There’s so much history with the Masters and the Augusta National Golf Course. From all the incredible moments on the course, like Tiger’s dominant performance in 1997, to all the bizarre yet intriguing traditions off of it, the Masters tournament is truly one-of-a-kind.
This article takes all the interesting tidbits, weird facts, and even weirder statistics about the Masters and puts them into one big story. Even the biggest golf fanatic will learn a thing or two about the humble beginnings of the Masters, and the spectacle it’s turned into today.
The idea for Augusta National originated with Bobby Jones, an American amateur golfer who was looking for a golf course to build after his retirement. He sought some advice from his friend, Clifford Roberts, who later became the chairman for the club.
They came across an old indigo plantation in Augusta, Georgia, and felt like it was the perfect piece of ground to lay a golf course on. They hired architect Alister MacKenzie to help design the course, and work began in 1931. The course formally opened two years later in 1933.
It Almost Didn’t Happen
The building of the Augusta National golf course almost didn’t happen because it was an incredible economic burden through World War II. It was founded at the beginning of the Great Depression and the first Masters was held in 1934.
At the time, the club only had 76 members despite the business plan calling for about 1,800. In fact, the club couldn’t even afford to pay its first winner until 17 of its members decided to chip in for the purse.
They Ended Up Closing During WWII
There were many attempts to keep the club open during the Second World War, but they were to no avail. Augusta was forced to close in October 1942. To make money, they used the land to raise cattle and turkeys.
In fact, by 1943 they had 1,400 turkeys and 200 cattle. The turkeys ended up turning a profit, but the price of beef was very high and the cost of repair left the course at breakeven.
It Was A Tournament Of Firsts
The Masters was the first course to have room to park thousands of cars. That made way for it being the first tournament to host a 72-hole competition over a four-day tournament. It was also the first to offer free daily pairing sheets instead of a program and the first to be covered on nationwide radio.
It was also the first to use rope galleries, the first to use bleachers, and the first to use private detectives to handle ticket sales and security. It also was the first to develop an on-course scoreboard and was the first to use the over/under par system we generally use today.
There Was Almost A 19th Hole
The original plan was to have a 19th hole at the request of Bobby Jones. His reason for the extra hole was so that a losing golfer could have another hole to do double or nothing and win back his money.
It was going to be between the ninth and 18th greens and was only going to be about 90 yards long. The plan was eventually dropped mostly because it would obstruct the 18th green viewing area, and they weren’t financially stable.
The Green Jacket Is One Of Sport’s Greatest Traditions
While there are many traditions at The Masters, one of the most iconic is the awarding of the green jacket to the winner. It’s a tradition that’s been around since 1949.
Even though the jacket is technically personal property of the winner, he has to keep it stored with the other champions’ jackets in a specifically designated cloakroom. Even if you win the tournament multiple times, you get awarded the same jacket, unless you need it to be re-fitted.
Jack Nicklaus Is Mr. Masters
Jack Nicklaus holds the whole dang book when it comes to Masters records. He has the most wins at the tournament with six, the most top fives with 15, the most top 10s with 22, and the most top 15s with 29.
The runners up in most wins is Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods, and the runners up for top fives are Mickelson and Woods. You might not believe that Jack Nicklaus is the G.O.A.T, but he’s the Augusta G.O.A.T.
The Top Five All-Time Scoring Averages
Despite Jack Nicklaus’ incredible records at Augusta, he actually doesn’t even break the top five in all-time scoring average (71.98). Tiger Woods is unsurprisingly at the top of the list as the only one who’s a full stroke under par at 70.93.
The other four (with a minimum of 25 rounds under their belt) are Phil Mickelson (71.30), Jason Day (71.55), Rory McIlroy (71.61), and Justin Rose (71.73). It’s a very impressive club to be in.
It’s A Tournament That Benefits Three Or Four Tries
A player has won the Masters in every number of “try” from 1-15. Interestingly enough, no golfer has ever won the tournament in their 16th, 17th, or 18th try at the green jacket.
The most popular try is three and four, who have eight wins each respectively. Sergio Garcia holds the record for most tries before his first win at 19. Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott both won on try number 12. Mickelson has gone on to win three green jackets.
There Have Only Been Three Fields Of 100 Golfers Or More
Even avid golf fans don’t really know how many golfers teed it up for the green jacket on a given year. It’s surprising to find out that there have only been three years that there have been 100 or more golfers.
The biggest field was in 1962 when 109 players set off on day one. The smallest fields, unsurprisingly, was during the 1938 and 1942 tournaments when only 42 golfers played. For perspective, the 2019 field will have 87 players, which is the second smallest since 1997.
A Win At Augusta Secures Your Career
As with all the other major tournaments, winning the Masters will solidify your status with the PGA. Master champions are automatically invited to play the other three majors without qualifiers for the next five years.
They also earn a lifetime invitation to the Masters, membership on the PGA Tour for the following five seasons, and invitations to the Players Championship for five years as well. Winning the Masters in the key to securing a golf career.
The Masters Has An Affection For Amateurs
Since Bobby Jones, the founder and creator of the Masters, was an amateur when he retired, the Masters has a tradition of honoring amateur golf. The tournament has a tradition of inviting winners of prestigious amateur tournaments from across the world to play at Augusta.
The current US Amateur champion always plays in the same group as the defending Masters champion for the first two days of the tournament. Amateurs are also welcome to stay in the “Crow’s Nest” above the clubhouse during their stay.
The Honorary Opening Tee Shot
It’s been a tradition since 1963 that the tournament starts off with an honorary tee shot at the first hole. It’s typically done by legendary players like Jock Hutchinson and Fred McLeod (they did it from 1963-1973), and then Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, and Gene Sarazen took over the duties.
Arnold Palmer took over as the honorary starter in 2007 and was joined by Jack Nicklaus in 2010. By 2012, Gary Player joined Palmer and Nicklaus until 2016 when Palmer passed away.
The Augusta Caddie
Up until 1983, the players in the Masters were required to use the services of one of the Augusta National Club caddies. After 1983, players were allowed to bring their own caddies to the tournament.
The Masters still requires caddies to wear a uniform consisting of a white jumpsuit, a green Masters hat, and white tennis shoes. The defending champion caddie number is always No.1, while other caddie numbers are from the order by which they register for the tournament. Interestingly enough, No.89 has won three times in the last few decades.
The 60s And 70s Were A Write Off For Most Golfers
The “Big Three” of Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, and Jack Nicklaus dominated the Masters from 1960 through until 1978. They won 11 times amongst the three of them during that time frame.
Palmer won by one stroke in 1958 and won again by one stroke in 1960. Jack Nicklaus won his first green jacket in 1963 and then two years later shot a course record of 17 under par for his second Masters win. Gary Player became the first non-American to win the Masters in 1961, beating Palmer, who was the defending champion.
The Prizes Are Lucrative
The total prize money for the Masters is upwards of $10,000,000 with nearly $2,000,000 going to the winner. Compare that to the inaugural year’s winner, Horton Smith, who received $1,500 out of a $5,000 purse.
After Nicklaus’ first win at the Masters, he received $20,000, while after his final victory in 1986 he won $144,000. Between 2001 and 2014, the winner’s share grew by $612,000 and the purse grew by $3,400,000, which shows the growth of the Masters and golf in general.
The Second Sunday In April
The Masters is the first major championship of the year. Since 1948, its final round is played on the second Sunday in April with some minor exceptions. There have been four times that the tournament ended on the first Sunday (1952,1957,1958,1959).
In 1979 and 1984, the tournament ended on April 15th, which happened to be the third Sunday of April during those years. But, the Masters tradition is that it must end on the second Sunday in April.
The Iconic Par 3 Contest
The Par 3 Contest has become one of the highlights of Masters week. It was first introduced in 1960 and was won that year by Sam Snead. It’s traditionally played on the Wednesday before the tournament starts.
The par three course was built in 1958. It’s a nine-hole course with a par of 27. There have been 94 hole-in-ones in the history of the contest with a record nine of them happening in 2016 alone. Camilo Villegas became the first player to card two hole-in-ones in the same round.
The Champions Dinner
The Champions Dinner is held each year on the Tuesday evening preceding Thursday’s first round. The dinner was first held in 1952 when it was hosted by Ben Hogan to honor the past champions of the tournament.
At that time, 15 tournaments had been played and the 11 guys who won the tournament beforehand were inducted into the “Masters Club.” The defending champion, as host, is expected to select the menu for the dinner which is an absolute bonus.
A Few More Records
In 2013, Guan Tianlang became the youngest player ever to compete in the Masters at age 14. That same tournament, he became the youngest ever to make the cut at the Masters or any men’s major championship.
Gary Player holds the record for the most appearances, with 52. Player also holds the record for the number of consecutive cuts made with 23 between 1959 and 1982. He shares that record with Fred Couple who made the cut from 1983 until 2007.