April 1, 2014 – Augusta, GA
In a totally unexpected pre-Masters announcement, the Augusta National Golf Club Chairman Chairman Billy Payne declared that the revered course will open to non-accompanied, limited public play for the last two weeks of May and tentatively the first two weeks of October this year when the Club is normally closed.
Payne explained that “This is a pilot test program to explore how we might further integrate our club with the immediate community and the greater golfing community at large.” Said Chairman Payne, “This is a membership initiative that has been under consideration for several years and we are delighted that we may share our good fortune with others.”
Payne further relayed that a lottery system on the Masters website would determine those ‘patron golfers’ eligible to enjoy the facility with the opportunity limited to one day and 18 holes only, unfortunately with no rain-checks. Players will be paired with other lottery winners as the Club cannot accommodate four-ball groupings. Payne concluded that this is a test, and the Club has no further plans to extend the period because the summer is a vital time to accomplish improvements to the entire property.
This elite course normally closes from May through October, but this year will be open to the public so more people can enjoy the facility and the Club can contribute more back to the community. All but $100 of the proceeds from the $1,000 green fee (includes caddy fee, but not the gratuity) will be distributed to Augusta, Georgia area and “Grow the Game” charities. As is customary, the course will the remained closed for the remainder of the summer and will again close on October 15th in preparation for the resumption of member play in November.
Mr. Payne indicated that only the golf shop area of the clubhouse and a liquor-free rest area near the practice facility will remain open during this time. While the practice facility will also remain open before the play of the day, the par-3 course, member cabins, and remainder of the clubhouse will closed and off-limits. The Club’s golf shop will be stocked for “Masters-only” purchases, and restricted to players of the day. No walk-on play, visitors, or substitutions will be admitted to the grounds. A comfort station will be open, but there will be no clubhouse food or beverage service. Except for the caddies, no tipping will be allowed.
Patron golfers will be emailed a brief orientation/agreement form from the Club for which they must agree to abide to before their patron player registration will become finalized. The course will require walking only with caddies (no exceptions) and anyone who does not conduct themselves as ladies and gentleman will immediately be asked to leave without recourse.
Play will be determined by lottery and be limited to 100 players daily, and each player is limited to a single round per year so as to maximize the amount of people who can enjoy the experience. Payne indicated that unfortunately the Club will not be able to honor rain outs, though should the Course be closed before play of the day, full refunds will be issued. Interested parties should check the club’s website for further information as it develops (www.masters.org).
Payne concluded, “The Augusta National Golf Club is hopeful that this practice could become an annual way of stimulating interest in the Augusta area and supporting the growth of the game initiatives. We are pleased to share our facilities with our many patrons and the golf community at large who have long supported The Masters golf tournament over the years. ”
APRIL FOOLS! It will be a chilly day in “you know where” before anything like this comes to fruition, but wouldn’t it be a fantastic gesture if it did?