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Augusta National was founded in 1932 by Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts. Bobby Jones probably was the most influential golfer of his time. Born in Atlanta, Georgia Jones was an amateur golfer who often took on - and beat - established professionals like Walter Hagen and Gene Sarazen. He is most famous for winning the "Grand Slam," a victory in a single calendar year in all four Major golf tournaments of his era (the open and amateur championships in both the U.S. & the U.K.). In total Jones played in 31 Major Championships, winning 13 and finishing among the top-10 a staggering 27 times.
Together with his - lesser-known - friend Roberts, who later served as Chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, Jones founded Augusta National. After retiring from the game in 1930 - at only 28 years of age - Bobby Jones was so famous that he basically just wanted to be able to play golf in peace and quiet. So what do you do? Your search for a piece of land and start your own private county club where you can play together with friends. Roberts became aware of a promising property and after visiting they purchased the piece of land for $70,000.
Jones chose Scottish Alister MacKenzie as the co-architect of the golf course they wanted to build. As both Jones and MacKenzie were great admirers of The Old Courses at St Andrews, they wanted Augusta National to have a certain resemblance to St Andrews, mainly in spirit and strategic options. As you might notice, both courses have a fairly safe way to the green if you play conservatively, but there is also a more risk-and-reward route.
The course opened for play in 1933 and one year later, the first Augusta National Invitational (soon changed to "The Masters") was played. To generate extra media attention, Jones even came out of retirement and played on an exhibition basis through 1948.
The land that Bobby Jones had bought was known as Fruitland Nurseries, an exotic fruit plantation that had not been touched for at least ten years. The challenge that lay before architect MacKenzie was to turn this 365-acre piece of land into a proper golf course.
The most distinct feature of the land was the rolling, undulated terrain. It's a feature you hear about every year when watching it on tv, you just can't tell the height difference until you see it for yourself. The difference in height between the highest (behind the first green) and the lowest part (Rae's Creek in front of the 12th green) of the course is 175 feet (53 meters/58 yards). To give you some perspective, that's about as high as Niagara Falls.
The tree-lined parkland course is also known for its impeccable maintenance. Not an inch of grass seems to be out of place at Augusta National. Given the fact that a small army of groundsmen works on the course, it might be something you'd expect, but its looks are impressive nonetheless. Did you know by the way that some of the pine needles are imported, bird sounds are played on inconspicuous speakers, and it's said that even the fairways were once dyed green?
What makes Augusta National such a good golf course? Well, one thing Alister MacKenzie did absolutely right, was thinking about the best routing of the holes. He did this in such a clever way that every single hole heads in a different direction. When you look at the par of the holes (front nine: 4,5,4,3,4,3,4,5,4 / back nine: 4,4,3,5,4,5,3,4,4), what do you notice? Exactly, it's only the 11th and 18th that have the same par as the hole before. How about that for diversity!
A tee time at Augusta National is probably the most sought-after in the world. For those of you who have only recently turned to golf, you don't just turn up at Augusta National asking for a 3:25 tee time. Augusta National is a private golf club. And by private, I mean very private. The club only has about 300 members at any given moment and memberships are only by invitation.
I can hear you think "Hey, I don't want to be a member, I just want to play there". Unfortunately, that's a no-go either. Although it's not impossible to play there, you need to be either very lucky or very well connected. The myth even goes that whoever actively asks to play Augusta will be placed on a blacklist and will never play there.
So how do you get to play Augusta National? Well, your best shot might be by becoming a golf journalist. When arriving at the Media Center as a journalist you can enter the Media Ballot. The Monday after The Masters the names that are drawn get to play the course (with Sunday pin positions!).
One of the people lucky enough to do so was Leadingcourses' Swedish ambassador - and golf journalist - Martin Hardenberger. Martin attended The Masters in 2016 and absolutely loved his experience. Was he nervous? "Ridiculously", as he wrote in his review of Augusta National.
Martin isn't the only Leading Courses member that has played and reviewed Augusta National. Seven other members have played the course and their verdict is unanimous: playing Augusta National is an amazing experience. Read all Augusta National reviews here.
The honest answer? I don't know. There are probably better golf course designs in the world and Augusta National rarely tops a Best Golf Courses in the World ranking, but when it comes to history, grandeur, maintenance, and sheer eagerness to play, there are but few that can top Augusta National. So if you ever get the chance to play, don't let it go by! Perhaps this is also a good moment to check if you have added Augusta National to your own bucket list on Leading Courses!
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