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'We'll play it tomorrow': This writer played Augusta National so much that he … skipped Amen Corner?!

April 05, 2024
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When Augusta National Golf Club calls and makes you an offer, what do you request in return?

That is what longtime New Yorker and Golf Digest writer David Owen was faced with in the late-1990s when the club’s chairman, Jack Stephens, asked Owen to write a comprehensive history of the club, the Masters tournament and co-founder Clifford Roberts.

Much like any of us, Owen didn’t hesitate in voicing his stipulation. “I said, ‘That’s all fine, what I’m really interested in doing is playing the golf course,’ ” Owen recalled telling Stephens when the chairman asked him to write the book.

Editor’s note: Owen joined us for a special Masters edition of the Golf Digest Happy Hour on April 4, when he gave Golf Digest+ members his insider perspective on the history of the club. You can watch the complete recording here.

Stephens took Owen’s request well, telling him that he could play the course. Owen clarified: “I’d really like to play it a lot,” to which Stephens agreed that Owen could play the course as much as he wanted to during the two-and-a-half year stretch when he frequently visited and stayed on property to review the club’s archives. His resulting book, “The Making of the Masters,” is widely accepted as the definitive history of the club and tournament.

Owen often stayed at the club over the next several years, when he dug through old club and tournament files that had been stashed away in the clubhouse. Among the treasures he uncovered was a 1940s color photograph of Bobby Jones putting and an instructional film strip that Jones had created.

Still, Owen reiterated to Stephens that along with reviewing these files, he would need to play the course a lot to best inform his book. “I said, ‘In order to understand the golf course, you really have to be out there,’ ” Owen told Stephens. And Owen did play the course. A lot.

How much? Well, he played it so many times that he 1) lost count and 2) didn’t keep the scorecards (as any Augusta one-timer would). His prior estimates have been at least 50 rounds during that span. Perhaps the best anecdote to explain how much Owen played Augusta National comes from one late afternoon round.

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“There was one day that I was playing with three assistants from the golf shop, and one of the assistants was getting married,” he said. “There was going to be a little engagement party for him in the golf shop at 5:30 p.m., and at some point we realized that we weren’t going to have time to finish all 18 holes. So we went directly from the 10th green to the 15th tee.

“In other words, we skipped Amen Corner, and nobody thought anything of it. It was just like, We’ll play it tomorrow.”

When golf’s most famous stretch of holes isn’t a necessity, you know you’re a regular. Golfers lucky enough to play Augusta National just once vividly recall every shot (like our Steve Hennessey and Chris Powers have done here), but when you play “as much as you want,” well, I guess it’s different for those lucky few.

Considering Owen’s resulting book, “The Making the Masters,” is so thoroughly researched and well told, we consider his unlimited access a fair trade. Still, it’s up for debate whether he committed Augusta National’s greatest sin or its greatest flex. You decide.

Once again, Golf Digest+ members can check out the entire hour-long chat with David Owen on his experience at Augusta National and the history of the club and tournament. Not a member yet? Sign up here today.