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Traditions Unlike Any Other: Origins of Masters Customs

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The Masters Tournament is often called “A Tradition Unlike Any Other,” for good reason. Steeped in rich history and celebrated customs, the Masters has captivated golf fans worldwide for decades. From the iconic green jacket to the champion’s dinner, each element of the tournament contributes to the unparalleled atmosphere that makes the Masters such a revered event.

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In this post, we’ll explore the time-honored traditions that have become synonymous with the Masters. From the ceremonial first tee shots to the exclusive accommodations provided for amateur competitors, we’ll delve into the origins and significance of these cherished customs and unique experiences that the Masters provide for players and patrons alike.

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Tuesday: Champion’s Dinner

The Masters Champions Dinner is a revered tradition that brings together past winners of golf’s most prestigious tournament—established in 1952 by Ben Hogan, who organized the first dinner for the exclusive group of Masters winners to come together, reminisce, and welcome the new champion, who sets the menu and picks up the tab.

2022 Champion's Dinner

The dinner is held on the Tuesday evening of Masters week, and the guest list is limited to past champions and the current chairman only. Each year, the defending Masters champion selects the menu, which often reflects their personal tastes or cultural heritage.

In 2022, Hideki Matsuyama, the first Japanese winner, served a menu featuring assorted Sushi, Sashimi and Nigiri, Yakitori chicken skewers, Miso-glazed black cod, Miyazaki Wagyu beef, and a Japanese strawberry shortcake for dessert.

This year, 2023 champion Jon Rahm had the honor of hosting the Champions’ Dinner and tapped world-famous Spanish chef José Andrés to help design an extensive menu with a strong Basque influence. The meal reflected his Spanish heritage and showcased the rich culinary traditions of the Basque region.

Wednesday: Par-3 Contest

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 idea for the 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.

There is a bit of superstition surrounding the event, 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.

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. This year, Rickie Fowler won the Par-3 Contest and made the cut on the number, so it looks like the jinx will live for at least one more year.

Thursday Morning: Honorary Starters

The tradition of having honorary starters kick off the Masters Tournament dates back to 1963, when Jock Hutchison and Fred McLeod were selected as the first honorary starters, hitting the ceremonial opening tee shots to begin the tournament officially.

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Over the decades, this tradition has become one of the most iconic and anticipated moments of Masters Week. The honorary starters are typically past Masters champions who have made significant contributions to the sport. Legends such as Gene Sarazen, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, and Byron Nelson have all served as honorary starters, delighting the crowds who gather early each Thursday morning to witness this time-honored ritual.

In recent years, the honorary starter group has evolved to the current lineup of Jack Nicklaus (6 Masters Titles), Gary Player (3 Masters Titles), and Tom Watson (2 Masters Titles). This passing of the torch from one golfing great to the next has become a cherished part of the Masters experience, allowing fans to connect with the tournament’s rich history and celebrate the game’s legends. Each starter has a family member “caddying” for them, dressed in the traditional white jumpsuit with the starter’s age as the number on the front.

Caddies Wear White Jumpsuits

The tradition of caddies wearing white jumpsuits at the Masters Tournament dates back to the event’s early years. When Augusta National Golf Club opened in 1933, the club employed local community members as caddies, providing them with official uniforms to create a cohesive and professional appearance. In the 1940s, the caddies began wearing a uniform of bluish denim overalls with a green hat and yellow button. However, it wasn’t until the early 1950s that the iconic white jumpsuits were introduced.

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Tournament co-founder Clifford Roberts is believed to have been the first to suggest the idea of uniformed caddies, likely inspired by the clean, crisp look of the white jumpsuits worn by painters or those working in sterile environments. The bright white color of the jumpsuits created a striking visual contrast against the lush, green fairways of Augusta National.

Over the years, the caddie uniforms have evolved, with the current version made of a lightweight polyester and cotton blend. While the jumpsuits can be uncomfortable on hot, humid days at the Masters, the caddies take pride in wearing the traditional attire, which has become an integral part of the tournament’s unique identity and enduring legacy. The families participating in the Par-3 Contest also get into the spirit and gear up in the white jumpsuit.

Sunday: The Green Jacket

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One of the most recognizable symbols of the Masters Tournament is the iconic green jacket awarded to the champion. This tradition dates back to 1949 when the club’s members began presenting the winner with a distinctive green sports coat as a symbol of his achievement.

The idea for the green jacket originated from the club’s co-founder, Clifford Roberts, who wanted to ensure the winner would be easily identifiable to patrons and media on the grounds of Augusta National. The green color matched the lush fairways and putting surfaces that have become synonymous with the Masters. Over the decades, the green jacket has become one of the most coveted prizes in all sports, with winning golfers proudly slipping into the jacket in the Butler Cabin ceremony following their triumph.

Beyond just being a trophy, each winner is presented with a custom-tailored jacket that becomes their personal possession, to be worn only at Augusta National during Masters week. The tradition of the champion returning the following year to ceremoniously “pass the jacket” to the new winner is a poignant moment that underscores the exclusive nature of this elite club. The green jacket has become an enduring symbol of the Masters’ prestige, tradition, and the ultimate achievement in golf.

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.

The Masters’ Tradition of Amateurs

The Masters Tournament has long celebrated amateur golfers’ participation, dating to its inception in 1934, when it was known as the Augusta National Invitational. This tradition was initiated by the club’s co-founder, the legendary Bobby Jones, one of the greatest amateur players in the game’s history. Even as the professional game gained prominence post-World War II, the Masters has continued to reserve spots in its elite field for top amateurs.

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Each year, the tournament extends invitations to the finalists from the previous year’s U.S. Amateur, as well as the champions of other prestigious amateur events like The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Mid-Amateur, the Asia-Pacific Amateur, and the Latin America Amateur. These amateurs compete alongside the world’s best professional players, carrying on the legacy established by Jones and the tournament’s founders.

Many of the game’s greats made their Masters debut as amateurs and several amateurs have made their mark, coming close to winning the coveted green jacket. In 1956, Ken Venturi held the 54-hole lead before fading on Sunday, ultimately finishing as low amateur. Venturi’s good friend Harvie Ward finished 4th at the Masters in 1957. Read more about this duo in our post recapping “The Match,” held at another great MacKenzie course, Cypress Point, in 1956.

One of the most cherished traditions associated with the Masters’ amateur participants is the Crow’s Nest, a cozy attic space atop the Augusta National clubhouse that serves as their accommodations during the tournament. This hidden room, measuring 30 feet by 40 feet, provides the amateurs with a private retreat where they can relax, prepare for their rounds, and soak in the unique atmosphere of the Masters. The space has modern amenities like air conditioning and Wi-Fi while maintaining a nostalgic, clubhouse-like ambiance with green carpeting and framed photographs of historic Masters moments.

The Crow’s Nest has hosted many of golf’s greatest amateur champions over the years, including the likes of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jack Nicklaus, and Tom Watson, all of whom have fond memories of their time spent in this exclusive space. For the amateurs competing in the Masters, staying in the Crow’s Nest is considered a privilege and a rite of passage, allowing them to be part of the tournament’s rich tradition and connect with the legends of the game who have walked the same hallowed grounds.

Augusta National Women’s Amateur

A new amateur tradition began in 2019 with the establishment of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur (ANWA). The ANWA is a 54-hole stroke-play tournament held annually, the week before the Masters. The event is held at Augusta National Golf Club and Champions Retreat Golf Club, featuring 72 top female amateur golfers worldwide competing for the coveted title. 

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The tournament begins with two rounds played at Champions Retreat Golf Club. The top 30 players and ties advance to the final round at Augusta National Golf Club. However, all participants get to play a practice round at Augusta National on the Friday before the final round. The ANWA has quickly become one of the most sought-after events in women’s amateur golf, providing a unique opportunity for the world’s best amateurs to compete at one of the most revered courses in the sport.

By hosting the ANWA, Augusta National celebrates the amateur game and sets a gold standard for young girls interested in the sport. The tournament has quickly become one of the most sought-after events in women’s amateur golf, further solidifying Augusta National’s commitment to supporting and promoting amateur golf at the highest level.

While there is no prize money, the tournament winner, provided she remains an amateur, receives invitations to the next five ANWAs, the U.S. Women’s Open, the Women’s British Open, the Chevron Championship, the Evian Championship, and any USGA, R&A, and PGA of America amateur events for one year. The winner also receives the ANWA trophy designed in collaboration with Tiffany & Co.

This year’s event featured players from 17 countries and six continents, showcasing the event’s global reach. This year’s came down to the wire with England’s Lottie Woad, a sophomore at Florida State, edging out American and USC Freshman Bailey Shoemaker by one shot. Woad birdied 15, 17, and 18 to take home the title.

Did You Know?

The Masters Tournament is renowned for its iconic concession offerings, from the classic pimento cheese and egg salad sandwiches to the Georgia peach ice cream, as well as remarkably affordable concession prices, which have remained largely unchanged for years. The most expensive items on the menu are white wine, domestic beer, imported beer, and Crow’s Nest craft beer, all of which cost $6 each. However, the iconic pimento cheese and egg salad sandwiches can be purchased for just $1.50, while other sandwich options range from $1.50 to $3.

Taste of the Masters

The snack menu, including chips, peanuts, and the popular Georgia peach ice cream sandwich, is priced at $2.50 or less. It’s estimated that one could buy one of everything on the concessions menu for less than $70, a staggeringly low amount compared to the exorbitant prices at many other sporting events. This commitment to maintaining affordable food and drink prices is a cherished tradition at the Masters, allowing patrons to fully immerse themselves in the tournament’s unique atmosphere without breaking the bank.

For those unable to attend the event in person, the Masters now offers an official “Taste of the Masters” hosting kit that allows fans to enjoy these beloved on-course snacks from their homes. The kit includes sizable portions of the tournament’s signature items, such as egg salad and pimento cheese sandwiches, chips, cookies, popcorn, and a selection of Master-branded serving accessories.

Designed to serve 12-14 guests, this at-home delivery option allows golf enthusiasts to recreate the Masters experience and immerse themselves in the tournament’s unique culinary traditions, even if they can’t be present at Augusta National. The availability of this official Masters hosting kit is a welcome development for fans who want to bring the spirit of the tournament into their own homes.

The Azalea Cocktail is the signature drink of the Masters Tournament, named after the iconic azalea flowers that bloom in abundance around the Augusta National Golf Club course. This light and refreshing cocktail combines vodka or gin, pineapple juice, lemon juice, and a splash of grenadine, giving it a distinctive pink “azalea” color. While the exact recipe is closely guarded, most recipes call for a 2:2:1 ratio of gin/vodka, pineapple juice, and lemon juice, adding simple syrup to balance the tartness. The Azalea Cocktail is a popular menu item served on the grounds during Masters week, though it is reportedly not mixed or requested much at the club during the rest of the year.

Further Reading – Books and 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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