How to become a member of the world's most exclusive golf club
Published 07/04/2016 | 02:30
The US Masters - which opens at the Augusta National Country Club in Georgia today - is the world's premier golf major in the sporting calendar.
Not only is Augusta one of the most beautiful courses in the world, it is also the most iconic. From Amen Corner thorough to the Eisenhower Pine, every inch of the 18-hole course is special, steeped in history.
As such, Augusta is also one of the most exclusive, elitist clubs in the entire world, with only 300 members.
Until 2002, your sex could have ruled you out: ex-White House politician Condoleezza Rice became the first female member in 2012, but there are still only three female members in the whole club.
So if race and sex are irrelevant, what does it take to become one of the select few to be able to walk freely on golf's most hallowed turf?
You need to be successful
Only the crème-de-la-crème of the corporate and public world have the honour of Augusta membership bestowed upon them.
The lavish service, impeccable facilities and prestigious history of the club make it one of the sought-after social validations a man (or woman) can receive.
Bill Gates is one of just 300 members there.
You don't have to be rich - but it helps
If you engineer an invitation, then paying to maintain your stay is fairly reasonable.
Compared to other exclusive country clubs in America, the annual fees for a fully fledged Augusta member are not as eye-watering as you might think.
In 2009, Golf World magazine published an article called "Inside Augusta National Club" which revealed that initiation fees were between $25,000 and $50,000 - slightly steeper than your average pitch and putt, but then Augusta is not your average golf course.
Age is just a number
There isn't a minimum age for prospective members, but if the current crop are anything to go by - it helps to be old.
A 2002 report from USA Today found that the average age of the members surveyed was 70.
Much like the MCC in England, there is healthy waiting list to gain entry to the Augusta National, with over 100 golfers ready to be invited into the inner sanctum at any one time.
Golfing ability is irrelevant
Contrary to popular belief, winning the Masters does not automatically bring membership at the Augusta National.
The hallowed green jacket bestowed on champions has become arguably the most instantly recognisable prize in international sport.
However, sporting the iconic green jacket does not mean you're going to be a member of the club.
The number of members at Augusta never rises above 300.
So when golfers are adorned with the green jacket to mark their Augusta triumph, the ceremony is purely ceremonial - no Masters champion has become an Augusta member by winning the major championship.
According to the testimony of an Augusta insider, the average handicap amongst members is 14, giving hope to all us horrible hackers.
It helps to have a ludicrous name
If you're a run-of-the-mill 'Tom Smith' or 'David Jones', you can effectively forget about becoming a bona fide member of the illustrious club.
Augusta members tend to have superb names
The 118-long list of known Augusta members contains some of the most flamboyantly named men and women.
From Brady 'Tripp' Rackley III, Stanley Druckenmiller and Bradford Boss; to Michael Bonnallack and Pat Battle, a phenomenal name seems a pre requisite for Augusta National membership.
Unfortunately, if you're after an invite, the chances are you will never receive one.
The Augusta officials never consider written or oral applications to join.
When a membership spot opens, the club decides who to invite and mails the invitation to the fortunate recipient.
The key is to be well connected.