#AskAlan Masters edition: What’s ANGC’s initiation fee, ever seen a bird on property, and would a Tiger win officially make him the GOAT?

April 3, 2018

Think green…

If Tiger wins #15 this week, given what he will have had to overcome, would you put him above Jack on the all-time list?! #AskAlan — @BcBeany

I phrase it like this: Tiger is the most dominant golfer of all time, Jack is the greatest. If you take the 2000 Woods vs. the 1972 Nicklaus and they play 10 times I think Tiger wins six of them. But Jack has still had the greater career when you factor in longevity, consistency and the all-time legends he had to fend off, to say nothing of the class, dignity and sportsmanship with which he conducted himself. If Tiger wins this Masters it’s not only the greatest victory of his career but, quite simply, one of the most incredible achievements in sports history. It still doesn’t change the Woods-Nicklaus calculus, because 18 vs. 15 is a massive difference. Three majors is an entire career; there are loads of guys in the Hall of Fame who won three majors or less. Of course, if Tiger wins this Masters he resumes his ascent of Mt. Nicklaus, and we’ll have to revisit this question for a good long while.

Which lefty has a better chance, Bubba or Phil?? — @thegolfblog

Oooh, tough one. Notwithstanding a couple of “others” from Phil in Houston, both are in good form and have a special affinity for Augusta National. It’s basically a push, but Mickelson has a little bit more guile and moxie, so I’ll take him by a whisker.


Which Englishman has the best chance amongst Rose, Casey and Poulter? — Anil (@anuragi)

Rose, for sure. If you look at the stats he has played Augusta National better than almost any other non-winner over the last decade, including a pair of runner-up finishes. Casey is a definitely a threat, too, but I think Poulter is going to run out of energy/emotion at some point.

Who do you think the next player is to get an official membership a la Jack and Arnie (if any)? — Shosh (@ShoshEAK)

Crenshaw is the logical choice – everyone loves Gentle Ben, and he already does some consulting with the club about course changes and architectural issues. I could see Phil getting a jacket, too. He’s a preeminent schmoozer and already part of the in-crowd with the Cypress Point/Pebble Beach Co. ownership clique, which has a lot of cross-pollination with the ANGC membership.

Ever seen a bird at Augusta? #AskAlan – Garrett (@public_golfer) … Have you ever seen a squirrel on the grounds? I’ve been 10 times. Never one. What sorcery is this? — @Luke_Boatright … Follow-up question: Is Augusta National the real-life Westworld? — Garrett

Now that you mention it, I don’t think I *have* ever seen a squirrel or a bird on the grounds. It wouldn’t surprise me if ANGC uses high-tech means to drive out the critters, much like my crazy old aunt who installed high-pitched sensors to keep the deer from eating her roses in her garden; she was too deaf to hear the pulses but they gave me a headache. But it also wouldn’t surprise me if more nefarious, lethal, Spackler-like treatments are employed to keep any critters from intruding upon the obsessively maintained artificial reality. If that’s the case, I hope the birds and squirrels rise up and fight back, much like the fetching heroines of Westworld.

This year’s Masters is being hyped as possibly one of the best ever. Tiger! Spieth found his putter! Bubba! Day & Lefty! Rory is back! JT! DJ! This all means we will probably end up with a Schwartzel/Willett type year, doesn’t it? Alex Noren is going to ruin everything. — @Razorac

I fear you’re right. This has been such an epic season so far and there are so many delicious storylines converging we can’t possibly get the Masters we want and deserve. Noren is a great call on the prototypical buzzkill winner. Gawd help us all.

What’s your educated guess on the over/under for ANGC initiation fee and annual dues? – @Jknox_59

There’s a story that has long floated around that years and years ago some dude received the coveted letter inviting him to join the club and he wrote back asking if he could pay the downstroke in two installments. He never heard back from the club. The dirty secret about the really elite golf clubs is that they’re not that expensive to join; the mortgages and other large notes have long been retired. At Cypress Point, there aren’t even dues, per se. The club simply takes all of the operating costs for the year, subtracts the considerable revenue generated in the pro shop and by guest fees, and then takes that amount and divides by the number of members and that’s what they pay each year. Augusta National is in a different financial universe than any other club because of the zillions of dollars generated by the Masters. They don’t have to charge their members anything but do it simply out of habit. I asked two people who are close friends with members what the initiation fee is and both came back with the same number: $50,000. Or, a fraction of what many new-money clubs charge.

We gonna see Jeff Knox this weekend? And will we ever know what he shot? #AskAlan — @Dylan_Way

There’s a 50-50 chance, as all it takes is an odd number of players to make the cut. And we *always* know what he shoots, because Knox-completists follow every hole and keep score.

Who will be hitting the ceremonial tee balls in 2050? Tiger, Phil, and … Bubba? #AskAlan — @mdstoner

Just the first two. Hopefully.

Who will be the next to hit a ceremonial first tee shot: Ben? Tom? Both? Someone else? — @ShootingYourAge

That’s a good duo, as both are beloved by the public and revere everything about the Masters. But they can’t wait forever – Watson is already 68, and Crenshaw 66. Jack Nicklaus is still quite hearty at 78 but he has too much pride to let himself start bunting it off the tee, so I could see him calling it quits when he turns 80, thus making way for some new blood. But it might take the National Guard to get Gary Player, 82, to give up the tee box.

Do you think the powers that be at Augusta will ever take steps to make it easier for fans on the grounds to actually know what’s happening in the tournament? — @JaredField

You mean besides those giant scoreboards that are visible from nearly every hole?! The not-knowing is part of the charm of the spectating experience – you hear the roars, then it takes a few minutes for the numbers to change on the boards, and even then there is delicious suspense as you wait to find out exactly what happened. In this 24/7 world you have to give in to this old-school experience.

What do you think is the closest course to Augusta a mere mortal could access? — @RoddyDG

The brilliant/revolutionary idea that Jones and MacKenzie had was to bring the linksland shot values and strategy to a parkland setting. That’s why the forest of trees and rough that has sprouted up this century has been so offensive — it changes the very nature of the course. It’s more brown than green but probably the most similar playing experience is MacKenzie’s Royal Melbourne, which accepts guests on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays. The green complexes and bunkering and angles are very evocative of ANGC. Of course, the club next door, Augusta CC, feels a lot like its neighbor, even though it’s a Donald Ross design. And just across the state line in South Carolina is Sage Valley, which is Tom Fazio’s take on Augusta National. It has a similar look and conditioning and even some bridges that are quite familiar. It’s private but should be attainable for mere mortals.

What part of Masters week do you look forward to the most? — @KevinBarton1

It runs too long and there are lots of ill-fitting Men’s Warehouse suits and the food is mediocre at best but I’m still going with the Wednesday night Golf Writers Association of America dinner. We give out the player of the year hardware and other meaningful awards, honoring contributions to the game and affability with the scribes and other virtues. The honored players turn up and, in this relaxed setting, give speeches that skew toward funny and touching. And of course we honor the best writing of the past year and give out a lifetime achievement award. This antiquated profession is under siege by various market forces, and so it’s nice to come together for one night to celebrate the best of what we do.

What’s your favorite Masters sandwich? – LuisMJimenez

Egg salad, but I open it up like a boss and add pickle slices, potato chips and Texas Pete’s hot sauce. So f’ing good.

Who is the best player who hasn’t won the Masters? — Trevor (@TVG14)

It’s a long list, with Lee Trevino at the top. (Actually, Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen would be at the top, but it’s not their fault the Masters was invented too late for them to win one.) After Trevino, you can have a fun debate who should be next: McIlroy, Els or Norman? Nick Price and Payne Stewart and Padraig and Johnny Miller also deserve mentions.

If you could swap any two ANGC holes around, what would they be? — @BigGolfMachine

Eighteen is a boring finishing hole, and it follows probably the worst hole on the course, leading to a very vanilla finish. I would put the current 18th hole right after No. 14 — the tee box is already quite close to that green. Then build an underground tunnel with a bullet train to whisk players back to the tee box of the current 16th hole. They’d play that par-3, then the current 17th, then head to what is now No. 15, which instantly becomes the most thrilling finishing hole on the planet.

Do you think the release of and wide coverage of the new Tiger book (with maybe a few tricky questions during Tuesday’s press conference) could burst the balloon of positivity around Tiger, affect his focus and derail his Masters? — Mark (@mocycling)

Twitter guy @misterdomer asked a nearly identical question. Woods has been to hell and back in the last nine years so I don’t think a book (which he isn’t going to read) can have any effect on him at all. Now, it would be a different story if Tiger Woods proved he used PEDs or had some other bombshell revelation that he had to answer for. But for all the shoe-leather reporting in the book it mostly just reinforces what we already know about its eponymous subject. Tiger will be fine.

If you were going to streak at the Masters, which hole would you recommend? And how many seconds of free-wheeling birthday-suit time would one have? Also, would said streaker get tased, shot in the arm, shot in the head, or tackled? #askingforafriend — @HogansBookLied

I’m sure that in addition to SubAir the ANGC has installed a series of sod-covered trap doors throughout the property, so the streaker would simply disappear into the center of the earth. But clearly the best place to do it would be from right behind the 12th tee. In front of you is nothing but green grass and the Hogan Bridge. There are goons hiding in the weeds behind the green but if they’re not paying attention you might even be able to make it back back across the Nelson Bridge and down the 13th fairway. Also, if the whole world is going to peep my junk, I want them all to be thinking, “Amen!”