The original idea for Augusta National came from Bobby Jones, who wished to build a golf course after he retired from the game.
Having sought advice from Clifford Roberts, who later became the chairman of the club, the pair came across a piece of land in Augusta, Georgia, of which Jones said: “Perfect! Imagine this ground has been lying dormant all this time waiting for someone to come along and lay a golf course upon it.”
The land had been an indigo plantation back in the nineteenth century and has been used as a plant nursery post 1857.
Work began on building the course in 1931 and it formally opened in 1933.
One of the four Majors, many great champions have graced its beautiful fairways.
Jack Nicklaus has the most Masters wins, with six between 1963 and 1986. Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods won four each, and five players have won three titles – Jimmy Demaret, Sam Snead, Gary Player, Nick Faldo and Phil Mickelson. Player, from South Africa, was the first non-American to win the tournament, in 1961. The second was Seve Ballesteros, of Spain, the champion in 1980 and 1983.
The course has been modified many times by different architects. Greens have been reshaped and, on occasion, entirely re-designed, bunkers have been added, water hazards have been extended, new tee boxes have been built, hundreds of trees have been planted, and several mounds have been installed.
All with the intention of making it a supreme challenge.
Gene Sarazen hit the “shot heard ’round the world” in 1935, holing from the fairway on the par 5 15th for a double eagle.
But just as easily people go to pieces and no golfer suffered from the pressure of competing at Augusta more than Australian, Greg Norman, the Great White Shark.
In 1987, Norman lost a sudden-death playoff to Larry Mize. In 1996, he tied the course record with an opening round 63, and had a six-stroke lead over Nick Faldo entering the final round. Norman shot a 78 while Faldo scored a 67 to win by five shots. Norman also suffered in 1986 when after birdieing four straight holes, and needing only a par to tie Nicklaus for the lead, he badly pushed his 4-iron approach on 18 and missed his par putt for a closing bogey.
As with the other majors, winning the Masters gives a golfer several privileges which make his career more secure. Masters champions are automatically invited to play in the other three majors (the U.S. Open, The Open Championship, and the PGA Championship for the next five years, and earn a lifetime invitation to the Masters. They also receive membership on the PGA Tour for the following five seasons and invitations to The Players Championship for five years.
Winning the Masters is one thing but few have successfully defended their title the following April.
The competition was in its fourth decade prior to Nicklaus becoming the first successive winner in 1965-66. It was further quarter-century before Faldo won consecutive Masters in 1989-90. Woods later became the third player to achieve the feat in 2001-02.
The Green Jacket given to the champion is arguably the most famous garment in sports, two and a half yards of wool tailored into a reward for years of practice and 72 holes (or more) of excellence.
The champion also gets a sterling replica of the Masters Trophy and a gold medal as well as having his name engraved on the permanent Masters Trophy that stays at the Augusta Club. But it is the Jacket that captures the imagination. It is usual that the winner of the previous Masters Tournament hands the Green Jacket to the new champion.
The Champions Dinner, initiated by Ben Hogan in 1952, is held on the Tuesday prior to each tournament, and is only for past champions and selected board members of the Augusta National Golf Club. Starting in 1963, famous golfers, usually previous champions, have hit an honorary tee shot on the morning of the first round to start play. These have included Fred McLeod, Jock Hutchinson, Gene Sarazen, Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Gary Player.
A truly fabulous tournament.