Augusta is strict, as rule

John Steadman

April 12, 1991|By John Steadman

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- There's no prescribed procedure to be followed for entering a membership application to the Augusta National Golf Club. You must be asked.

It's not necessary to be a low-handicap golfer or to have been born into a wealthy family. The only pre-requisites are you must enjoy the game and be regarded as a gentleman.

Rules are adhered to with obsessive intensity. Hord Hardin, chairman of the club, notified one of his best friends, the late John Ames, he was no longer a member of Augusta National because he showed up on two occasions (first it was a warning) with more than the three daily guests that are permitted.

There was another occasion in the fall of the year, when an executive of a mill company was playing as a single. He met a foursome on the 16th hole and joined them for the last two holes. When the round was over, Clifford Roberts, who then reigned supreme as chairman, told him he was suspended for the next six months because a golf group is never to exceed four -- even if the rest of the course is vacant.

Four members of Augusta National once went to St. Andrews in Scotland and signed in to play. They listed their home club as Augusta National. This is a violation and they were made to write letters of apology when they got home.

One man didn't feel it was necessary, believing it to be a trivial matter. Result: termination of membership.

As country club fiscal matters go, Augusta National isn't all that expensive, although it is exclusive. Initiation costs $25,000 and annual dues are $1,200 a year. A green fee for a guest is $50, which means Augusta, compared to some other clubs around the country, is under-priced.

The members are here for golf and fellowship. There's no swimming pool, tennis court, dance hall or even a club championship. The course also is closed from late May until October to protect it during the summer heat. When it is open, members, from all parts of the country, are told this is not the place to talk about their businesses or industrial enterprises.

Each of Augusta National's approximately 300 members is issued a green sport coat (cost: $200) but they may not wear them off the property. They put them on in the dining room when visiting so they'll have instant recognition as members.

Players invited to The Masters each year know they must be on their good behavior. In 1958, Frank Stranahan, an outstanding amateur and from one of America's prominent families, was hitting two balls during a practice round.

He was playing alone but when he finished the round, Roberts told him his invitation to play had been withdrawn. So Stranahan was removed from The Masters before it even started.

Women have always been permitted to play at Augusta National and now the club has its first black member, where there only used to be black caddies, with more minorities to follow.

The Augusta National Club, home of The Masters, has everything: Natural beauty, tradition, the best golf course money can buy but, most of all, it has rules that won't bend.

If not, you're history. An ex-member. Pure and simple. Don't bother entering an appeal.

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