Masters Countdown: Why Isn’t Every Scorecard Like This?

Augusta National’s scorecard is different from every scorecard I’ve ever seen (I think). Can you spot the unique feature?

ANGC Scorecard

It’s the yardages: they’re all in multiples of five. The reason is that Clifford Roberts—the club’s co-founder, and the chairman of the Masters from the beginning until his death, in 1977—thought it was ridiculous to suggest that a golf hole could be measured with more precision than that, especially since the tee markers and hole locations changed from day to day. (Hey, why not give feet and inches, too?) It’s not a big deal—but it’s a glimpse into the mind of the person most responsible for creating the world’s last surviving un-screwed-up major sporting event.

Don’t Miss the Coolest Feature on the Masters Website

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It’s called Track. Here’s how Zack Whittaker explained it on ZDNet:

The Augusta National Golf Club, which hosts the Masters every year, has dozens of lasers scattered throughout the course. Those lasers kick out a number of different pieces of data, including the location of the ball (determined on three-axes) and the resting position of the ball, which IBM runs through its cloud and visualizes. The end result is a play-by-play visualization that allows the viewer to interact and see the ball’s course, the distance of each drive, and other interesting nuggets of data. And this happens in a matter of seconds. Simply put, you can take any device and crank open the Masters’ website, and see how the ball traveled throughout the course. Using the HTML5 web standard, any smartphone or tablet user can access a simulated map of the course. iPad users have the benefit of using the internal gyroscope to visualize the play from any angle.

Click on any shot and Track displays both the yardage and the yardage remaining, and it gives the length of every putt. Keep it open in your lap while you watch the television broadcast. It’s like having your own universal instant replay. No more wondering about what your favorite players are up to off-camera.

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Masters Countdown: Why CBS Refused, for Sixteen Years, to Show Augusta National’s Twelfth Hole

ANGC 12-001

The Masters first appeared on TV in 1956, on CBS. (NBC, which covered the tournament on radio, had turned it down.) CBS initially wanted to show little more than the eighteenth hole, but the club said it would forego $5,000, half its fee, if more of the course could be included. CBS added a second transmission station, but the coverage was still minimal: two and a half hours over three days, showing just parts of the last four holes.

Augusta National argued for more. The club’s television committee, in its report on the second broadcast, in 1957, wrote, “A most picturesque part of our golf course lies about the twelfth hole and thirteenth green. An attempt should be made through employment of portable cameras to bring this area into live broadcast. If this is impractical, a few films of the area could be shown.”

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CBS disagreed that there was any need to show more of the course, even on film, and it stuck to that position. Seven years later, Clifford Roberts, the club’s chairman and co-founder—after reading in Golf World that CBS was planning to cover six holes at a lesser tournament, the 1964 Carling World Open, at Oakland Hills—wrote to Jack Dolph, who was then the network’s director of sports, to ask why the Masters could not be given the same treatment. Dolph replied: “It’s true that we are covering six holes of the Carling’s rather than four as we do at the Masters. This was a commitment made in acquiring the rights to the Tournament; one on which Carling’s insisted. We have grave doubts that this extra hole coverage will add to the overall impact of the tournament, and we are, in fact, giving the extra two holes the very minimum of coverage.”

Roberts did not give up, and in 1966 CBS finally agreed to extend its coverage beyond the fifteenth hole, by adding a camera near the fourteenth green. Coverage of the thirteenth green began two years later, in 1968, after Roberts suggested moving a camera from the far less interesting fourteenth tee. The twelfth hole wasn’t shown live until five years after that, in 1973—sixteen years after the club’s original suggestion.

The twelfth hole might not have received its own camera even in 1973 if Roberts had not effectively tricked CBS into putting one there. The year before, ABC Sports had asked the club for permission to film the twelfth hole during the 1972 Masters, for a prime-time sports special that it planned to broadcast on the Monday following the tournament. “As you know,” an ABC executive wrote to Roberts, “this hole has never been shown on the live presentations of the Masters, and our segment, which would probably be only five or ten minutes in length, would not only show how some of the top finishers play this hole but would also capture the many moods and some of the unique happenings that transpire at this locale.”

Roberts—who knew that ABC for years had yearned to win the Masters contract away from CBS—agreed. CBS noticed. The following year, for the first time, it placed a camera of its own on the twelfth hole.

Masters Countdown: Augusta National’s Worst Golfer Ever?

Here’s what Augusta National’s first green looked like during the first Masters, when the hole was still the tenth. That bunker was really more of a waste area. It was later removed, and a different bunker was added closer to the green:
ANGC-Hole-1

During the club’s early years, a small creek ran across the first fairway, at the bottom of the hill, less than a hundred yards from the tee. The carry over the ditch was so short that few players noticed, but a member named Clarence J. Schoo drove into it so often that it came to be known as Schooie’s Gulch. Schoo was the founder and president of a boxboard manufacturing company in Springfield, Massachusetts. The company doesn’t exist anymore, but Schoo’s name is preserved in the Schoo Science Center at Springfield College, of which he and his wife were benefactors.

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At Augusta National one day, Schoo topped yet another drive into Schooie’s Gulch, and told Clifford Roberts, the club’s co-founder and chairman, “I wish you’d fill in that damn ditch.” Roberts did, during the summer of 1951—and sent the bill to Schoo. Or so the story goes. In truth, the ditch had always been a maintenance problem. Roberts also wanted to replace the club’s old Masters press tent, which really was a tent, with a Quonset hut. The new building was going to go to the right of the first fairway, near where the big scoreboard is today, and the ditch was in the way. The photo below shows the inside of the Quonset hut in the early 1950s. The sportswriters’ laptops look strange, but their beer cans and cigarettes are recognizable:

ANGC quonset.jpg

Schoo did pay for part of the alteration, but he did so gladly, and he almost certainly wasn’t surprised when he opened his bill. He and Roberts were close friends, He was also one of the most popular members, and he later served as one of the club’s vice presidents. Here’s a note that another popular member, former President Eisenhower, sent him after Schoo had missed Eisenhower’s birthday party:

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Schoo was such a poor golfer that when he one day made a natural birdie Roberts decided that he should be paid the same cash pot that ordinarily went to a golfer who made a hole-in-one, on the theory that Schooie was never going to come closer. Another time, while Schoo was playing the seventh hole in a foursome that also included Roberts and Eisenhower,he hit a drive that traveled just a few yards, into a clump of pampas grass to the left of the tee. He said, “Well, in all the years I’ve been playing here, that’s the first time I’ve done that.” That summer, the grounds crew cut back the pampas grass and found many balls with his name imprinted on them. On another occasion, Schoo said with exasperation that he must be the worst golfer in the club. His caddie, who had been around long enough to hear stories but not long enough to recognize faces, said, “No, sir. The worst golfer in this club is Mr. Schoo.”

Masters Countdown: Bobby Jones’s Father, the Great Flood, and the Eleventh Hole

Eleventh green, twelfth tee, twelfth green, Augusta National, early 1930s.

Eleventh green, twelfth tee, twelfth green, Augusta National, early 1930s.

The Masters tee on the eleventh hole was originally positioned above and to the right of the tenth green, not far from the seventeenth green. The hole ran downhill and played considerably shorter than its measured distance, which was a little over four hundred yards. In fact, until about a decade ago the green was at least theoretically drivable from the members’ tee, which was on the old line, although the shot was blind and called for a powerful fade.

Alister MacKenzie's original routing, showing the location of the eleventh tee, between the seventeenth green and the old tenth green. The modern tee is somewhere back near the red X in the upper right hand corner of the image.

Alister MacKenzie’s original routing, showing the location of the eleventh tee, between the seventeenth green and the old tenth green. The modern tee is somewhere back near the red X in the upper right hand corner of the image.

The hole was first changed in 1950, when the club built a new tournament tee, below and to the left of the tenth green. The change was suggested by Clifford Roberts, the club’s chairman and co-founder, and endorsed by Bobby Jones. The change was made both to lengthen the hole and to eliminate a gallery bottleneck between the tenth green and the eleventh tee. “Under the new arrangement,” Jones wrote at the time, “the spectators will have ample room on the high ground to the right of the fairway to observe play, all the way from tee to green, without going on to the fairway at all. It will be substantially the same arrangement as is provided at number 13, where everyone can get a clear view of all shots played without following the contestants down the fairway.” The Masters tee is even farther back today, and the fairway has been reshaped. The hole measures a little more that five hundred yards for the tournament, and when you stand on the tee it looks like a thousand.

Eleventh green, 1930s.

Eleventh green, 1930s. No pond yet.

The eleventh hole’s most conspicuous feature is the pond to the left of the green. Roberts, in his book about the club, which was published in 1976, wrote that the pond had been his idea; Byron Nelson told me in 1998 that it had been his own. “There was already water behind the green,” he said, “because Rae’s Creek ran back there. But not many people went over the green. So I told Cliff that I thought he ought to dam up the creek and let the water make a pond to the left of the green.” (Nelson’s memory that the creek passed only behind the green wasn’t not quite correct. The water also looped near the front left, almost as close to the green as the pond is today—as you can see in the photos above.) The dam was built in 1951.

There's that pond. Look out.

There’s that pond. Look out.

In mid-October 1990, Augusta got more than a foot of rain in just thirty-six hours. Rae’s Creek flooded, and took the eleventh green and much of the rest of Amen Corner with it:

amen corner flood 1990Hord Hardin, the club’s chairman at the time, said they were lucky the flood hadn’t occurred right before the Masters. “We probably would have had to play four sixteen-hole rounds,” he said. The green was rebuilt using data from a 1982 survey, and the bunker and the pond were recreated from photographs. The hole was back in play not just for the Masters but for the Thanksgiving member party, six weeks later.

The Colonel, Bobby Jones's father.

The Colonel, Bobby Jones’s father.

In the early years, there was a small pot bunker in the center of the fairway at roughly the distance of a reasonable drive, invisible from the tee. The bunker was Jones’s idea. He wanted the course to have a hazard that could be avoided only with good luck or local knowledge—the sort of seemingly arbitrary booby trap that is plentiful on the Old Course at St. Andrews. Jones’s father, Colonel Bob Jones (photo above), drove into it during his first round on the course, in 1932, and when he found his ball in the sand he shouted, “What goddamned fool put a goddamned bunker right in the goddamned center of the goddamned fairway?” or words to that effect. His son, who was playing with him (along with Roberts), had to answer, “I did.” The bunker was eventually filled in, though not till many years later.

Masters Countdown: The Plan to Demolish Augusta National’s Clubhouse

ANGC clubhouseThe original plans for Augusta National Golf Club called for two eighteen-hole golf courses—a Championship Course and a Ladies Course—plus tennis courts, outdoor squash courts, an eighteen-hole pitch-and-putt course, a bridle path, a couple of dozen houses for members, and, possibly, an on-site hotel. In addition, $100,000 was to be spent on a clubhouse—which was needed because the existing manor house, which had been built in 1857 by a horticulturalist and nurseryman named Dennis Redmond, was going to be torn down.

Redmond manor house, 1800s.Redmond was, in addition to a planter, an architectural historian and an editor of an agricultural publication called The Southern Cultivator.  His house had eighteen-inch-thick walls made of concrete, a material that before that time had not been used in residential construction in the south; Redmond called it “artificial rock.”

Redmond’s house, post-Redmond, in the 1800s. Redmond was, in addition to a nurseryman, an architectural historian and an editor of an agricultural publication called The Southern Cultivator. His house had eighteen-inch-thick walls made of concrete, a material that before that time had not been used in residential construction in the south; Redmond called it “artificial rock.”

It seems unimaginable today, but demolishing the old manor house wouldn’t have been a reckless act. Although the building looks imposing in photographs, it’s quite small. Much of its apparent bulk comes from its porches, which are nine-and-a-half feet deep and run all the way around on both floors, and from large wings added later on each side. In 1931, the building had fourteen rooms, but most were cramped and dark, and there was no kitchen, no electricity, and no plumbing. The ground floor had been referred to by the builder as a “basement,” and it looked like one. A consulting engineer, after making an inspection, concluded that most members “would probably be better satisfied in a modern building with all modern conveniences.” Few disagreed.

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Clifford Roberts and Bobby Jones, the club’s co-founders, hired Willis Irvin, a local architect, to draw plans for a new clubhouse. A detailed rendering of his design appeared in the Augusta Chronicle in 1931:

The clubhouse that was never built, designed by Willis Irvin, a prominent Augusta Architect. I apologize for the appalling quality of the image, which is a scan of a photocopy of a microfilm print of a newspaper photograph of a drawing.

This is the Augusta National clubhouse that was never built. It was designed by Willis Irvin, who died in 1950. I apologize for the appalling quality of the image, which is a scan of a photocopy of a microfilm print of a newspaper reproduction of an architectural drawing.

The building was to have two large wings, an exterior of white-painted brick, a slate roof, several impressive chimneys, and a vast neoclassical portico supported by four tall columns. The most striking feature was to be an enormous men’s locker room containing four hundred lockers, some double and some single. According to the Chronicle, Jones had been involved in the planning, and the locker room was going to incorporate “the best features of the clubs he has visited.” There were to be nooks and corners in which golfers could gather before, after, and between rounds to play cards, drink gin, eat lunch, watch the action on the course through large bay windows, and converse. A separate wing was to contain similar facilities for women.

Early Masters competitors did more between-rounds drinking and smoking than they tend to do nowadays. Clockwise from the lower left, these people are: Lawson Little, Charlie Bartlett (the golf editor of the Chicago Tribune, after whom the press lounge in the media building at Augusta National was named), Billy Burke, Tommy Armour, Ben Hogan, and Olin Dutra.

Masters competitors did more between-rounds drinking and smoking in the early years than they do nowadays. This photo is from the second tournament, in 1935, when the clubhouse was still a dank mess. Clockwise from lower left: Lawson Little, Charlie Bartlett (the golf editor of the Chicago Tribune, after whom the press lounge in Augusta National’s media building was later named), Billy Burke, Tommy Armour, Ben Hogan, and Olin Dutra.

You can’t see much detail in the poorly reproduced newspaper image higher up in this post, but several of the private houses that Willis Irvin designed were similar to what he had in mind for Augusta National. (According to the South Carolina State Historic Preservation Office, he specialized in “elegant rural estates,” often “built for wealthy northern clients” who wanted winter residences in the South.) The Irvin house in the photo below, called White Hall, is in Aiken, South Carolina. It was built in 1928, and in many ways it’s a scaled-down version of what he proposed for Augusta National:

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Here’s another similar Irvin house, from Hartsville, South Carolina, built about 1931:

CokerAnd here’s the back of Irvin’s own house, in Aiken, which was built in 1855 but which he enlarged in 1930, by adding the wings. (He liked wings.)

Irvin House

Not everyone was eager to tear down the old manor house. Harry M. Atkinson, of Atlanta, who was part of Augusta National’s tiny group of early members, wrote to Roberts in 1931 to say that he and his wife loved the building and believed it should be renovated rather than razed. “We both were greatly impressed with the avenue of magnolias leading up to the old Berckmans residence and the planting around the house,” he wrote. (Prosper Berckmans, a Belgian horticulturalist and landscape architect, had bought the property from Redmond in 1858 and turned it into Fruitlands Nurseries, which by 1931 had been out of business for a little more than a decade.) “We think that all of that, including the house, ought to be preserved carefully,” Atkinson continued. “It can be made a perfect gem, using the old house for a club house. You could not reproduce what is there for any amount of money.”

ANGC old

Atkinson also said that he felt “a great many golf clubs” had been ruined by the construction of “club houses that are too elaborate and too luxurious”—an observation that may be even more apt today than it was then. In response to Atkinson, Roberts wrote that that the house would be hard to save but that, for financial reasons, nothing was likely to be done in a hurry. Still, early master plans for the Augusta National property included a “Site for Club House”:

plan showing clubhouse site

The image above is a detail from a subdivision plan prepared by Olmsted Bros. in 1932. The footprint of Irvin’s proposed clubhouse is shown in black. Just above it is the driveway circle, which still exists, and the near end of Magnolia Lane; to the left is the first tee; at roughly eight o’clock (shaped like upside-down rabbit ears) is the ninth green; directly below the clubhouse is the tenth tee; to the right are the proposed tennis courts. Here’s some of the same area as it actually appeared a couple of years later, in a photograph taken from an airplane:

aerial view ANGC 1934

The demolition plan would have proceeded if the club had had the money to carry it out. But Roberts and Jones were unable to sign up more than a handful of members, and therefore had to make do with their crumbling old manor house (and no tennis). Thank goodness.

Another of Irvin's designs--this one from Hartsville.

Another house designed by Irvin, also in Hartsville. This one was built in 1934, the year of the first Masters.

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Masters Countdown: Tenth Hole

ANGC early routing

In Alister MacKenzie’s original conception of the golf course at Augusta National (shown above), the holes were numbered as they are today. MacKenzie’s thinking changed in 1931, before construction began, and he switched the nines, so that the current first hole became the tenth. Several writers have attributed the change to Bobby Jones, who contributed to the design, but contemporary documents make it clear that the idea was MacKenzie’s. His intention was probably to provide a better view of the finishing green to members who might be lounging near the big picture windows in the locker room of the planned new clubhouse, which Jones and Clifford Roberts, the club’s co-founders, intended to build as soon as they’d raised enough money to tear down the old plantation house. (Luckily, they never did. I’ll tell that story soon.)

ANGC tenth green

The club switched the nines again in 1934, between the first tournament and the second. This time, the reason was that the shady area near the current twelfth green, which lay at the lowest elevation on the property, was the last part of the course to thaw on frosty mornings. By playing the other nine first, golfers could tee off earlier. The new arrangement also made for more stirring Masters finishes, a fact that was recognized at the time.

Tenth hole, Augusta National. Looking back up the hill, toward the tee.

Tenth hole, Augusta National. Looking back up the hill, toward the tee.

It’s easy to understand why MacKenzie thought of the current tenth as a good starting hole. The view from the tee is one of the most enticing in golf—the sort that can coax a smooth swing from a hurried player who hasn’t had time to loosen up. The drop in elevation to the ideal landing area is more than a hundred feet—enough to make a thinly struck drive seem solidly launched. The fairway runs down and to the left and out of sight, through a bending corridor of pine trees. The slope rewards any player who can work the ball from right to left, yet there is room on the right for those who can’t. Golfers leave the tee feeling that they are descending into a different world—an appropriate emotion for players entering the most celebrated second nine in golf.

Early members playing the tenth hole.

Early Augusta members playing the tenth. In MacKenzie’s first drawing of the hole, there was a big fairway bunker not too far from the foreground of this photo. (See the plan at the top of this post.) When this hole became the opening hole, though, he removed the bunker, because he didn’t think a golfer should have to clear a large hazard with his first shot of the day. But when the ordering of the holes changed again the fairway bunker wasn’t put back.

The tenth hole was originally much shorter than it is today. (MacKenzie, in a note in the program for the first tournament, in 1934, called the hole “comparatively easy.”) Until 1937, the green was situated well in front of and below where it is today, in a damp hollow to the right of the sprawling fairway bunker. That bunker seems anomalous to modern players, because even well-struck drives don’t reach it and even poorly struck approach shots usually miss it. But in the early years the bunker (which at that time was really more of a waste area) guarded the left flank of a punchbowl green:

The original tenth green, on the right. The current green is well beyond it and to the left.

The original tenth green, on the right. The modern green is on the rise well beyond it and to the left.

Moving the green was the idea of Perry Maxwell, who one year later also redesigned the seventh hole. Maxwell pointed out that moving the tenth green to higher ground would not only solve a drainage problem but also markedly strengthen the hole. The change turned a breathtaking but mediocre short hole into one of the greatest par 4s in the world.

Masters Countdown: Cattle, Turkeys, and Prisoners of War

Soldiers from Camp Gordon, with WAC caddies, putting at Augusta National in 1942, before the club closed for the duration. You can see the clubhouse in the background.

Soldiers from Camp Gordon, with WAC caddies, putting at Augusta National in 1942, before the club closed for the duration. You can see the clubhouse in the background.

On Tuesday, I swapped spring weather in Connecticut for summer weather in Florida by flying to Orlando to talk about the history of Augusta National and the Masters on Morning Drive, on the Golf Channel. Among the many topics we covered was the club’s struggle to remain solvent through the Great Depression and the Second World War. Clifford Roberts, who co-founded the club and the tournament with Bobby Jones, said later that if he and Jones had known at the outset how long the Depression was going to last they wouldn’t have had the nerve to proceed. The Masters field actually shrank steadily during the early years—from seventy-two players in 1934 to forty-six in 1939—and then, just as the club’s fortune’s seemed to be turning, the country went to war.

Augusta National closed for the duration after the tournament In 1942, and Jones suggested to Roberts that the club might both contribute to the war effort and improve its financial situation by raising cattle on the golf course.The idea was that the cattle would keep the Bermuda grass under control while fattening themselves to the point where they could be sold at a profit. One of the club’s members had a son who knew about livestock, and he determined that the club had enough grass to support two hundred or two hundred and fifty head. Roberts suggested that the club might also want to try raising turkeys, geese, fish, “and what-not.”

ANGC cattle

Towards the end of 1943, Roberts reported to the members that the club’s agricultural efforts were going well. The cattle herd numbered about two hundred, and the plan was to purchase another two hundred as soon as the original animals could be sold. “The Club also purchased 1,423 day-old turkeys and was successful in raising 1,004 of them,” Roberts wrote. “These turkeys will soon be ready for market but over 100 are to be retained for Christmas distribution to our members—one to each member.” (These Christmas presents were popular.  A member who had received one wrote to Roberts, “It was a peach all right and doubly welcome in these days of tight rationing.”) The club also harvested pecans from its own trees. It donated half the crop, through the wife of the sportswriter Grantland Rice, a founding member, to an Army canteen, and it sold the other half in ten-pound bags to members. There was talk of growing corn and peanuts in a field that is now the practice range, but that idea was abandoned as unlikely to succeed.

That's Grantland Rice on the left and Bobby Jones on the right, during an early Masters. I don't know who is in the middle.

That’s Grantland Rice on the left and Bobby Jones on the right, during an early Masters. I don’t know who is in the middle.

Despite Roberts’s enthusiasm, the livestock experiment was a failure. A price ceiling had been imposed on  turkeys but not on feed, and the market for beef was hurt by a sudden cattle glut resulting from drought conditions in the West. By the fall of 1944, the club had lost about $5,000 on the beef operation, not including the cost of damage to the course and its plantings. (The damage had been caused by what Roberts described as “the voracious appetite of the cattle.”) The loss was partly offset by a profit on the turkeys. But Roberts concluded, in a letter to the members, that “we have a better chance as a golf club rather than as live-stock feeders.”

Returning the course to playing condition began in late 1944, when the end of the war had begun to seem imminent. Military use of local hotels was slackening, and Roberts had calculated that the cost of restoring the course would no longer be significantly greater than the cost of maintaining it as it was. He announced that the club would reopen on December 23, 1944, and that the course would be ready for play sometime later.

Much of the restoration work on the course was done during a six-month period by forty-two German prisoners of war, who were being detained at Camp Gordon, in Augusta, and were available for hire as day laborers by local businesses. The prisoners had been part of an engineering crew in Rommel’s Afrika Korps. They had been surprised, upon arriving in America, to find that New York was still standing, because they had been told by Nazi propagandists that German bombers had leveled the city. The club arranged for transportation to pick them up at Camp Gordon each morning and return them at the end of the day. A local member, who used to bring them fruit and visit with them while they worked, told me that the army had sent them out “mostly just to give them something to do.”

This POW camp was in Williamston, North Carolina, not Augusta, Georgia, but it was similar to the one at Camp Gordon.

This POW camp was in Williamston, North Carolina, not Augusta, Georgia, but it was similar to the one at Camp Gordon.

In Africa, the German soldiers had built bridges for Rommel’s tanks. At Augusta National, they built a similar bridge over Rae’s Creek near the thirteenth tee. It was a truss bridge made of wood, and it was marked by a wooden sign on which the soldiers carved an inscription. The bridge, which is visible in a few old photographs, either washed away in a flood in the early fifties or was taken down in 1958 to make way for a stone bridge dedicated to Byron Nelson. The Ben Hogan Bridge, which crosses Rae’s Creek near the twelfth green, was built and dedicated at the same time.

The photographer Frank Christian, in his book Augusta National & The Masters, recalls spending summer afternoons on the course during this period, when he was a young boy. “[M]y older brother, Toni, and I would gather our playmates and walk the few blocks from our house to the inviting shores of Rae’s Creek, where we had discovered the ideal swimming hole in front of the twelfth green,” Christian writes. “We would take rocks and dam the creek to create several deep holes within the pond, just perfect for running jumps taken from the high side of the creek. . . . After swimming, a great part of our fun was to throw cow biscuits at one another and chase the cows up and down the fairways.” Fred Bennett, who would later become a caddie and then the club’s caddie master, also came to Rae’s Creek to swim and fish. “I remember those cows very well,” he told me in the late nineteen-nineties. “And when the war was over you could tell they’d been there, because all over the fairways there were circles of bright green grass about a foot across.”

Wounded soldiers watching the Masters from litters placed beside the eighteenth green in 1947. The club gave them free tickets and preferred seating.

Wounded soldiers watching the Masters from litters placed beside the eighteenth green in 1947. The club gave them free tickets and preferred seating.

Masters Countdown: The Origin of Magnolia Lane

Members of the Berckmans family on the veranda of what is now the Augusta National clubhouse, late 1800s.

Members of the Berckmans family on the veranda of what is now the Augusta National clubhouse, late 1800s.

Shortly before the outbreak of the Civil War, a horticulturist and landscape architect named Prosper Julius Alphonse Berckmans planted a double row of magnolia trees leading into a piece of property that he and his father, a Belgian nobleman, had bought on the outskirts of Augusta. He grew the trees from seeds. The two rows were two hundred fifty yards long, and between them ran a bumpy dirt road that the Berckmans family used as a driveway.

Magnolia Lane, at Washington Road, 1900.

Prosper Berckmans’s double row of magnolias, at Washington Road, 1900.

In the late 1990s, Lawrence Bennett—who was the son of Augusta National’s director of outside personnel and a part-time employee of the club as well as a high-school history teacher—told me that his grandmother, whose own grandmother had been a slave, remembered noticing the magnolias just after the turn of the century, when her family came to town in a covered wagon once a month to buy supplies. By 1931, when Clifford Roberts and Bobby Jones, the club’s co-founders, first visited the property, the magnolias were good-size trees and the driveway was known locally as Magnolia Avenue. Because the branches were long and close to the ground, two cars could not pass side by side between the rows, and Roberts and Jones briefly considered placing the club’s main entrance well to the left.

The magnolia trees are on the right side of this  photograph, which was taken around the time of the first tournament. The road that Roberts and Jones considered using as the club's driveway is at the lower left.

The magnolia trees are on the right side of this photograph, which was taken around the time of the first tournament. Roberts and Jones considered using the dirt road that slants across the lower left as the club’s driveway, because they worried that two cars wouldn’t be able to pass each other in the narrow opening between the rows of trees.

Roberts loved the magnolias and worried about them, as he did about most of the trees on the club’s property. If a loblolly pine on the golf course died, he wanted to know why it had died, and he wanted the tree removed immediately in case the thing that had killed it was catching. He didn’t like deciduous trees, because in his view fallen leaves were a species of litter; he thinned oaks and maples in favor of half a dozen varieties of pine. He read scholarly articles about tree care and consulted forestry professors. When a contractor who was building a new tee ignored his warning to keep construction machinery away from some old trees that he was especially fond of, he ordered the contractor to leave the grounds.

One night in the nineteen-sixties, Roberts and his wife had dinner in New York with another Augusta National member and his wife. They got to talking about the plantings on the club’s property. The member asked how old the Magnolia Lane magnolias were. Roberts said they were a little more than a hundred years old, and that with proper care they ought to live another hundred or hundred and fifty years. The member’s wife said, “Well, that certainly ought to be long enough.”

Roberts turned on her the same fierce stare with which he pinned neglectful committee members to the backs of their chairs. “No,” he said, after what to the wife seemed like the better part of the life span of a magnolia, “that is not long enough.”

Fruitlands Catalogue