The Best Traditions from the South's Favorite Golf Tournament
Every April, golf fans descend on Augusta, Georgia, for the first of the year's four major championships: the Masters Tournament, held at Augusta National Golf Club—although you won't hear anyone at the Masters call the attendees "fans." Here, they're exclusively referred to as "patrons." This little quirk is only one of many customs the 88-year-old event holds dear. Here are some of the Masters Tournament's most beloved traditions.
Beyond the golf itself, Augusta National perhaps draws the most attention for its bursts of blooming color. The course is home to more than 30 varieties of the blossom, which flower from March through mid-April—just in time for the event. Hole number 13 alone, dubbed "Azalea," boasts about 1,600 of them. The tournament's unofficial drink is even called the Azalea Cocktail, a buzzy mix of pineapple and lemon juice, gin or vodka, and grenadine.
$1.50 Pimiento Cheese Sandwiches
Given the prestige of the Masters, you wouldn't necessarily expect the concessions stand to peddle inexpensive, green-plastic-wrapped handhelds. But maybe that's the magic in it. Anyone who's ever been to the tournament knows the pimiento cheese sandwich isn't to be missed—even if the recipe did change a few years ago.
The Green Jackets
Winners of the Masters are given the golf club's trademark emerald blazer—though technically it's only on loan. Champions are given the jacket on Sunday evening and are allowed to hold onto it until the next year's tournament, when they are required to return it to Augusta National. Some of the coveted green jackets have found their way into the hands of collectors, though that's not something you'll hear anyone from Augusta National encourage or advise.
Par 3 Contest
First held in 1960, this tradition is perhaps the tournament's most adored. Held the day before the actual competition begins, this nine-hole contest brings together participants and noncompeting past winners for a little friendly rivalry. Loved ones—from grandchildren to girlfriends—act as caddies, often donning the classic white jumpsuits the club requires for professional caddies.
One of Augusta National's most stringent rules is simple: No cell phones. That's not to say patrons can't call home to check in, though. Courtesy phone banks are available throughout the course… though they're only helpful for those who still actually have phone numbers memorized.
On Tuesday night of Masters week, past winners break bread together at Augusta National, and the reigning victor sets the menu. 2021 champion Hideki Matsuyama is serving sushi, sashimi, nigiri, and Yakitori chicken skewers for the appetizers; and miso-glazed black cod with dashi broth, A5 Wagyu beef ribeye with mixed mushrooms and vegetables, and Sansho daikon ponzu for the mains.
Every year, Augusta National mails a formal invitation to every player who has qualified for the Masters Tournament. (All past champions receive these invitations for life.) And because this is a civilized tournament, an R.S.V.P. is expected. These days, emails are accepted, though we have to imagine that brownie points given for handwritten replies.
Since 1963, in the same vein of past champions being invited to the Masters year after year, the tournament has chosen 'Honorary Starters' to hit the first shots of the week. The honor is bestowed on previous winners of the tournament, as well as other distinguished golfers.