Five surprising things you should know about the Masters

Jon Rahm, of Spain, walks with his wife, Kelley Cahill, and son, Kepa, during the par-3 contest at the Masters
Jon Rahm, of Spain, walks with his wife, Kelley Cahill, and son, Kepa, during the par-3 contest at Augusta National Golf Club Wednesday. (George Walker IV / Associated Press)

This week marks the 88th Masters at Augusta National Golf Club.

It’s a tournament steeped in tradition and mystique. The following five unique Masters elements might surprise you.

1. Masters newbies start at the top

If you’re an amateur who’s skilled enough to play your way into this storied tournament, you have the opportunity to stay in the Crow’s Nest, the neatly appointed attic of the clubhouse. It’s a 30-by-40-foot room that provides living space for up to five amateurs playing in the Masters. It features an 11-foot square cupola with windows on each side, and the tip of that is reachable only by ladder.

The green-carpeted room has a classic feel with somewhat modern amenities such as air conditioning, a small TV the size of a computer monitor, a telephone — cellphones are not allowed on the course — and Wi-Fi. Nobody truly has his own room, as the Crow’s Nest is segmented into four cubicles by partitions and dividers. Three of those have one twin bed each and a fourth has two beds. The sitting area has a sofa, chairs and a game table for cards and dominoes. There’s a full bathroom with two sinks, but no kitchen.

Because even amateurs travel with teams now — trainers, coaches and the like — it’s common for someone to spend one night in the Crow’s Nest as a rite of passage, then move over to a hotel or rented house.

2. Media have to learn the ropes

Reuters photographer Brian Snyder and Atlanta Journal-Constitution photographer Curtis Compton talk at Augusta National.
Reuters photographer Brian Snyder, left, and Atlanta Journal-Constitution photographer Curtis Compton talk at Augusta National on April 8. For photographers, covering the Masters means staying behind the ropes. (Sam Farmer / Los Angeles Times)

Unlike virtually every other tournament, only players, caddies and others essential to the tournament have inside-the-ropes access at the Masters.

That presents an interesting challenge for those trying to capture images for media outlets. A Masters photographer typically shoulders 20 to 30 pounds of equipment and makes a beeline for high ground when approaching a hole. The seasoned ones know all the shortcuts to get around the course and are particularly adept at sweet-talking patrons to move over just a smidge.

“You learn different tricks for every hole,” Curtis Compton of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution told the Los Angeles Times in 2019. “When Tiger Woods came along, and you’ve got like 20,000 people following him from hole to hole, the only way you could cover him is with radios and hop-skipping the holes. I’ll get him this hole, you get him the next, I’ll get him the hole after that.”

3. Welcome to Augusta. Grab a seat

A patron looks on as they sit amongst empty chairs during the first round of the 2023 Masters.
A patron looks on as they sit amongst empty chairs during the first round of the 2023 Masters at Augusta National Golf Club. (Patrick Smith / Getty Images)

One of the most popular items fans buy at the Masters? Simple canvas folding chairs. Those are arranged around every accessible tee box and green. The tournament’s tradition allows that anyone can sit in any chair, unless and until the chair’s owner asks to sit there.

Tournament rules allow a spectator, referred to here as a patron, to bring only one chair onto the grounds. Seats in observation stands are not to be reserved, and personal chairs are not to be unattended for any inordinate length of time.

The chairs are not left overnight, so patrons arrive early to take positions for when the gates open at 8 a.m., so they can make a beeline for their desired spot on the course. There’s no running allowed, so it’s like the power walking of the bulls.

Almost everyone uses an official, green Masters chair, but those are not mandatory, as long as the chairs are armless so they don’t consume a lot of space. Banned are chairs with armrests, pointed ends, or ones that don’t fold. There’s no standing in the seating areas.

4. The club’s oldest green-jacketed member is a tree

A general view of the big oak tree and clubhouse at Augusta National Golf Club.
A big oak tree near the Augusta National clubhouse draws a mix of players, caddies, coaches, agents and journalists. (Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images)

The towering oak tree next to the Augusta National clubhouse creates a shady town square at the Masters, and by-invitation viewing spot for some of the most powerful, influential and famous people in the sports world and beyond.

Players, caddies, coaches, agents and credentialed media stand or mill about under the tree. So do celebrities from other sports, such as 6-foot-10 tennis star John Isner, who was there Wednesday.

One of the many traditions that makes the Masters unique is the golfers and their caddies have the course to themselves; the media don't get inside-the-ropes access. But a press badge does allow reporters under the tree and lots of interviews take place there. Club members, who wear their green jackets during the tournament, have access to that area too, as do their guests. Meanwhile, ticket holders stand along the black chain that separates the area so they can people-watch between tee shots.

The limbs of the tree, some thick as barrels and nearly touching the ground, are supported by a network of cables so camouflaged they’re virtually invisible. The fear of some people is the oak will fall victim to an ice storm, as the club’s famous Eisenhower tree did in 2014.

5. Not all green jackets are created equal

Scottie Scheffler puts the green jacket on Jon Rahm, of Spain, after Rahm won the 2023 Masters.
Scottie Scheffler puts the green jacket on Jon Rahm, of Spain, after Rahm won the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 9, 2023. (David J. Phillip / Associated Press)

The prestigious green jackets are worn by club members and past Masters champions. Augusta National members buy their own jackets, and there are different tiers, tailors and fabrics, depending on price. They typically own more than one, which comes in handy on those warm Georgia days. The original rationale for the jacket was to make club members easily identifiable for tournament patrons seeking information on the grounds.

And the jackets are not supposed to leave the club. Only the current champion can take it home for his reign.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.