CO-Horts Blog

Friday, April 3, 2015

The Glory of Augusta National Golf Club

Posted by: Alison O'Connor, Larimer County Extension
My dad, Bill, and me in front of the 12th green at Augusta National in 2001
I’m an avid golfer and I love the game of golf. I started playing when I was ten years old, because that’s what you did in my family. Everyone plays golf. My grandparents played well into their 70s and to me, investing in a lifetime sport is one of the appeals of this incredibly frustrating (yet rewarding) game.

The second week of April really kicks off the start of the golf season with the Masters at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia. Even if you’ve never picked up a club, I would hazard a guess that you’ve heard of this tournament. Cue the soft, gentle music, Jim Nantz’s narratives and views of Rae’s Creek with hours of coverage on CBS…

The Augusta National Golf Club is probably one of the most recognized courses in the world and could be America’s “St. Andrews.” What many view as an elite and extremely private golf course, it has humble roots. Prior to the course’s construction in the early 1930s, the land belonged to Fruitlands Nursery. Each hole on the course is named after a tree or shrub. Though a few holes have been renamed over the years, this link to horticulture is unique.

The course was the mastermind of Bobby Jones, one of the most famed golfers of all time, and Alister MacKenzie, an English golf course architect (he also designed Cypress Point in Pebble Beach,
CA and the Scarlet Course at The Ohio State University). The land of Fruitlands Nursery was purchased in 1931 and the course opened for play in January 1933; the first tournament was held in 1934 and was (then) named the Augusta National Invitation Tournament.
Bobby Jones
The history and landmarks of the course are extensive. I’ve mentioned Rae’s Creek, which eats balls like a hungry hippo, and meanders along the back of the 11th green, in front of the 12th green and is the course’s lowest point in elevation. The creek was named after former land owner John Rae. Two bridges cross Rae’s Creek, named after Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson.

Rae's Creek and the Hogan (front) and Nelson (back) Bridges with the 12th green
Last winter, the Eisenhower Tree, a loblolly pine, made headlines when it was removed from the 17th hole after suffering extensive damage from an ice storm. It was named after Dwight Eisenhower who lobbied to have it removed in 1956 after hitting it so many times. Ike finally got his wish in February 2014.

“Amen Corner” was coined in 1958 by Sports Illustrated writer Herbert Warren Wind. The corner is a combination of shots at the 11th, 12th and 13th holes. It was nicknamed Amen Corner because it often contains some of the most exciting shots during the tournament and where it can make or break a player’s score (remember Rae’s Creek is in play!).

My former college roommate had the opportunity to do a six-month internship at Augusta during our days at Iowa State. She also had an open invitation to volunteer at the tournament in the years following her internship. She worked seven tournaments and has intimate knowledge into the preparation that goes into the Masters. When I was on my way to Georgia for my own summer internship, my dad and I had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit Augusta, step foot on the “slick as concrete” greens and walk over Hogan’s bridge. It was thrilling and a total “Bucket List” item for a golf nut like myself.

A few things she learned during her time at Augusta:

  • The flowers that make up the Masters “map” are yellow pansies in the fall and yellow marigolds in the summer. In case of a catastrophic event, enough plants are grown in an on-site greenhouse to replace the flowers if necessary.
    The "map" of yellow pansies in front of the clubhouse
    (photo from
  • Augusta may be most recognized for the pink-blooming azaleas during the tournament, but there are actually hundreds of flowering shrubs that encircle the golf holes, such as: flowering quince, native and cultivated azaleas, banksia rose, forsythia, dogwood and redbuds. While some bloom earlier than others, the combinations and diversity provides a near-constant palette of color.
  • Rae’s Creek is sometimes dyed black to reflect the landscape better (and provide a better television-viewing experience).
  • Augusta closes in mid-May and opens again in mid-October. During the summer, the course undergoes extensive renovations and reseeding efforts. Staff and volunteers may play one round of golf before it closes for summer.
  • Hundreds of volunteers help make the tournament a success and come from all across the world.
  • Each green has a SubAir rootzone ventilation system, which cools and provides oxygen to the roots of the bentgrass. Bentgrass is a cool season species, which typically doesn’t perform well in the Deep South (it’s very humid and hot!). Even with this sophisticated system, the greens may still need to be hand-watered several times a day.
  • The budget for the golf course operations has never been made public.
  • The course is overseeded with perennial ryegrass each fall; the ryegrass dies out during the hot summer months and the bermudagrass thrives.
  • The scoreboards are not digital and are manually changed by people working the tournament.
  • No motorized golf carts are allowed on the course—caddies, who wear white jumpsuits, are required. 
  •  The course, compared to the average U.S. golf course is very large, with a total footprint of 365 acres (U.S. average is 150 acres); 100 acres of the course are fairway (compared to an average of 30 acres of fairway for a typical course). The rough encompasses 30 acres (the average is 50 acres). That said, if you’re not accurate at Augusta, you’re in the trees and will be hitting off pine mulch.
  • Augusta also has a par 3 course on the grounds that is maintained to the same standards at the 18-hole course.
The course invited its first women members in 2012 (not a moment too soon!) and a few notable members include Condoleeza Rice, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates. The golfer who wins the Masters each year does not become a member, but does receive the famous green jacket. The winner of the Masters is the only person who can remove a jacket from the grounds and wear it outside of the golf club—but just for one year.
The famous Green Jacket
I know that many find watching golf on television about as thrilling as watching paint dry, but the Masters never disappoints. If nothing else, catching a nap while listening to the whispering of David Feherty of what club Rory McIlroy selects for his approach to the green, is the sign of a restful weekend. Now the big question is: Will Tiger be a contender? Personally, I’m rooting for Bubba.

Golf nails! I'm ready for the Masters.


  1. This possibly may be one of the top columns you've ever posted....I'm voting for the nails....impressing & fun list of trivia about the National!
    Phyllis J.

  2. I'm an avid golfer as well, love your post.

  3. You are slowly, but surely, making me more and more intrigued by this sport. Great read!