Tuesday, February 01, 2011

A Dozen Ways to Play Augusta National Golf Club

My first reader poll on this site was "What is the hardest course in the United States to gain access to?" The overwhelming majority felt it was Augusta, with 63% agreeing it was the hardest. I find it instructive to see how people who have played the course got on it, as there may be clues in there for the rest of us mortals. Here is a sampling of answers from those the lucky few who managed to get on and some other less obvious ways to potentially play the course.

Mindful of the old adage about a management consultant being a man who knows 101 ways to make love but doesn’t know any women, I'm still waiting for "the call", but for what it's worth, the best ways to get on.

1. Begging and Hounding

Tom Clasby, who has played EVERY course that has ever been ranked in the top 100 courses in the world stated, "The hardest is Augusta National by far! I got on because I was lucky enough to work the Masters as a fore caddie, which is almost equally impossible to playing the course itself. Some of the nicest, most understanding people helped, but it too five long years of begging and hounding everyone I ever met to get to these people".

Odds of getting on this way: 5,000-1
2. "I played with the dishwasher"

Bernie Hiller of New York, who has also played the world's top 100, found his most difficult conquest was Augusta National as well, "I'd finally almost finished the U.S. list, getting up to No. 99, but I could never get into Augusta," Hiller recalled. "I calculated that I talked to at least 5,000 people trying to get onto Augusta. "Finally," Hiller went on, "I got to play Augusta. I played with the dishwasher. It took me 20 years, seven months and 27 days from the time I first started trying to get on it."

Unfortunately, this technique can't be copied anymore as Augusta National doesn't permit employees to substitute another person for their once-a-year round.

Odds of getting on this way: 1,000,000-1.

3. "Augusta was the first course I ever played"

One of the guys in my regular foursome invited a guest to play and we started talking about all the courses we had played in different parts of the world and I asked him if he ever played Augusta. "Augusta was the first course I ever played," was his nonchalant answer. His wife works for USA Network, which at the time covered the Masters on Thursday and Friday. The course lets the broadcasters play the Monday after the Masters. He was at a dinner on the Sunday night after the Masters had concluded and one of the golfers scheduled to play had to cancel. Although he had never swung a club before, the group convinced him it was the opportunity of a lifetime and he played. He laid some serious turf and shot over 150 but had an encouraging caddie and will forever be hated by every serious golfer who lusts to play Augusta and can't. The lesson in this is either marry well or aspire to become a senior executive of CBS and you're in good shape.

Odds of getting on this way: 2,000,000-1.

4. Win the Bobby Jones Scholarship

This gem was submitted by one of my faithful blog readers, "I have played Augusta National. My secret? Attend St. Andrews University and win the Bobby Jones Scholarship to Emory University which involves going to the Masters as a gallery guard in April, and then going back to play the course in June, with full open clubhouse and unlimited use of the Par 3 course." Oh, to be young again and an athlete!

Odds of getting on this way: 10,000-1.
5. Coincidence

Marc Brown completed playing the top 100 in the world for the first time in 1997. He has subsequently played all the courses on the bi-annually updated list between 1999 and 2009. His story, "Regarding Augusta, I got on the same way many average people do: purely by coincidence. About fifteen years ago, a 70-year-old acquaintance told me that one of his friends was going to spend several days at Augusta, and he asked me if I would be available if a spot opened up. Several days later, an Augusta member called me and said that one of his guests had to leave town a day early and offered to let me take his spot. I scrambled to use Delta frequent flyer miles since the round trip on three days' notice would have been over $2,000. I stayed overnight in a room above the golf shop, had dinner at Augusta, played one round and the par three course the next day, had lunch, and then left the premises, never to return except to watch a Masters practice round."

Except for that one chance encounter with a 75-year-old Augusta member (now deceased), I have not before or since had even the most remote opportunity to play Augusta National although I did play the Augusta CC once (it is very good). My impression is that Augusta members are gun shy about being asked to take guests that they do not know, and that they are more willing to take one stranger to fill a foursome than to take three strangers."

Odds of getting on this way: 5,000-1.
6. Volunteer at The Masters

Those who volunteer to work at the Masters get to play the course before it closes each May. Alas, I tried this route to no avail. To quote directly from my letter from Augusta National, "...we cannot offer you any encouragement because the same volunteers return year after year - most serving for many years. Therefore, we maintain no waiting list." Period, end of sentence.

Odds of getting on this way: 2,500-1.
7. Play in the US or British Amateur

Finish first or second in either the US Amateur or British Amateur and you not only get to play Augusta, you get to play in The Masters and its practice rounds and stay in the Crow's Nest. D.J. Trahan described his 2001 stay at the Crow's Nest as "indescribable." I'm sure it is.

Odds of getting on this way: 3,000,000-1.



The Crow's Nest at Augusta National

8. A Little Luck

Selwyn Herson completed the top 100 in 2004. Herson's tour of the track Bobby Jones made famous fell from the sky. While doing some advisory work for a large communications company in New York, Herson was summoned to the office of one of the top executives. He thought he was in trouble, but the guy asked Herson to do him a favor—take his place in a group that was scheduled to play Augusta. Actually, it's more than a little luck, sounds like a lot of luck.

Odds of getting on this way: 2,500-1.
9. Join Augusta Country Club

Augusta Country Club is the Donald Ross-designed course adjacent to Augusta National that is visible above the twelfth hole and thirteenth tee on Amen Corner. Since Augusta permits only foursomes to play, if for some ghastly reason there aren't four golfers, Augusta National has been known to call over to Augusta Country Club and see if there's somebody hanging around that might want to drive over and join in at the Mother Ship. Standing by.

Odds of getting on this way: 1,000-1.
10. Be Invited By A Member

Being invited by a member is tough to do since its 300 members are a who's who of America's current and former CEOs. In 2004 USA Today published a list of Augusta members. More than 80% were current or retired CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. The average age of a member was 72, more than a few are in their 80s.

Odds of getting on this way: 5,000-1.
11. Cover the Masters for the media

There are 28 members of the media allowed to play Augusta after the Masters concludes. Leonard Shapiro who writes about golf for the Washington Post wrote the following about playing Augusta, "There is a media lottery every year, and it took me eight years to win a round the Monday after the Masters. By the way, for the ethicists out there, I paid the caddie $125 and spent another $200 in the pro shop, so there really is no such thing as a free round of golf for the sportswriters at Augusta National. By the way, had three pars on the card, four Xs, and had to walk off after 14 holes to make a deadline, and then a plane."

What kind of deadline could have been more important than finishing Augusta? Difficult to take in. So you miss the deadline, get fired and go to work for another paper. What did I miss?

Also, in the not fair category, Damon Hack from Golf.com won the lottery twice, in 2002 and 2009. Let's feel sorry for him since he's not eligible to win the lottery again until 2016. NOT!

Odds of getting on this way: 1,000-1.
12. Caddy

Like at almost every course in the world, caddies at Augusta National are permitted to play the course (once a year).

Odds of getting on this way: 5,000-1.
13. (okay, it's a baker's dozen) Play with a past champion
Even winning the Masters doesn't grant you automatic or regular access. Past champions are allowed one guest a year on the Sunday before the Masters begins. I told you it was hard.

Odds of getting on this way: very long
More?If you have a story about how you got on Augusta please share it with us.

34 comments:

Anonymous said...

What about my earlier suggestion?
Contact Warren Buffett and let him know that you will give away 99% of your wealth if he gets you on at Augusta.
Hell, if Warren can do it why can't you?

Anonymous said...

Although the winner and runner-up of the US Am both get invites to the Masters, for the British Am only the winner gets an invite. No invite to the runner-up of the British Am. However, two other amateur championship winners also get invites to the Masters - The US Publinks and the US Mid-Am.

BillS

Anonymous said...

You can buy Tiger Woods 2011 in March and play all you want.

Anonymous said...

I once encountered a gentleman in Australia who befriended a visitor from Atlanta.The American was having a problem this fellow helped to sort out. They ended up playing golf together several times at the resort in North Queensland at which they both were staying and became buddies. At the end of the week the American announced he was a member of Augusta & suggested his new friend was welcome to come any time and play as his guest. The Australian, being a gentleman, thought he should wait a decent interval before flying over. He phoned six months later to make the arrangements, only to be told the member had died !

Anonymous said...

Making an obnoxious blog post...

odds of getting on this way: Not going to happen

Anonymous said...

Qualify for the Masters?
I agree with above post.
Having a photo of yourself in a major golf magazine and then writing that you are desperate to play Augusta on a blog is not going to get you a game

Top 100 Golfer said...

To quote Donald Sutherland's character in Kelly's Heroes, "Don't hit me with no negative vibes, baby". The last two comments clearly don't understanding the power of positive thinking and my relentless sense of optimism that has led me to get onto courses I never would have dreamed possible. Augusta or bust!

Anonymous said...

I think it is pretty well scientifically proven that if you keep saying to yourself "it will happen" over and over and over again then it definitely will occur

Anonymous said...

Add one more – starting recently past champions are allowed one guest a year on the Sunday before the Masters begins
It is another way to play the course.

Anonymous said...

Gary Player is your best bet. All around nice guy and known to have done lots of similar favours

Baupoo said...

Hey top 100 golfer, I love your site and have been reading it for about a year now. When you take your trip to New Zealand to play Kauri Cliffs and Paraparmu, be sure to play Cape Kidnappers as well. It is in the top 25 in the world now i think. I just recently played it and it was amazing!!

Anonymous said...

I've seen charity auctions that have included a round at Augusta. I'm sure it won't be cheap (the 2 I saw both ended up being over 50k for a 3some), but depending on the time and place and your fellow bidders at the auction, anything can happen.

Anonymous said...

Anyone know what has happened to this guy?
Usually posts 1st of each month.
Maybe caught up in Christchurch earthquake?

Top 100 Golfer said...

You should be so lucky! Will be back next month for the remainder of the year with Kiwi courses and some updated US posts. Cheers.

Anonymous said...

i used to know a guy that managed the padres. when they went to atlanta he played augusta. i guess athletes and managers get on as well. i believed it.

Anonymous said...

make the golf team at harvard. they play agusta every year

Anonymous said...

As does Georgia Tech...although that is a tougher team to make.

NostraJB said...

i disagree, i imagine its more difficult to get into harvard and be able to play division 1 golf than you just be really good at golf.

Anonymous said...

Play for Augusta State

Marcus said...

My experience at Augusta was similar to your friend who shot 150. Though a serious golfer today, I rebelled against the game in my late teens as part of that general dissatisfaction with reality we males face around that age. I came to associate golf with my father (who taught me to play at an early age), our suburban home in Coral Gables, FL (which had the Biltmore Hotel course as its backyard) and with preppy country club banality. How could an 18 year old philosopher-king in the making play golf!

But exogenous forces were at play. An old family friend of means, himself a member of Peachtree and Atlanta Athletic, invited us to play Augusta. He was to become a member the following year, had played there numerous times, was in business with Jack Nicklaus, was a scratch golfer and for some reason I ignore had been offered this privilege. I played the damn course (shot 85 from middle tees) but never appreciated it. Indeed, I scoffed at the whole thing, even commenting that was easier than I expected (which is true, actually). I was one spoiled ingrate!

Today, I have no access to Augusta. I am no longer a quasi-interesting teenage rebel but a 30-something divorced monster. The gentleman who invited us is dead; his sons hate me and I may never play Augusta again. Talk about youth wasted on the young...

randy w (pga) said...

There is a website called Millionaires Concierge. The guy who runs it is a classic car dealer and supposedly can get someone on any course in the world (for a price of course). He's been on a few talk shows in the past (inc Oprah) and I still get emails for things like parties at the Playboy Mansion etc.

Anonymous said...

There is also gallery guarding or generally volunteering to work at the tournament. You get a round at Augusta that way too in May. The places for this are set in stone, though, and you need to know someone who is already a guard and try and get on that way - I have twice tried writing to the member responsible for organising it, but never received a response.

Anonymous said...

I know a guy who gets to play every year because he works there. He helped build the new driving range. lucky SOB!!

Anonymous said...

Some of the Dozen Ways you have listed are no longer options to get on "The National". I am a life-long resident of Augusta, GA and have had the fortune of playing there 3 times. I played twice with a local member who was friends with my father and I was included in the group. The other way that I played was while I was working as an assistant golf pro at a nearby semi-private club that gets a 4-some tee-time extended to them every year to play the same time that the Masters volunteers play. The course I worked at got this 4-some b/c they let the Augusta National caddies train before they open in October at their course. The caddie master will bring out new caddies to get them ready for the season early in the morning before the course opened. I am no longer in the golf pro business but still live in Augusta and am a member at Augusta CC. Good luck with your quest. It is not easy by any means but if you keep at it it should work out one day.

Anonymous said...

as an employee i must say that all of this is b.s. there are NO shortcuts into getting on that course. the harvard/ga tech thing is actually funny, neither team plays the course.

Anonymous said...

I played December of this year. My Dad was able to network with one of the members and after doing a favor for the member was invited to play. I would have played if it would have been snowing but God blessed us with 75 degree weather. When we got to Amen corner I walked over to my Dad and with tears in my eyes told him that I loved him. I birdied 8 and 13 and shot 82. It kind of didn't matter though I was just glad to be able to play Augusta with my Dad.

Neil J said...

http://www.golf.com/photos/toughest-tee-times-golf-courses-united-states/augusta-national?xid=trips120512_story1

Looks like there is a 14th way to get on...

Anonymous said...

I turned down the chance to play. It would have cost thousands and, to me at least, wasn't worth it. Now, if it were Cypress, I'm in.

Anonymous said...

Employees for the local newspaper are permitted to the National on "Augusta Chronicle Day" provided that they shoot 105 or better in a yearly employee tournament held in Aiken, S.C. If too many people qualify, they draw names, I believe. But I think all newspaper employees are eligible, be they newsroom staff, advertising, press room, what have you. The Chronicle's owner and publisher, Billy Morris, has been an Augusta National member since the '60s. He's was on the green coats in charge of media for the tournament, and his paper has the best seat in the house in the Masters media building.

Anonymous said...

jump the fence you might get in a couple of holes before being beaten and arrested.

Anonymous said...

I had a chance to play this year. I received an email invitation at 6:00 a.m. on a Saturday and by complete chance I happened to read it at 7:00. I had my flight reservations by 8:00 (I live in DC and a same day flight was $1200 but I was able to find a FF ticket). I was on the driving range by 4:00. I played 36 holes on Sunday and 27 holes on Monday. I stayed in Butler Cabin (even had a cheesy picture of me being "awarded" my Masters jacket in the basement of Butler). Had dinner in the clubhouse and drinks on the balcony. Sunny and 72. I paid for it ($2100 for everything and well worth every penny). With all of the proper caveats regarding my wedding and the birth of my children, it was the best experience of my life. Truly unbelievable!

Top 100 Golfer said...

Thanks for the comment. A great story. Worth every penny no doubt. The day after I played Augusta we were out watching the practice round. The Masters champ I played with came up to say hello as we were standing on a tee box. His caddy says to my wife who was with me that I said it was the greatest day of my life and forgot to mention the caveats, which didn't go over well.

Anonymous said...

You can also be a merchandise vendor for Augusta National. They are allowed to play one day a year as well.

Anonymous said...

In the mid-late '80s I worked at a private club in the Midwest. The club owned 60 or so Club Car carts. Club Car is headquartered a couple of miles from Augusta National. As a decent size client, the caddy master of the club was invited to play in a corporate outing CC had at AGNC.