http://stephanepereira.com/wordpress Augusta National Golf Club suffered severe financial problems during its first two decades, which coincided with the Great Depression and the Second World War. Its lenders actually foreclosed in 1935, just eight months after Gene Sarazen had seemingly secured the future of both the club and the Masters by hitting “the shot heard round the world.” (I explore those difficulties at some length in The Making of the Masters.)
http://blumberger.net/wp-json/oembed/1.0/embed One of the club’s best hopes for raising money in the early years was to sell building lots overlooking the course. Roughly a third of the club’s property was reserved for that purpose, and the lots were delineated and numbered on several early maps, including the plan reproduced above. For the most part, the lots occupied areas west of the second fairway and east of the tenth and eleventh. (Note to Laurentius: The spot where Rory McIlroy’s yanked tee shot on the tenth hole ended up during the final round of the 2011 Masters was near the edge of Lot No. 1.)
7f8014a8631c1874e57a53d3098d327b The club’s development plan, which was created by the landscape architecture firm Olmsted Brothers, called for two dozen building sites, and additional acreage was reserved for more. Most of the lots were between three and five acres; the largest, No. 6, was twelve acres. The club actively tried to sell those lots or others for more than twenty years. Boundary lines were cleared, access roads were built, lots were numbered with signs that faced the roads, and a major, continuing effort was made to stir up sales—all without success. In the early 1930s, W. Montgomery Harison, an early member, bought three adjoining lots just beyond the first green, but he was the only taker. He built a huge brick mansion, which stood until 1977, and the elder of his two sons built a much smaller house next door. (Harison’s younger son, Phil, was the tournament’s official starter for more than sixty years. He died 2008, at the age of 82. His own son is a member now.)
After the war, the club briefly considered leasing or renting the remaining lots, at annual charges ranging from $250 to $500 a year. When no enthusiasm for that idea was evident, the club gave up on the original subdivision and for four or five years pursued a more modest development plan in a different location. This new subdivision—which was to be called De Soto Trail—was situated just east of the area now occupied by the par 3 course. It consisted of twenty-four lots, most of them about a half-acre, and was targeted not at club members but at local middle-income families. To avoid the expense of building an access road and installing utilities, the club in 1949 offered the entire parcel to Augusta real-estate agents. There were no bids. The club then tried without success to sell the lots individually. Late in 1952, a developer offered $18,000 for fifteen acres. Roberts viewed that figure as too low, and the club eventually abandoned the entire idea.
Today, golf fans and even club members are almost always amazed to learn that Augusta National, in more than twenty years of conscientious effort, could turn up only one buyer interested in building a house near what today may be most fabled golf course in the world. If the same lots were offered for sale today, the bids would undoubtedly be astronomical. The failure of the real-estate projects underscores the immensity of the challenge that Clifford Roberts and Bobby Jones, Augusta National’s founders, faced in nearly every area of the club’s operation. As late as the early 1950s, Roberts couldn’t get local real-estate developers to return his calls.
It was only in the mid-1950s—when the tournament was securely established, and both the club and the country were on better financial footing—that Roberts began to view all development ideas as a mistake. A local club member named Julian Roberts (no relation) eventually bought Harison’s property and later sold it back to the club. One of Clifford Roberts’s last acts before taking his life, in 1977, was to walk to the first tee with the help of a waiter so that he could look up the fairway and assure himself that the house had been torn down.
Almost a year ago, during long wait in retinologists office, they had a movie about Bobbie Jones running. I don’t play golf and hadn’t a clue about Bobbie Jones, although I knew the name somehow. It is a lovely movie if anybody has not seen it–don’t know what the name is, however. Such a different golf world! And his career in golf so different from today’s lifelong money-making career of endorsements. He left when he did what he wanted to do and, as I remember finished his education at Yale. Even the romance aspect of the movie–if basically true–was unexpected.
Do experts think Bobbie could hold his own with the top golfers today?
Hi, Maggy: Comparing athletes from different eras is impossible in any sport. What’s amazing is how well Jones and his contemporaries played with the equipment that was available at the time. I saw one of Jones’s golf balls in a display case at Winged Foot. It looked like something your grandchild might have made from salt dough in nursery school. And his clubs! With tiny heads and wooden shafts!
I’ll take lot 5 or lot 24 at the full fare lease rate of $500 a year. Heck, make it $1,000.
In the 1930s, the Augusta National approached many prominent local Augusta people and tried to get them to join the National. One of those people was my great grandfather who when asked to join the National explained to them that he was already a member of the Augusta Country Club which had been in operation since 1899, had 2 golf courses, a swimming pool and tennis courts. He thought Bobby Jones was nuts.
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Very much like.
Julian Roberts is my Great Uncle..his Brother Ted Roberts was my grandfather. My mom said when she was a little girl that her and her cousins used to walk out behind the backyard of her Uncle Julian’s house and play in the sand trap by #1 green. I have pictures of it. Crazy how things have changed.
Julian Roberts was my wife’s grandfather. We would really appreciate you posting any photos of around the house that you have. Many great memories of Julian (Papar) and Bobbie (Mamar) Roberts this time of year.
That’s the only photo I have–in fact, it’s the only one I’ve seen. On Saturday, at the 2019 Masters, I spoke with Phil Harison, Jr., whose grandfather bought the lot and built the house. So you have any photos? If so, I’d love to see them!