The US Masters

US Masters -  Augusta National logoThe US Masters is the most prestigious of the Major championships held in the USA. Instituted in 1934 by the legendary Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts, it is an annual invitational event held at Augusta National Golf Club, Augusta, Georgia.

The Masters and Augusta National Golf Club is to the Americans what the Open and St Andrews is to the British. It is the holy grail of American golf. Yet Augusta was only formally opened in 1933 and has a highly restricted membership. The course has not been designed as a championship course to test the skills of golf's elite. The fairways are well manicured and wide, hazards are few though challenging and there is little heavy rough. Augusta lies somewhere between the extremities of a Scottish links course and a highly manicured American parkland course. Nevertheless, it has become ingrained into the culture of American golf.

When Jones retired from competitive golf in 1930, he set about building a legacy which was an excellent golf course and an annual tournament. Hence the birth of Augusta and it's invitational tournament. Augusta National GC was formally opened in 1933 on a 365 acre site which was laid out by Alistair McKenzie of Scotland who had previously designed Cypress Point. Jones selected McKenzie because they shared a common philosophy on golf course design. Augusta embodies their philosophy which is to construct a course which follows the natural topography of the site with enough features to challenge the best golfers but still playable and enjoyable by the mass of the membership.

One suspects that Jones would have been surprised by the phenomenal popularity of the event. It was first televised in 1956 and has steadily grown in popularity. Given that it is an invitational event, professionals are invariably selected though amateurs have won in the past. Besides the prestige of beating the best golfers on the world, they are rewarded with a substantial purse along with induction into the heritage of American golf. Since 1949, the famous Green Jacket has been awarded to the winner as a mantle of honour and as such the award ceremony resembles the appointment of royalty. Tradition has it that the winner keeps the jacket for one year before returning it to Augusta whereupon it is kept indefinitely. The trophy awarded to the winner is a silver replica of Augusta's clubhouse which is permanently housed at Augusta. The winner's name is engraved on a silver band around the trophy's base. Each year, Augusta also hands out a host of awards to players who have triumphed in their category.

Although Gary Player was the first non-American to win the event, the Americans have dominated it since its inauguration. Strangely, Jones himself never won it. There is some suggestions that because it an invitational event rather than an open, Americans professionals are invariably invited to attend. However, since the 1980s, European players such as Lyle, Faldo, Woosnam, Langer and Ballesteros have won and therefore the event has acquired global respectability and prestige.

The US Masters and Augusta National are an integral part of golf's heritage. Augusta is a beautiful course and the management should be complemented on their high standards which have contributed so much to promoting golf.

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