The arc of history is long, but it bends toward expanded media coverage.
That has been the case with the Masters, anyway.
Once restricted to a scant four holes, telecasts of the event now go gavel to gavel, showing everything from pre-round practice sessions to the winner’s ceremony in Butler Cabin.
Throw in live streaming, shot-tracing technology, round-the-clock social media and more, and you get the sense that a gilded veil has lifted.
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“Whatever happens,” GOLF.com’s Alan Bastable opined on this site two years ago, “the Masters’ curtain is drawn, its long-guarded secrets revealed.” Except, only kinda, sorta.
The Masters, as packaged for public consumption, is not at all the same as Augusta National, the course and the club, both of which remain intensely private, so much so that every fresh shred of information that comes forth, no matter how measly, only feeds our appetite for more.
In that spirit, GOLF.com asked a group of golf industry veterans who are well acquainted with the home of the Masters to share anecdotes and fun facts about the place that don’t show up routinely in headlines or Twitter feeds.
The result is our list of 10 things only Augusta National members are apt to know.
1. And the record for most consecutive birdies goes to …?
In the tournament itself, Tiger Woods and Steve Pate share the mark, at seven. Both birdied holes 7 through 13. But a cap-tip also goes to the late Dr. Val Hastings, an Augusta National member, who matched that record in casual play by reeling off consecutive birdies on holes 10 through 16. He bogeyed 18 to shoot a back-side 30.
2. It draws a bridge-and-tunnel crowd
You’re probably familiar with the foot bridges. But those are above ground. Were you also aware that underneath Augusta National runs a network of tunnels? It allows for delivery trucks — and very discreet guests — to come and go unseen.
3. Some water hazards are more hazardous than others
Rae’s Creek is nowhere you want to go. Not as a golfer, and not as a swimmer, especially in its waters around Amen Corner. There, in the gentle, shaded currents beneath the Nelson Bridge, which connects the 13th tee to the 13th fairway, lives a snapping turtle the size of a manhole cover. It does not, so far as we know, have a name.
4. There are cameras in the trees
Not TV cameras. Well-camouflaged security cameras, both conventional and infrared, the better to keep watch day or night. Not only that, the Augusta National chairman can access the real-time footage from anywhere on his cellphone. The ability to call in drone strikes remains some years away.
5. You need more than a corkscrew to open the wines
The wine cellar at Augusta National is said to be the most extensive in golf. It’s also among the best protected, with a James Bond-style infrared thumbprint lock that only the sommelier and a select few others can open. Inside that cellar, among the prized Burgundies and cult California Cabs is a crate containing wines that belonged to the club’s founding chairman, Clifford Roberts. Those bottles are off limits. To everyone.
6. Kitchen Confidential
According to our most recent count, there is a total of 27 kitchens on the grounds. One of those kitchens is in a recently constructed building, which sits mostly out of view to the left of the 4th hole. It is, reportedly, a members-only restaurant. Country ham and peach cobbler, anyone?
7. There’s a private viewing room
Above the pro shop is a mini-apartment/crash pad where members often hang out during the tournament, enjoying views of the opening hole and the 9th green.
8. The Eisenhower … desk
His namesake tree on 17 is gone. But President Eisenhower’s desk remains. It’s upstairs in the library, with the same dial phone that Ike used sitting on top.
9. Bill Gates once had to stay in a budget hotel
There are more than 100 beds at Augusta National, but they fill up quickly when the club hosts big to-dos, and priority goes to members with the most seniority. Some years ago, during the member-member tournament known as The Jamboree, newly-inducted member Bill Gates was too low on the list to land on-site lodging. He was seen that week checking into the local Red Roof Inn.
10. No one is above the rules
Club rules prohibit Augusta National members from wearing their green jackets off property. No exceptions. This fact was apparently forgotten (or taken lightly) some years ago by a longtime member, who was seen sporting his jacket out on the town. Did he get a warning letter? A firm verbal rebuke? We can’t say for sure. But, according to our sources, he did receive a crisp slap on the wrist. At the next Masters, when volunteer duties were handed out, the member was assigned to trash collection.