The first men’s major championship of the year means a lot of things to a lot of different people. For golfers, the Masters signifies the unofficial beginning of Spring with its gorgeous green grass, manicured course conditions and gorgeous flowers in bloom. And for others not so entrenched in the game, the trip to Augusta means the unofficial beginning of golf season.
Whatever the Masters means to you, there are a few things that make it stand out from the other golf tournaments held on various Tours around the world. Primarily, it’s the traditions and consistency that make the Masters what it is today.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at 10 of the Masters most memorable traditions.
Ceremonial Opening Tee Shots
The tradition of having champions of Masters past and other dignitaries of the game kick off official tournament play with ceremonial first tee shots began in 1963 with Jock Hutchison and Fred McLeod. Beginning in 1981, Gene Sarazen and Byron Nelson took over the honors and they were joined by Sam Snead in 1984.
In 2007, Arnold Palmer started a new era of honorary starters. He was joined by Jack Nicklaus in 2010 and Gary Player in 2012. Nicklaus and Player continue to strike the opening tee shots today.
The Champions Dinner on Tuesday of Masters week may be the most exclusive club in all of golf. Past winners of the green jacket congregate along with the chairman of Augusta National to feast on a menu of the reigning champion’s choosing. Past meals have included fish and chips (Nick Faldo), cheeseburgers and french fries (Tiger Woods), chicken panang curry (Vijay Singh) and authentic Texas barbeque (Jordan Spieth).
Prior to the tournament proper getting underway, Wednesday afternoon at Augusta National is a time for contestants and their close friends and family members to let loose on the property’s scenic par-3 course. With golfers being a superstitious bunch, and the fact that no one who has won the par-3 contest has gone on to win the green jacket in the same week, players intentionally blow good rounds down the stretch, or they let a caddie or patron play a shot for them, which disqualifies them from the official event.
The Crow’s Nest
Just a peg below the past champions at Augusta National are the amateurs. In honor of the club’s founder, Bobby Jones, who was a lifelong amateur, those who come to the Masters with no expectation of playing for a paycheck that week are treated like kings. The handful who earn their way into the field are treated to a special dinner on Monday night of Masters week and can elect to stay in the Crow’s Nest, an amateur-only dormitory that sits on the second floor of the clubhouse above the Champion’s Locker Room and the library.
The Caddie Jumpsuit
Nearly all of the lasting photographs from the Masters showcase a tradition that has become so intertwined with the event that it almost goes unnoticed. Unlike other Tour events or even other major championships, at Augusta National when players and caddies check in, the caddie is given an all-white jumpsuit that features the number given to their player as well as the player’s name card for the back. Nowhere else in golf is the full one-piece get up mandated, but it’s become as essential to the Masters as azaleas.
Magnolia Lane checks in at the length of a well-struck drive on the modern PGA Tour: 330 yards. Blanketed above and on the sides by 61 magnolia trees, according to the Augusta Chronicle, the short drive welcomes players to the first major of the year in grand style. Once down the road, Founders Circle, flowers planted in the shape of the Augusta National logo and the iconic clubhouse await.
Concession Stand Food
Perhaps not as synonymous as the green jacket, the green wrappers of the Masters concession stands are the thing of lore. In true Augusta National fashion, patrons get to take a step back in time as they approach the unbelievably regimented and efficient stands. Not only is the experience second to none in the sporting world, the prices are stuck in the 1980s, which patrons’ wallets appreciate. The pimento cheese and egg salad sandwiches are among the most popular, but you can’t go wrong with anything on the well-priced menu.
Champions’ Locker Room
As exclusive of a club as Augusta National is, getting a locker in the upstairs Champions’ Locker Room means you’ve done something only a few men in the history of the world have been able to accomplish: win the Masters. The centerpiece of the room is a display case that features a green jacket, clubhouse replica trophy. There are 28 oak lockers, most of which are shared by two previous Masters Champions. There are three tables with an attached veranda that gives a view of Founders Circle and Magnolia Lane.
Spending time in Butler Cabin means one of only a few things: you’re an Augusta National member or esteemed guest, you’re Jim Nantz or you played really, really well in the Masters Tournament. Following the final putt dropping, the chairman of Augusta National, Nantz, the defending champion, the low amateur and the new Masters champion retreat to Butler Cabin — one of 10 cabins on the property — for the green jacket presentation ceremony.
The Green Jacket
While every tradition on this list has its perks, the green jacket is the one that gives players a key to practically every other tradition. Earn a green jacket, and you’re set for life in Augusta, Georgia. The jackets were originally used by members to act as differentiators so patrons of the event knew they could ask someone in the know for help. In 1947, Sam Snead began the tradition of winners being awarded a jacket. Winners of the green jacket can take it off property for 12 months following their victory, but after that, they must return it to the club where it will be stored whenever they are not there.