Every Spring, The Masters Tournament tees-off at one of the most heralded and recognizable courses in the history of golf: Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, GA. Storied champions from years past converge onto the small Georgia town with the hope of donning the Green Jacket. Perhaps the only aspect of the Masters that can surpass the history of the event is the course itself, which has served as tournament host since 1934.
Known as the “Augusta National Invitation” in that year, Horton Smith captured the first official Masters title at Augusta which earned him $1000 out of a $5000 total purse. In 1939 the name of the tournament was permanently changed to “The Masters”. In the early years of the event, players at Augusta National began their round on the 10th hole and finished on the 9th. However, in 1935 the switch to the course’s original layout was made permanent and continues to this day.
The history of the course itself, however, dates back to 1930 in the form of a vision dreamt by Bobby Jones just prior to his retirement from championship golf. As the story is reported on the Masters’ website, Jones teamed up with Clifford Roberts, whom he had met many times throughout the 1920s and who shared Jones’ vision of building a world-class golf course. After a few brief conversations between the two men, a mutual agreement was reached to construct the course in Augusta, Georgia.
Jones and Roberts decided that instead of littering the grounds of what would become Augusta National with bunkers and other hazards, they would make the most out of the property’s natural landscape which includes a vast number of mounds, hills, and valleys. Jones wanted this concept of golf course architecture to “make a contribution to the game as well as give expression to his ideas about golf course design”. Original plans for the golf club were to only have it open for play during the winter months.
The property itself was originally named Fruitland Nurseries and was purchased from owner Thomas Barrett, Jr. As the Masters website explains, this property was once an Indigo plantation purchased by a Belgian Baron named Louis Mathieu Edouard Berckmans in 1857. In 1858, Berckmans and his son formed a partnership that would eventually bring numerous trees and plants from all over the globe and placed them throughout the property while still a nursery. Included in this project were thousands of magnolia plants which would ultimately become a staple of the Augusta National history and one of the most recognizable aspects of the grounds in present-day.
At the selling price of $70,000, Jones and Roberts purchased the land and decided to begin construction with renowned Scottish course architect Dr. Alister Mackenzie, especially since he shared the views of Jones in regard to allowing the national landscape and contours define the shape and look of the course. Mackenzie had also sparked Jones’ attention by already having two impressive course designs under his belt in California: Cypress Point and Pasatiempo. In 1933, the course was complete and opened for play.