In 2011, before his first Masters appearance at Augusta National Golf Club, Rickie Fowler arrived at a pre-tournament press conference wearing a backwards-facing baseball cap.
When club member Ron Townsend spotted it, he immediately instructed the player to return it and wear it properly.
Fowler, who said he wore the hat that way so people could see his face, thought Townsend was joking.
He was not.
Townsend repeated his request, and Fowler relented – lest his bending experiment end before it even began.
The player’s contact with Augusta authorities is typical of the staid Georgia club, which hosts this year’s Masters from Thursday, possibly with the inclusion of Tiger Woods.
“Augusta is unlike any other club in the world,” said an insider, who wishes to remain anonymous as he would like to return there. “There’s such a long list of things you can’t do… They just can’t stand nonsense.”
Among the rules: No autograph requests, no cell phones, no cameras. No beeps either if you visit from 1992.
Launched by Bobby Jones in 1934 – and, unlike the sport’s four other major tournaments, the only one ever played on the same course – the Masters may be the youngest of golf’s four major championships, but it has come to be known as the where standards and tradition are everything.
From the impeccably manicured Georgia course with no out of place flowers to the absence of any advertising on the course, this is a club and an event that stands on its own.
“It’s a wonderful place and a fantastic tournament, but they are completely obsessed with maintaining this so-called mystique,” said another source close to the club. “I get it, but it’s 2022 and they’re denying people access to their phones all day. It’s barbaric!
The standards apply to everyone, whether you’re a player or a member, a journalist or a spectator – or rather “patrons”, as Augusta insists on calling fans.
Normally, when the gates open for championship tournaments, spectators jostle for the best vantage points around the course. But since no racing is allowed at Augusta National, it’s more of a brisk walking race.
If the Georgia heat is taking its toll, don’t count on sitting on the lush grass – it’s not allowed.
You will need to bring your own chair, but it cannot have armrests. (They take up too much space.)
Want to watch a game with your young child? No problem, as long as they don’t need a stroller, which is forbidden.
There are no signs, no coolers, no backpacks tolerated.
You are, however, allowed to wear a fitness tracker, which can be useful for keeping track of your heart rate while you work out so you don’t break the rules.
One upside: Although the tickets, or “badges,” are some of the most sought after in the sport, the exclusive nature of the event isn’t reflected in the cost of on-course concessions. One of Augusta’s legendary pimento cheese sandwiches, for example, is just $1.50, while a beer will set you back $5 (although that’s up $1 from last year).
However, supply chain issues this year meant Georgia’s popular peach ice cream sandwich was unavailable.
Of course, cheap beer can increase the likelihood of heckling — and Fred Ridley, president of Augusta National, won’t tolerate such hooliganism.
“We believe that [the no-heckling rule is] important, not just here at the Masters, but in every tournament,” he said in 2018. “We take this part of our policies very seriously, and we will always take steps to ensure that all of our policies are enforced. , including that one.”
In recent years, the club has instructed its security guards to be on the lookout for any outbursts, even issuing them a list of phrases which, if heard, could result in a customer being sent off immediately. Whenever Augusta officials notice fans of a more casual competition shouting something stupid, they ban it before it can get there.
Lately, it’s ranged from the mundane (“You da man”) to the ridiculous (“Mashed Potatoes” and the Budweiser slogan “Dilly Dilly”) to heartbreaking (“RIP Harambe!”).
But there’s a reason everyone is so respectful: Augusta will kick you out if you don’t play by the rules.
In 1994, CBS analyst Gary McCord said on air that the 17th green was so fast he looked like he had been “waxed in a bikini”, before joking that golfers’ “body bags” hole victims were only behind the putting surface. He was banned by the organizers from participating in the Masters and was never invited back.
Meanwhile, in 2012, Alan Shipnuck, the esteemed golf writer and biographer of Phil Mickelson, wandered into Augusta’s butler’s cabin as new champion Bubba Watson received his green jacket. But the media – with the exception of the CBS broadcast team, as the network is an official partner – are not allowed in, and Shipnuck was hit with a one-year ban from the club.
Last year, as three-time winner Gary Player took part in the traditional honorary starters ceremony, his son and caddie, Wayne, took the opportunity to hold a branded pouch of OnCore golf balls for the cameras to see. of TV. He later told Golf Digest magazine that he didn’t get paid for the stunt and only did it because he thought “it would be cool for the fans to know what ball with my dad used to play. The Masters, however, took a dim view of him and permanently banned him from the club.
If you find the quirks and customs of the club to your liking, don’t bother applying for a membership. Membership is by invitation only – and if you ever mention publicly that you wish to join, you will not be invited.
“Yes, the rules seem too restrictive and draconian,” the insider said. “But, in a weird way, they’re actually part of the charm of the place – everyone knows where they’re at.”