Here's what we'd change about the Masters: Nothing. It's practically perfect. Of course, complacency isn't the spirit that has made this rite of spring the greatest event in golf, if not sport.
Consider a few of its greatest innovations: the use of red numbers for under-par scores and black numbers for over-par marks; the "Live from Amen Corner" Web stream; the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship for kids. The Masters' maestros have always pushed the event, and the game, toward the future, staying relevant while maintaining the tournament's traditional values. To that end, we convened experts across a spectrum of disciplines to suggest fresh ideas for how the Masters might continue its glorious march forward.
Just because the most iconic blazer in sports is a bit on the boxy side doesn't mean it needs a major overhaul. So says New York–based photographer, director and style editor Matthew Hranek of the William Brown Project. "Don't mess with the classic too much—just make it more modern and sexy," he says. At GOLF's request, Hranek teamed with men's fashion designer Jake Mueser, of Manhattan's J. Mueser, to update the historic green jacket. "The template—three-button, single rear vent, slit pockets at the waist with small flaps—remains intact but gets a thoughtful update, inspired by an Italian gentleman's jacket," Hranek says. "Jake and I wanted to create something that Rickie Fowler would be happy to wear with jeans."
Features of the new green jacket:
• A softer shoulder profile, to start breaking down "the box" from the top of the garment.
• A shorter body that pinches in just below the chest. This continues the deconstruction of the box by adding a body-flattering shape. "The majority of really good players now are slender and very fit," Hranek says. "The jacket's design should reflect that."
• Narrower sleeves, consistent with the slimmer profile.
• A higher lapel notch, to avoid creating a visual interruption of the more fluid body.
• Finally, there's the fabric. "The tight-weave wool that's been used in the past is formal and not ideal for warmer weather," says Hranek. He and Mueser opted for plain-weave tropical wool that's more breathable than the current material, but that also retains good structure and isn't prone to wrinkling. "It's crisp and sharp, but still relaxed," Hranek says.
Paul Crawford, GOLF magazine's own creative director, approached his redesign of the Masters logo with care. "The current Masters logo is very identifiable, but it feels more like yesterday than today," Crawford says. "So I kept the existing elements. The framework remains—we just gave it modernity.
"I fattened up the map, took out some of the rough lines, and turned it on its axis so that Georgia and the Southeast are more prominent," he adds. "I gave it a more 3D look, which is more contemporary." Crawford also switched the font from a serif, which has a traditional feel, to sans serif. "The new type is bold, strong and very sporty," he says.
Portable Patron Seating
Unless you like grass-stained khakis, portable seating is highly recommended when attending the Masters. Many patrons use a tailgate-party folding chair with a nylon seat and backrest, or a walking stick–like contraption made of aluminum tubing with a disc that unfolds as a perch for your keister.
There's a more modern option that provides comfort and aspires to the lofty design status of Augusta National itself. The Flux chair, by Amsterdam-based Flux Furniture, folds into a rectangle that's less than an inch thick, which makes it easier to carry than a Sunday bag. Transforming the single-sheet polypropylene cutout into a chair takes as little as 10 seconds. Once assembled, the sturdy Flux looks as elegant as an origami orchid. "The chair's form is fully derived from the function," says co-designer and company co-founder Tom Schouten. "They are one and the same thing. It has its strength because of the shape."
Songwriter and golf lover David Was is co-founder of the pop band Was (Not Was). (You may remember their late "80s hit "Walk the Dinosaur.") Like any couch potato, Was loves a good nap, but not during the Masters—and the current tinkling-piano theme lulls him to sleep.
"The Masters music is good because it's highly identifiable," Was says. "Hear it from another room and you know the tournament's on. But it's just too solemn and reverent, especially given the emerging demographic. With the new guard of twentysomething players, it's logical that the typical fan is getting younger. These kids are listening to rap, house music. The current theme's soft-country feel just isn't quite right." Was wrote a new Masters theme that combines the traditional golf soundtrack of bagpipe music with an uptempo backbeat. "You can bridge the modern and the ancient," he says. "I created something to give the broadcast a more contemporary feel and more energy." Give it a listen—it's a theme unlike any other.
Just about the only interior shots seen during Masters week occur in the interview room in Butler Cabin. There, players are debriefed post-round and the winner is first presented with the green jacket. The aesthetic showcases "very classic, traditional Southern style," says Chris Hebert, of Chris Hebert Design Group and the Hudson Mercantile antique shops in Hudson, N.Y.
Not only do the current Queen Anne chairs look uncomfortable, Hebert says, but the room could better reflect the game today. "The young guy likely to win will walk in dressed in a very cool, contemporary style, and then be interviewed in a highly formal setting," he says.
In his rethinking, Hebert pays homage to the style—American Modernism—that became dominant when the Masters did, in the 1950s and "60s. The South, he feels, has never fully embraced modernism. Given the tournament's history of innovation and trendsetting, however, Hebert feels the Masters can help change that.
"There are plenty of designs that are classic, in a sense, but that have more softness and subtlety," Hebert says. "The design world is in a phase of referencing midcentury design, which looks backward and forward simultaneously. That makes it appropriate for the Masters, for where golf is today and for where it's headed."
Pimento Cheese Sandwich
Avid golfer Justin Devillier, chef-owner of New Orleans's La Petite Grocery and Balise, knows how to put a twist on traditional Southern food. It's largely why he's been named a finalist four times by the James Beard Foundation as Best Chef: South. He has much respect for the humble pimento cheese sandwich, which at Masters concession stands is served on white bread and wrapped in wax paper.
"Pimento cheese sandwiches are everywhere in the South, so I like the notion of giving the Masters' version its own identity," Devillier says. "With the pimento cheese, you have creamy, fatty sharpness, like a sharp cheddar. My idea is to add a nice salty ham to balance out that flavor, and to finish it with chowchow [a pickled relish], another Southern tradition, to bring in that sweet-and-sour component. And of course, I'll keep it on white bread."
The ham he recommends is a domestic version of aged Spanish serrano, made by Edwards Virginia Ham Shoppe, in Surrey, Va., but any good-quality salt-cured Southern ham will do. Devillier's chowchow is made with cabbage, green tomatoes, onions, mustard seeds, vinegar and sugar. "It's cooked down to a loose relish," he says. "It's not soppy, so it will stand up for a long time on the course and not bleed into the bread."
MASTERS MUSTS: Three things y'all should never change
Like sweet tea and Delta blues, the magnolia tree is quintessentially Southern. But the reason Magnolia Lane ought never be altered is more specific to the site than the region: The trees predate the club by some 75 years.
They were planted from seed by Belgian immigrants who established a nursery on the 345 acres that became Augusta National. Sixty-one trees grew in two rows, lining the sandy lane that led to a private home—now the clubhouse. When Bobby Jones and his partners acquired the land in 1931, the trees already stood proud, forming their dramatic, cathedral-like corridor.
Says Atlanta-based architect Spencer Tunnell, "Those magnolias survived the Civil War, which is not for nothin'. They're more than 150 years old…and part of the reason Augusta inspires such reverence."
The 12th Hole
Golden Bell is a perfect par 3. So says renowned designer Gil Hanse. Here's his case for why the "brilliant" hole needs no alteration.
"It calls for an exact shot, with the long narrow green providing width but not depth. Mackenzie and Jones provide leeway left and right for your miss, but any shot that's long or short can be disastrous due to the water fronting the green and the steep bank and bunkers behind it. Because of its do-or-die nature, it is perfectly placed between the precise challenge of the long par-4 11th and golf's ultimate strategic hole, the par-5 13th.
"Survive 11 and 12, and the swings will come much more freely on 13. But if disaster occurs on the previous holes, the swing tightens, and the pressure to stay in the tournament by taking advantage of the 13th mounts. Golfers always talk about staying in the moment, playing "one hole at a time," but that cannot be true at Amen Corner and its heart, the 12th. That's an architectural achievement of the highest order."
At the highest level of trophy design, the winner's prize is called a "solo-presentation piece." The New York–based jewelry designer Ward Kelvin, who created the Presidents Cup trophy during his time at Tiffany & Co., says the Masters hardware, a sterling-silver scale model of the Augusta National clubhouse, sits at the pinnacle of the genre.
Because the clubhouse architecture is symmetrical and unique to Augusta National, it can't be improved upon as the subject of the champion's reward, Kelvin says. He notes that there are three criteria for this type of trophy: "It needs to hold your interest from all views as the TV camera rotates around it. It needs to be easily held, and possibly lifted overhead. It needs to be singular and event-specific. Given the Masters' prestige, the trophy also needs to be of the highest quality—and that piece is beautifully made."