Inside the cultish dreamworld of Augusta National

October 6, 2019

I knew there was a certain weird aura around Augusta but this story covers a bunch of things I had no idea about. Here are some of things that caught me offguard.

Literally the first sentence.

Beneath Augusta National, the world’s most exclusive golf club and most venerated domain of cultivated grass, there is a vast network of pipes and mechanical blowers, which help drain and ventilate the putting greens.

I had no idea how much they do to keep up appearances.

It has been accepted as fact that recalcitrant patches of grass are painted green and that the ponds used to be dyed blue. Because the azaleas seem always to bloom right on time, skeptics have propagated the myth that the club’s horticulturists freeze the blossoms, in advance of the tournament, or swap out early bloomers for more coöperative specimens. Pine straw is imported. Pinecones are deported. There is a curious absence of fauna. One hardly ever sees a squirrel or a bird. I’d been told that birdsong—a lot of it, at any rate—is piped in through speakers hidden in the greenery. (In 2000, CBS got caught doing some overdubbing of its own, after a birder noticed that the trills and chirps on a golf broadcast belonged to non-indigenous species.)

There is more.

… what appears to patrons and television viewers to be the whitest sand in golf is technically not sand but waste from feldspar mines in North Carolina.

Ok, this part about John Daly was not actually surprising.

Augusta National is sometimes likened to Oz. For one thing, it’s a Technicolor fantasyland embedded in an otherwise ordinary tract of American sprawl. Washington Road, the main approach to the club, is a forlorn strip of Waffle Houses, pool-supply stores, and cheap-except-during-the-Masters hotels. In the Hooters parking lot during tournament week, fans line up for selfies with John Daly, the dissolute pro and avatar of mid-round cigarettes and booze.

The article goes into a lot more detail and history about the club. Just read the whole thing. It is fascinating.