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The Heart of Augusta: Celebrating the Masters Par-3 Contest

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The Masters Par-3 Contest is a beloved tradition that takes place annually on the Wednesday before the start of the Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club. This unique nine-hole event has become an integral part of the Masters experience. It offers golf fans a glimpse into the lighter side of the game’s greatest players as they compete in a relaxed, family-friendly atmosphere. The Par-3 Contest starkly contrasts the intensity and pressure of the main tournament, allowing players to enjoy a more casual and enjoyable round of golf with their loved ones.

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The 2024 edition of the Par-3 Contest will air Wednesday, April 10, on ESPN from 3 to 5 p.m. EST and be streamed live on masters.org or the Master’s app from 2 to 5 p.m. EST.

In this post, we’ll explore the origins and history of the Masters Par-3 Contest and the superstition associated with winning the event. We’ll also learn some facts about the course and the staggering number of aces it gives up and relive some of its most memorable moments. As always, our suggested reading selection of books and audiobooks will help you take it further.

Check out our Masters content, including our running list of the best promos, deals, and authentic merchandise, as well as our book recommendations and articles about the course’s history and those who have shaped it.

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Origin and History

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The idea for the Masters Par-3 contest was conceived by the club’s co-founder, Clifford Roberts, who envisioned a short course allowing spectators to get up close and personal with the players. It was first introduced in 1960, with Sam Snead winning the inaugural event.

Roberts believed that it would enhance the overall experience of the Masters and showcase the game’s top players in a more relaxed and approachable setting, providing additional entertainment for patrons and players in the days before the main tournament.

The decision to create the Par-3 Contest was strategic, as Augusta National’s leadership recognized the importance of providing diverse activities and experiences for the event’s growing number of attendees. By offering a unique and engaging side event, the club further cemented the Masters’ reputation as one of the world’s most prestigious and well-rounded golf tournaments.

Over the years, the Par-3 Contest has become a cherished tradition, with players often bringing their children, grandchildren, or other family members to caddie for them, dressed in the traditional white overalls and green cap. It has also become a platform for players to showcase their personalities and enjoy the game. The contest has been held annually since 1960, except for 2017, when it was canceled due to inclement weather, and 2020 and 2021, when it was canceled due to COVID-19.

Many players have been known to experiment with creative shots, such as hitting the ball with their non-dominant hand, attempting trick shots, hitting in tandem, and skipping the ball over the water. Some players even let their caddies hit a shot, much to the delight of the spectators. This lighthearted atmosphere has helped further endear the Par-3 Contest to golf fans worldwide.

Sunday Golf – Masters Loma Bag

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Sunday Golf has developed the Masters edition of its popular Loma bag, perfect for playing your local par-3 or executive course while supplies last. The Loma is a premium, lightweight golf bag for golfers who prefer a minimalist setup. It’s ultra-lightweight, weighing only 1.95 lbs, which makes it ideal for walking the course or taking to the driving range.

Despite its small size, the Loma Bag can hold up to 6-8 clubs, allowing you to carry just the essentials without lugging around a full set of clubs. It has practical features like a built-in stand, an insulated drink pouch, and various storage pockets, which help make your round more convenient and enjoyable.

Sunday Golf specializes in lightweight, minimalist golf bags designed for ease of use and convenience on the course. Their bags, such as the Loma series, are ideal for golfers who prefer to carry fewer clubs and enjoy a quick round. 

These bags often feature comfortable straps, insulated cooler pockets, and enough storage for essential gear. Sunday Golf’s products are appreciated for their portability and functionality, making them a popular choice for golfers looking for a simplified golf experience.

Superstition

There is a bit of superstition surrounding the Masters Par-3 Contest, as its winner has never gone on to win the Masters Tournament in the same year. This phenomenon has become known as the “Par-3 Curse,” with many players believing that winning the Par-3 Contest is a jinx for the main event.

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The closest any Masters Par-3 Contest winner has come to claiming the Green Jacket was as runner-up, accomplished in 1990 by Ray Floyd and 1993 by Chip Beck. Twelve players, including Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, and Tom Watson, have won both the Masters and the Par-3.

Padraig Harrington has the most wins, with three, followed by Sam Snead, Sandy Lyle, and Tom Watson, with two victories each. Ironically enough – the latter three are also winners of multiple Masters titles! Tom Watson also has the distinction of being the event’s oldest winner, posting a 21 in 2018 to win the event at 68 years old.

The Course

Augusta National’s Par-3 course was originally designed by George W. Cobb in 1958. Cobb, whose portfolio includes courses like Quail Hollow, worked closely with Clifford Roberts to create the unique 9-hole layout that has become an integral part of the Masters experience.

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A unique and challenging layout, the course measures just over 1,000 yards, with nine holes ranging from 70 to 140 yards. It’s known for its picturesque setting, with lush azaleas, towering pines, the iconic Hogan Bridge, DeSoto Springs Pond, and Ike’s Pond serving as a backdrop.

In 2023, Augusta National made some significant changes to the Par-3 Course, including rerouting the first five holes to play more alongside the DeSoto Springs Pond. This was done to increase the drama and excitement of the early holes. The changes also included adding more contoured greens and a new irrigation system.

Despite its short length, the Par-3 Course requires precision and skill. Its well-placed bunkers and undulating greens can challenge even the best players in the world. Jimmy Walker holds the course record at -8, set in 2016, with six birdies and a hole-in-one on his card. Winner of both the Masters and the Par-3, Ben Crenshaw, said of the course, “It’s like the perfect dessert after a great meal.”

Further Reading – Books and AudioBooks

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Audible Plus gives you unlimited access to thousands of audiobooks, podcasts, and Audible Originals for one low monthly fee. Enjoy your favorite books and discover new ones anytime, anywhere – just download the app and start listening.

With Audible Plus, the world’s best audio entertainment is at your fingertips. For a review of the benefits and multi-tasking opportunities provided by auditory learning, see our post “Enhance Your Productivity, Enhance Your Game WIth Audiobooks.”

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Seven Days in Augusta
by Mark Cannizzaro

Summary: The Masters is unquestionably the crown jewel of golf’s major tournaments, not only for the transcendent performances it has inspired over the years, but for the incomparable sights and sounds of Augusta National and its environs, each distinct element contributing to the storied, rarefied atmosphere which draws tens of thousands to Georgia each spring.

Seven Days in Augusta spans everything from the par-3 contest, to Amen Corner, to Butler Cabin. Mark Cannizzaro goes behind the scenes of the exclusive competition, covering wide-ranging topics including green jacket rituals, tales from The Crow’s Nest atop the clubhouse, the extreme lengths some fans have gone to acquire tickets, and what goes on outside the gates during Masters week. Also featuring some of the most memorable and dramatic moments from the tournament’s history, this is an essential, expansive look at golf’s favorite event.

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Shouting at Amen Corner
by Ron Green

Summary: Shouting at Amen Corner is a collection of the best of Ron Green’s columns and articles from his 45 years of covering the Masters for The Charlotte News and The Charlotte Observer. It’s a book about Hogan, Palmer, Nicklaus, Watson, Faldo, and Woods; but it’s also about Norman, Weiskopf, Miller, and others who have come so close, only to see the Green Jacket slip away at the last moment.

This book is unique in that it recounts history as it was being made and offers a special intimacy and perspective. Not a behind-the-scenes expose about members, money, and power, but a story of golf’s greatest showcase event and the players who have created cherished memories over the last five decades.

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The Spirit of St Andrews
by Alister McKenzie

Summary: Alister MacKenzie was one of golf’s greatest architects.  He designed his courses so players of all skill levels could enjoy the game while creating fantastic challenges for the most experienced players.  MacKenzie’s courses, such as Augusta National, Cypress Point, and Pasatiempo, remain in the top 100 today.  

In his “lost” 1933 manuscript, published for the first time in 1995 and now finally available in paperback, MacKenzie leads you through the evolution of golf–from St. Andrews to the modern-day golf course–and shares his insight on great golf holes the swing, technology and equipment, putting tips, the USGA, the Royal & Ancient, and more.  With fascinating stories about Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen, Gene Sarazen, and many others, The Spirit of St.  Andrews gives valuable lessons for all golfers and an intimate portrait of Alister MacKenzie, a true legend of the game.

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The Masters: A Hole-by-Hole History of America’s Golf Classic
by David Sowell

Summary: Discover the secrets of Augusta National with “The Masters” audiobook by David Sowell. This comprehensive guide provides insights into each hole’s history, challenges, and iconic moments. Perfect for both seasoned fans and casual enthusiasts, gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for the tournament with this audio tour.

So, the next time you’re watching the Masters on TV, you’ll have a newfound respect for what it takes to conquer Augusta. And who knows? The strategic insights might just help you tackle your local course a little more skillfully.

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Making the Masters
by David Barrett

Summary: Making the Masters by David Barrett provides the origin story of the Masters tournament, detailing how Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts conceived it in the 1930s and quickly established itself as one of golf’s most prestigious events. The book chronicles how Jones and Roberts built the tournament from the ground up despite tough economic times, highlighting key events, winners, and moments that shaped its legacy over the years.  Barrett’s comprehensive history shares little-known stories about the Masters and the many golfers who have defined its prestige as one of America’s greatest sporting events.

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