It’s Masters week and we’re all so excited. We are currently having azaleas, Amen Corner, the log cabin, green jacket and everything we love about The Masters rammed down our throats and like a promiscuous woman (or ya Mum) we absolutely can’t get enough.
But what about the stuff we don’t ever hear about Augusta National, the dark side of the manicured greens, the metaphorical false fronts so to speak.
Here we talk about some of the stuff the Augusta members don’t want you to know and what nobody else will tell you!
Black people not allowed to compete until 1975
The Masters is technically an invitational. We’ve all seen the players showing off their tarty invites from the Augusta committee. That being said there are accepted ‘protocols’ so to speak where players qualify by being in Top 50 or winning specific events.
This wasn’t always the case.
In 1967 and 1969 a black golfer by the name of Charlie Sifford won tournaments that should have qualified him, as well as finishing high on the money lists, but: “Sifford didn’t meet the qualifications.”
Black golfers weren’t allowed to play until 1975 where Lee Elder competed and until 1983 players weren’t allowed caddies who weren’t black!
And it wasn’t long ago every barman, waiter and locker room attendant was black serving the green jacketed rich white members.
In 1996 Sifford said: “All I wanted to do was play golf. Them motherfuckers kept me out.”
A year later a young black man called Tiger Woods came along and won The Masters by 12 strokes.
Women only allowed to join in 2012
We’re not talking about the 60s now. Until just four years ago Augusta National didn’t accept female members.
Then they accepted Condoleezza Rice, political bitch of George Dubya, and Darla Moore, a southern financial billionaire wife.
Rice said she had: “Long admired the important role Augusta National has played in the traditions and history of golf.”
Although arguably your integrity can’t take much more of a hit after working for her old boss so ignoring class, race and gender hierarchies was childsplay!
In 1932 Bobby Jones and course designer Dr. Alister Mackenzie wasted no time in building the course in just 76 days. It helped they were building smack bang in the middle of the Great Depression and paid their black labourers 10 cents a day, working them for 10 hours a day and six days a week.
“With that foreman standing over you, it was like slavery again,” one worker recalled.
Backed by investor Clifford Roberts they bought the former indigo plantation for just $70,000 and with Jones saying: “Our aim is to develop a golf course and a retreat of such stature, and of such excellence, that men of some means... might find the club worthwhile as an extra luxury where they might visit and play with kindred spirits from other parts of the nation.”
As the tournament developed it became a circus of sorts.
There was even a part where black men were brought out, blindfolded and told to slug it out for the enjoyment of the members until one was left standing. Randomly one such youth was the singer James Brown.
It’s literally like Django Unchained!
Old school rules
Over time the battle royales have stopped but the rules are still stringent and often quite bizarre.
Fans are called ‘patrons’, if you don’t call them that you can expect to not work on The Masters the next year.
For example in 1966 when the tournament was first broadcast internationally commentator Jack Whitaker described a section of fans as “a mob scene”, whilst in 1996 Gary McCord made references to bikini waxes and a body bag.
Both were blacklisted and never seen again at Augusta.
The golf course loves an app but any technology is banned on the grounds, even for the pros. It’s like the place is stuck in a time warp.
And although that means you can get a pimento and cheese sandwich for $1.50 and a beer for $3.75 the truth of the matter is that underneath the almost exclusively positive PR, piano tinkering shots of the bridge over Rae’s Creek (built by German POW’s)... Augusta National is still ran like the old Southern plantation that it is.
Words - Ryan Curtis
I'm the Managing Editor at The Club. I like putting and Rioja. I dislike my low slice.