Sunday 21 January 2018

The Masters: Your guide to everything other than the golf at Augusta

By Max McLean

The food, the rules, the traditions and more.

Golf’s first major of the year is upon us, and with the Masters comes some of the most photogenic and enthralling golf you’ll see all year.

But enough about the golf – here’s everything else you need to know about the competition, other than the action on the fairway.

The course of history

As hard as it might be to believe that the Masters course didn’t just spring from the ground in a state of readiness, the lush greens of Augusta National Golf Club were actually once an indigo plantation.

In 1857 a Belgian baron and his son bought the land and turned it into Fruitland Nurseries, bringing over imported plants and flowers. Retired golfer Bobby Jones then bought the land for $70,000 in 1931 with plans to build a golf course.

In a later book, entitled Golf Is My Game, Jones wrote: “It seemed that this land had been lying here for years just waiting for someone to lay a golf course upon it.”

And so he did.

Fancy flora

If you’ve watched the Masters before, you’re probably aware of its horticultural magnificence – if you haven’t, then the fact it used to be a nursery might have suggested some kind of floral fantasy anyway.

Yes, as famous as the golf are the azaleas and much more besides – across 365 acres Augusta National Golf Club hosts over 80,000 plants of 350 varieties, including dogwoods, rhododendrons and pines. So prevalent is the flora that each hole is named after something that inhabits the space, from Magnolia (hole five) to Yellow Jasmine (hole eight).

And perhaps the most famous single plant of them all is (or was) the Eisenhower Tree – a 65ft loblolly pine named after President Dwight D Eisenhower, who found it a nuisance on the course and wanted it removed. Due to an ice storm in 2014, it was.

Prohibited items

Many things are prohibited from the Masters for obvious reasons – here’s a small selection.

Cameras, mobile phones and tablets are banned, which in an age of spectators just recording everything they see, is a nice touch.

Furthermore, folding armchairs and “rigid type chairs” are not allowed – where do we stand on bean bags?

And if you were thinking of bringing a ladder OR a periscope to the tournament, don’t bother.

Food glorious food

Now we’re talking – the food at the Masters is famously well-priced – we’ll take all of your egg salad sandwiches please.

Perhaps the most famous of them all however is the pimento cheese sandwich, fixed at $1.50, which was made for 45 years by the late Nick Rangos, from the 1960s to the 2000s.

Despite the simple nature of the snack, Rangos used a secret ingredient which he kept very private. It wasn’t pimentos or cheese by any chance, was it?

The Champions dinner

Tradition is king at the Masters, and one of the more heartwarming traditions remains the Champions dinner, the menu of which is set by the previous winner of the tournament.

Danny Willett’s 2017 menu was decidedly Yorkshire themed, with Yorkshire puddings and apple crumble on the menu – others have put their own spin on the dinner in previous years.

Tiger Woods went for cheeseburgers, chicken sandwiches, fries and milkshake, while Bubba Watson’s rather busy menu included caesar salad, grilled chicken breast with green beans, potato mash, corn, macaroni cheese, confetti cake and vanilla ice cream.

Nick Faldo chose tomato soup followed by fish and chips…

Money, money, money

Of course, it’s not just pride that comes with winning one of the world’s most famous golf tournaments – the cheque is of a novelty size, too.

Of the $10 million purse, Danny Willett took home $1.8 million in 2016, with second place awarded $880,000. Rory McIlroy, in 10th, received a tidy $230,000.

That’s going to buy you a sizeable number of tees.

The greenest of jackets

And finally, the main event – the sole metonym for the Masters is not the azaleas, but the green jacket. Mention green garment, and people will know exactly what you’re talking about.

The green jacket was originally introduced as an item for the Augusta National Golf Club’s members, and in 1949 it was decided that future winners of the tournament would be made honorary members.

Who will wear it home this year?

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