Masters Countdown: The First “Green Coats”

green jacket

Green jackets were first worn at Augusta National in 1937, but they weren’t popular. “The members were not enthusiastic at first about wearing a conspicuous Kelly-green garment,” Clifford Roberts, the club’s co-founder and chairman, wrote in 1976. “Besides, the original coats were made of material that was too heavy, so that the wearer became uncomfortably warm.”

A few years later, the club offered an improved version, and on January 13, 1941, Helen Harris, who managed the club’s office, wrote a letter to the members informing them that “the Club’s Tailor is prepared to make the official Green Coats bearing the club’s Emblem for $18.50 and if you should wish to order one, please have your own tailor fill in the measurements on the enclosed blank and return it to me.”

The club had recently done some much-needed remodeling in the clubhouse, which had been a wreck when the club and tournament began. “With the improved Club facilities,” Harris continued, “most all our Members will likely spend more time here and these green coats come in handy for lounging. They are also quite serviceable during the Master’s [sic] Tournament as they make it unnecessary to wear a badge. Moreover, they identify the wearer as a member and thus give our gallery patrons a reliable means of securing information.”

The first Masters winner to be given a green jacket was Sam Snead, in 1949. A decade earlier, the club had photographed the first five winners in green jackets, but those had been borrowed from members—in a couple of cases, from members who had significantly different dimensions. The club keeps a selection of sizes on hand, and if a player who hasn’t won before is in contention the golf shop makes a few phone calls, to get an idea of likely measurements.

Horton Smith, Byron Nelson, Gene Sarazen, Henry Picard, and Ralph Guldahl, 1939. You can order a nice print of this swell photo from the Masters website.

Horton Smith, Byron Nelson, Gene Sarazen, Henry Picard, and Ralph Guldahl, 1939. You can order a nice print of this swell photo from the Masters website. No green jacket, though.

3 thoughts on “Masters Countdown: The First “Green Coats”

  1. You can win the “Green Jacket”, but it’s not yours. It’s the property of Augusta National.
    I wonder how that worked when the players had to buy their own jackets ?

Leave a Reply