As Jim Nantz tells us every year during the CBS telecast, the Masters is a “tradition unlike any other.”
Indeed it is. But what exactly makes up the tradition unlike any other? Well, a number of other traditions, for one. Here’s a look at 10 of those traditions at Augusta National that help make the Masters the glorious vernal rite that it is.
Language and terminology
“Patrons.” “Concessions.” “Fore, please! Now driving.” No mentions of the purse size. Don’t say “back-nine.” There are plenty of peculiarities of Masters-related jargon, most of which are filtered to us, the viewing public, by the broadcast crew.
Skipping balls on 16
A relatively recent tradition, and a bit of whimsy it’s surprising Augusta stands for: Players skip balls across the pond at the par-3 16th during practice rounds, hoping to find the green with their efforts.
Wednesday evening, the night before the tournament beings, many players are sharing a light-hearted round at Augusta National’s par-3 course. Accompanying them: friends, family, and past champions. Also tradition: Players don’t want to win the contest, as no one has ever won the Par-3 and then gone on to win the Masters. So you’ll often see a player go to great lengths to rack up his score if he’s in contention.
Last year, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler made back to back aces during the Par-3 contest:
The Crow’s Nest
Amateurs have a special place at Augusta National. This extends to the physical realm, as the amateur invitees to the competition can stay in a 30-by-40 cupola atop Augusta’s clubhouse. Spaces in the spartan, cramped Crow’s Nest are a badge of honor, with everyone from Ben Crenshaw to Tiger Woods having stayed there.
The transfer of power
After the completion of play, the previous year’s champion, clad in his green jacket, slips a green jacket over the shoulders of the new winner. Really, the entire green jacket ceremony, with the trip to Butler cabin and the awkward final shot of the telecast that zooms in on the champion uncomfortably holding a smile, is a Masters tradition.
Begun in 1952 when Ben Hogan wrote a letter to the club that saying he’d like the past winners (the so-called ‘Masters Club”) to get together for dinner before the tournament. Hogan stipulated that the champs should all wear their green jackets and the previous year’s champ should foot the bill. Now, the reigning champ picks the menu and the club picks up the tab, but the tradition has continued unchanged otherwise for more than 60 years.
Most people don’t know much about this tradition because, well, how would they? Players boasting about it? Augusta National awards players crystal objects for various accomplishments. Lowest daily score? Get a crystal vale. A hole-in-one? Crystal bowl. Eagle? Crystal goblets.
Egg salad sandwich: $1.50. Pimento cheese sandwich: $1.50. Those aren’t the prices at the Masters concession stands in the 1980s, those are the prices currently. Not only are the food selections iconic, they remain dirty cheap. Why? Well, Augusta National doesn’t exactly need the money, and it’s all part of the tradition.
Ceremonial tee shot
Struck by Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Gary Player in recent years, the ceremonial tee shot(s) amid the early morning April dew at Augusta National heralds the start of the Masters. Palmer, who passed away in September, won’t be there to strike a shot, but Player and Nicklaus carry on the tradition. And when they’re gone, another legendary Masters winner will step up.
It was first awarded to Masters champions in 1949, when Sam Snead donned the garment. The Masters green jacket, with its Pantone 342-colored fabric, is woven into the fabric of the tournament, as it were. ANGC members all have a jacket, as do all past champions. However, only the reigning champ is allowed to take his jacket off Augusta’s hallowed grounds.