At the intersection of talent and purpose lies inspiration. Alistair Mackenzie provided the talent, Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts provided the purpose. The result was inspiration: Augusta National Golf Club and The Masters.
It is hard to reconcile the phenomenon that is The Masters. Augusta National is both incredibly contrived and spectacularly genuine. For all its pomp and ceremony, it is quite unique. It is tailored, manicured, nostalgic and fixated on order. Simultaneously, it is spectacularly beautiful, filled with graciousness and the antithesis of commercialism. Augusta National has rejected the standards of capitalism to rewrite the rules. The result is worthy of admiration.
The golf course itself is splendid - filled with angles, risks and rewards, thoughtful hazards, nuance, charm, devilish greens and mostly temptation…all the things that produce great golf courses. The beauty is dazzling: Television cannot fairly represent the topography, the slopes and character of the golf holes. The pines are towering and the colors are rich and deep like extracted from an impressionist painting. The scale of the property is magnificent. Like a great public garden, it presents a sense of awe and high-level consciousness that cannot be dismissed.
Yes, The Masters creates unattainable expectations that frustrate any golf course superintendent. Golfer expectations rise and local clubs are challenged to meet rising maintenance expectations. The magnitude and intensity of the turf care is offset considering the incredible beauty of the grounds and the drama of the event, its history, and the strategic charm of the golf course. Maintenance demands are an industry-wide problem that will not easily be addressed and The Masters is not the sole culprit. The Masters only exacerbates the expectations for premium maintenance.
Non-golfers perceive The Masters as a rich man’s sport that promotes excess and self-indulgence. On the surface, some of those criticisms are warranted and scrutiny is earned because of success. The success is well documented, but the reasons for that accomplishment is due to smart planning, thoughtful branding and considerate development.
Augusta National has created a sporting event using a backdrop of history, tradition and beauty. What was once a stopover tournament is now an indelible rite of spring for anyone who loves the game and for many who don’t. The Masters is the Super Bowl of Golf….less the corporate deluge. This is the real genius: Augusta National limited commercialization and corporate visibility from the start. That policy has served it well. While the rest of the world scrambles for greater corporate participation, the leadership at Augusta restricts corporate visibility to validate its authenticity with independence.
Quietly, Augusta National utilizes some of the most forward-thinking sustainable practices, and benefits the golf industry far beyond the resulting “bump” in play immediately after Masters week. Charitable Donations are substantial to a variety of recipients including First Tee, amateur golf and health care. It is estimated that the golf industry generates 70 billion dollars of economic productivity yearly. I can only wonder much of that can be directly or indirectly attributed to The Masters?
More recently, Augusta National has planned and implemented two events that have a direct impact on junior and women’s golf. The Drive, Chip and Putt competition is a national event that culminates at Augusta, awarding children ages 7-15 for those skills. Just this year, they hosted the final round of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championship. These events showcase the golf course to a new generation of golfer. There is just the right amount of competition, celebration and appreciation for golf. Most importantly, Augusta National has leveraged its brand for the benefit of the game.
I have long loved The Masters…. It is a welcome reminder of the beauty of the game and the start of spring. I am awed by the ritual, the expectant beauty and the drama. I continue to appreciate the grandeur, splendor and inspiration of The Masters and Augusta National.