Golf Digest Happy Hour

A second course and public driving range: Revisiting Augusta National’s bold original plans

April 02, 2024

Bobby Jones' and Clifford Roberts' early plans for Augusta National included an interactive golf Hall of Fame, with a miniature replica course open to visitors.

By nearly every measure, the Masters has the greatest spectator experience of any sporting event. Affordable concessions, a sprawling merchandise building and Green Jackets abound to help guide you around the property.

The Augusta National-mandated term “patrons” is not purely semantics—it reflects co-founder Clifford Roberts’ belief that the spectators are helping the club by attending the Masters, and the club must repay them.

Yet if the club’s original plans had become reality, the patron experience at the Masters today would be far more luxurious. A public driving range, interactive golf Hall of Fame and miniature pitch-and-putt replica course were all part of Roberts’ and Bobby Jones’ early plans. Early financial troubles resulting from the Great Depression and World War II prevented the club from delivering on these bold initiatives, but it remains fascinating to look back at what might have been.

That is what we will do on Thursday April 4 at 8:30 p.m. EST, when we hold a Golf Digest Happy Hour with David Owen, award-winning author of “The Making of the Masters,” which is the definitive history of Augusta National and the Masters. The live webinar is offered exclusively for Golf Digest+ members, who can join by following the link here.

In the late 1990s, Owen, a longtime New Yorker and Golf Digest writer, was tasked by Augusta National to deliver a comprehensive history of the club and tournament, and to achieve that, he received exclusive access to the club’s archives. While researching for the book, Owen stayed many nights at Augusta National, including in the Crow’s Nest—the rooms upstairs in the clubhouse reserved for amateurs competing in the Masters—and he played numerous rounds at the club.

Owen’s inside access to perhaps the most exclusive club in the world resulted in an honest and thorough account of the club’s history, from the bold initial plans to the early financial struggles to the emerging of the modern Masters that we know today.

But, what about those early plans?

Had all the initial ideas for Augusta National come to fruition, the club would hardly be recognizable today. Owen takes a deep dive on this vision in his Golf Digest story and accompanying interactive, “Welcome to Georgia National: An alternate history of the home of the Masters,” but we’ll summarize the most significant early plans:

  • A second 18-hole golf course, designed specifically for women
  • A third, nine-hole approach-and-putt course
  • A 90-yard 19th hole for the championship course, reserved so that “the loser could have the opportunity of getting his money back by playing double or quits,” wrote the course’s designer Alister MacKenzie.
  • An interactive golf Hall of Fame
  • A miniature Augusta National pitch-and-putt course with scaled-down replicas of holes on the big course. Visitors would be able to play this short course, with an initially proposed fee of 25 cents per round.
  • An “especially attractive” public driving range, according to Roberts.

Even with today’s Masters patron experience being so premium, it’s fascinating to think about what might have been, given these plans. During our hour-long Q&A on Thursday, Owen will detail all of these plans and more, providing rarely seen early photography of the property. We look forward to seeing you there.

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