Augusta National: Ahead of Its Time 1932–2014
To honor the 80th anniversary of the first Masters, we salute Augusta National as golf's preeminent trendsetter -- from its innovative design to its pioneering TV broadcasts.
1932: A Course Unlike Any Other
The former site of Fruitland Nurseries opens as Augusta National Golf Club, co-founded by Bobby Jones and businessman Clifford Roberts. Only 29 bunkers are built, at a time when most courses have more than 100. Jones considers bunkers 75 to 150 yards from the tee unnecessary. Soon dozens of courses follow suit, and Jones' thinking becomes conventional wisdom.
1934: Tournament Time
Augusta hosts the first "Augusta National Invitational Tournament." With the goal to become golf's most enjoyable event for players and fans, it is contested over four days, Thursday to Sunday, instead of the customary three days, with a 36-hole Saturday finale.
1935: Building the Drama
Because the original back nine sat on higher ground and thus thawed faster than the front nine, Augusta decides to reverse the sides. This not only allows for earlier tee times, it sets the stage for the TV era. The Masters' most compelling holes (featuring water hazards) are now nearer the finish, helping it become golf's most-watched TV broadcast.
1937: The Jacket Appears
The club buys a fleet of Kelly green sport coats from New York City's Brooks Uniform Company. Members are encouraged to wear one during Masters week to be easily identifiable to patrons seeking information. Many resist, displeased with the color and the unseasonably heavy material. A lighter fabric eventually helps persuade members to wear the jackets whenever at the club. (Sam Snead will become the first winner awarded the green jacket, in 1949).
1949: Crowd Control
Greens and tees had long been roped off at big tournaments to control crowds, but the first known instance of fairway roping takes place at the 11th hole. The U.S. Open soon follows suit, and before long the practice is commonplace.
1952: Dinner is Served
Augusta National hosts its first Champions Dinner for past Masters winners. Another tradition is born.
1956: Must-See TV
The Masters is broadcast for the first time on live TV. CBS uses seven cameras to cover holes 15 to 18 on Friday and Saturday, and 10 cameras on Sunday.
1960: Seeing Red
Chairman Clifford Roberts unveils a scoring system to make the Masters easier for fans to follow. The leaderboards show red numbers for under-par scores and green numbers for even- or over-par scores.
1962: Bleacher Creatures
Augusta National becomes what is believed to be the first course to erect viewing stands around its grounds. The bleachers, all painted green, are meticulously installed only in areas where flowers can be seen in the background.
1966: Augusta, in Color
Azaleas pop off TV screens as the Masters has its first color broadcast, on CBS.
1966: Badges of Honor
To squash a sudden spike in counterfeit tickets, a molded plastic badge is created for paying patrons.
1971: Watering Holes
Augusta installs a state-of-the-art watering system that features 1,021 automatic sprinkler heads. These replace the original hand-activated sprinklers that dated back to 1931.
1981: Putting is Paramount
Bentgrass replaces Bermuda on the greens. The faster surfaces add further challenge, and Tom Watson's winning score (8-under) is five shots higher than Seve Ballesteros's total in 1980.
1990s: SubAir Force
Augusta installs its first "SubAir" system, under the 13th green. Invented in 1994 by Marsh Benson, the club's senior director of golf course and grounds, large blowers are hooked to pipes already running beneath the green. By sucking water from the green when it's too wet or blowing hot air on frosty mornings, as well as providing fresh oxygen to the plant roots, the putting surface stays pristine. By 2001, all 18 greens and several fairways employ SubAir; the system is now used at hundreds of courses, including Congressional and TPC Sawgrass.
2006: Weaving a Web
"Amen Corner Live" shows players tackling holes 11–13 live on Masters.com and CBS. sportsline.com. It is the first multi-hole webcast from a major championship.
2013: Sweet New Suite
An opulent new invitation-only hospitality facility, Berckmans Place, opens off the fifth fairway; tickets sell for $6,000 each. The 90,000-square-foot club offers downsized replicas of the seventh, 14th and 16th greens, enabling guests to tackle the same putts faced by the professionals. (Holes are moved to match the daily pin position.) New member Condoleezza Rice reportedly greets VIP guests at the entrance.
* The Story of Augusta National Golf Club, written by Augusta's first chairman, Clifford Roberts, was used as a primary source in this story.