Augusta National Golf Club, located in Augusta, Georgia, is one of the most famous golf clubs in the world. Founded by Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts on the site of the former Fruitland (later Fruitlands) Nursery, the course was designed by Jones and Alister MacKenzie and opened for play in January 1933. Since 1934, it has played host to the annual Masters Tournament, one of the four major championships in professional golf, and the only major played each year at the same course. It was the number one ranked course in Golf Digest’s 2009 list of America’s 100 greatest courses and is currently the number ten ranked course on Golfweek Magazine’s 2011 list of best classic courses in the United States, in terms of course architecture.
The golf club’s exclusive membership policies have drawn criticism, particularly because there were no African-American members admitted until 1990, as well as a former policy requiring all caddies to be black, which was omitted from the club’s bylaws in 1959. The club began granting membership to women in August 2012. Prior to the acceptance of female members, Augusta National defended its position by citing that in 2011, more than 15% of the non-tournament rounds were played by female players who were member guests or spouses of active members. In August 2012, it admitted its first two female members, Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore. The golf club has defended the membership policies, stressing that it is a private organization.
The golf course architecture website GolfClubAtlas.com has said, “Augusta National has gone through more changes since its inception than any of the world’s twenty or so greatest courses. To call it a MacKenzie course is false advertising as his features are essentially long gone and his routing is all that is left.” The authors of the site also add that MacKenzie and Jones were heavily influenced by the Old Course at St Andrews, and intended that the ground game be central to the course. However, almost from Augusta’s opening, Roberts sought to make changes to minimize the ground game, and effectively got free rein to do so because MacKenzie died shortly after the course’s opening and Jones went into inactivity due to World War II and then a crippling illness. The authors add, “With the ground game gone, the course was especially vulnerable to changes in technology, and this brought on a slew of changes from at least 15 different ‘architects’. Golf Course Histories has an aerial comparison of the architectural changes for Augusta National Golf Club for the year 1938 versus 2013.