between $10,000 and $30,000 and annual dues were estimated in 2009 to be less than $10,000 per year.
Augusta invited and accepted its first African-American member, television executive Ron Townsend, in 1990 following a controversy at Shoal Creek Golf and Country Club. Shoal Creek, an all-white golf club in Alabama, refused membership to African-Americans. The club also faced demands that the PGA Championship not be held there because of racist comments by the club's founder.
In his 2012 pre-Masters press conference, Chairman Billy Payne declined to discuss the club's then-continued refusal to admit women. He defended the club's position by noting that in 2011, more than 15% of the non-tournament rounds were played by female players who were member guests or spouses of active members. However, on August 20, 2012, Augusta National admitted its first two female members, Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore.
Notable current members include:
- Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway
- Pete Coors, former chairman and CEO of Coors Brewing Company and Molson Coors Brewing Company, current chairman of MillerCoors
- Bill Gates, co-founder and chairman of Microsoft
- Roger Goodell, commissioner of the National Football League
- Pat Haden, former NFL player and former athletic director at the University of Southern California
- Lou Holtz, former college football coach
- Hugh L. McColl Jr., former CEO of Bank of America
- Darla Moore, South Carolina businesswoman
- Sam Nunn, former United States Senator from Georgia
- Sam Palmisano, former CEO of IBM
- Henry Waite, former chairman of HUFF Productions
- T. Boone Pickens, Jr., oil tycoon
- Condoleezza Rice, former United States Secretary of State
- Ginni Rometty, chair, president, and CEO of IBM
- James D. Robinson III, former CEO of American Express
- Lynn Swann, former NFL player and current athletic director at the University of Southern California
- Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric
- Matt Rose, former CEO of BNSF Railway
- Jack Nicklaus, Hall of Fame golfer, six-time Masters champion, and the only Masters champion who is currently a regular member of the club
Recently deceased members include:
- Arnold Palmer, Hall of Fame golfer and four-time Masters champion, was also a regular member when he died in September 2016.
- Melvin Laird, former United States Secretary of Defense (died November 2016)
- Robert Sumner, former pastor (died December 2016)
- Frank Broyles, former athletic director at the University of Arkansas (died August 2017)
- Clifford Roberts (1931–1976)
- William Lane (1976–1980)
- Hord Hardin (1980–1991)
- Jackson T. Stephens (1991–1998)
- Hootie Johnson (1998–2006)
- Billy Payne (2006–2017)
- Fred Ridley (2017–present)
In 1966, the governing board of Augusta National passed a resolution honoring founder Bobby Jones with the position of President in Perpetuity.
2002 membership controversy
Augusta National and its then-Chairman Hootie Johnson are widely known for a disagreement beginning in 2002 with Martha Burk, then chair of the Washington-based National Council of Women's Organizations; the dispute arose over Augusta National's refusal to admit female members to the club. Burk said she found out about the club's policies in a USA Today column by Christine Brennan published April 11, 2002. She then wrote a private letter to Johnson, saying that hosting the Masters Tournament at a male-only club constituted sexism. Johnson characterized Burk's approach as "offensive and coercive". Responding to efforts to link the issue to sexism and civil rights, Johnson maintained that the issue had to do with the rights of any private club:
|“||Our membership is single gender just as many other organizations and clubs all across America. These would include Junior Leagues, sororities, fraternities, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and countless others. And we all have a moral and legal right to organize our clubs the way we wish.||”|
Burk, whose childhood nickname was also Hootie, claimed to have been "called a man hater, anti-family, lesbian, all the usual things." Johnson was portrayed as a Senator Claghorn type—"a blustery defender of all things Southern".
Following the discord, two club members resigned: Thomas H. Wyman, a former CEO of CBS, and John Snow, when President George W. Bush nominated him to serve as Secretary of the Treasury. Pressure on corporate sponsors led the club to broadcast the 2003 and 2004 tournaments without commercials. The controversy was discussed by the International Olympic Committee when re-examining whether golf meets Olympic criteria of a "sport practiced without discrimination with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play". Augusta National extended membership to Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore on August 20, 2012.
In 2018, chairman Fred Ridley announced that the club would establish the Augusta National Women's Amateur Championship in 2019, a 54-hole event for the world's top amateur players.
Every member of Augusta National receives a green sport coat with the club's logo on the left breast. The idea of the green jacket originated with club co-founder Clifford Roberts. Many believe it is because he wanted patrons visiting during the tournament to be able to readily identify members. Since Sam Snead's victory in 1949, the winner of each year's Masters Tournament has received a green jacket, although he does not receive membership. The jacket is presented to the new winner by the winner of the previous tournament. If the previous champion is either unavailable or has won consecutive tournaments, then the current chairman acts as the presenter. Until 1967, the jackets were manufactured by Brooks Brothers and since have been made by Hamilton of Cincinnati, Ohio, with the imported wool produced at the Victor Forstmann plant in Dublin, Georgia.
The current Masters champion is the only owner of a green jacket permitted to remove it from the grounds of Augusta National, and only for a period of one year. Before this time limit was in place, the jacket of a few long-past Masters champions had been sold, after their deaths, to collectors. Consequently, the members of Augusta National have gone to great lengths to secure the remaining examples. Now, two jackets remain outside the grounds of Augusta National with the club's permission. When Gary Player first won the Masters in 1961, he brought his jacket home to South Africa. For years the board insisted that Player return the jacket but Player kept "forgetting" or coming up with humorous creative excuses why he did not return the jacket. After becoming something of a running joke, Augusta National's members allowed him to keep it, where it is on display in his personal museum. The second jacket belongs to 1938 champion Henry Picard. Before the traditions surrounding one of golf's greatest awards were well established, the jacket was removed by Picard from Augusta National. It is now currently on display in the "Picard Lounge" at Canterbury Golf Club in Beachwood, Ohio. Along with Snead, the nine previous winners were also awarded green jackets in 1949, and these became known as the "original ten" jackets.
Horton Smith's jacket, awarded for his wins in 1934 and 1936, sold at auction in September 2013 for over $682,000; the highest price ever paid for a piece of golf memorabilia. Smith died at age 55 in 1963 and it had been in the possession of his brother Ren's stepsons for decades.
Augusta National employs a staff of caddies to assist members, guests, and professionals. Before 1983, staff caddies were assigned to players at the Masters, and all were black males. Club co-founder Roberts once said, "As long as I'm alive, all the golfers will be white and all the caddies will be black." Roberts killed himself at Augusta in 1977 and five years later in November 1982, chairman Hord Hardin announced that players were henceforth permitted to use their regular caddies at the Masters. This decision followed an incident that occurred during the 1982 tournament. Following a Thursday rain delay, many of the caddies failed to show up at the proper time on Friday morning.  As a result of the confusion, two-time champion Tom Watson and others sent scathing complaint letters to Hardin.
Twelve players, including then five-time champion Jack Nicklaus, defending champion Craig Stadler, and future two-time champion Ben Crenshaw, employed club caddies in 1983. Well into the 1970s, all four majors and some tour events required the use of the host club's caddies; the U.S. Open had this policy through 1975, but by 1980, only the Masters and the Western Open near Chicago retained the requirement. Augusta's caddie staff continues to wear its trademark white jumpsuits year-round.
Female caddies are permitted. Most of them are professional golfers' regular caddies, such as Fanny Sunesson. Sunesson is one of the PGA Tour's few female caddies, and has caddied for several players at the Masters, most notably three-time champion Nick Faldo, and in 2019, Henrik Stenson. The first female caddie at Augusta was George Archer's daughter Elizabeth in 1983, her 21st event carrying the bag for her father. Archer, the 1969 champion, tied for twelfth for one of his better finishes at Augusta.
During the pre-tournament events in 2007, Golf Channel's Kelly Tilghman caddied for Arnold Palmer in the par-3 contest. Fuzzy Zoeller's daughter Gretchen was his caddie for his last year as a competitor in the tournament in 2009. Tennis pro Caroline Wozniacki, ex-fiancée of Rory McIlroy, caddied for him in the par-3 contests of 2013 and 2014.
Appearances in video games
Augusta National Golf Club is featured in the Japan-exclusive video game franchise Harukanaru Augusta, which started in 1989. The games were produced by T&E Soft. One of its last titles Masters '98: Haruka Naru Augusta was released for the Nintendo 64.
Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament are also featured in the video game Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters, and has subsequently featured in later iterations of the game. This is the first time that the course has been officially used in the Tiger Woods franchise. Augusta National was also previously used in the 1986 computer game Mean 18, published by Accolade.
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Palmer won the Masters in 1958, 1960, 1962 and 1964 and is one of two champions – along with Jack Nicklaus – who are members of Augusta National.
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All agree Johnson, who has a record of access and inclusion, is one of the most unlikely people to have gotten caught up in the firestorm over Augusta membership. Yet the former University of South Carolina football player and prominent banker is being characterized nationally as a rube. "His whole life has been just the opposite of what he's being portrayed," says U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C. "He's always come down on the side of access and equality. He's not a prejudiced person in any way. He is not deserving of this controversy."
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