We have made it! We’ve slogged through the cold days and dark nights of winter. The clocks have gone forward and spring is here. In golf terms we have waited nine long months but Major season is here again and it starts with The Masters. Always played in April every year, it is an absolute treat for golf fans. Clear the diary, get possession of the TV remote and get the drinks and snacks in!

For the uninitiated, The Masters can seem like a party where we’re not quite sure of the etiquette or the dress code. But don’t worry, here is American Golf’s A-Z guide to The Masters, so we can all be clued up when we sit down to watch.      

A-Z Guide to The Masters

A is for Augusta

Augusta is actually a city in Georgia of more than 200,000 people. But Augusta to a golf fan represents only one thing, Augusta National Golf Club, the most famous golf course and the most famous golf tournament in America – The Masters.

A is for Amen Corner

The term ‘Amen Corner’ originated in a Sports Illustrated article in 1958 by Herbert Warren Wind. It refers to the trio of holes 11, 12 and 13 that lie at the lowest part of Augusta and can make, or more usually break, a player’s round. Three pars across these three holes - four-three-five - is always acceptable, while anything better and a player will feel like he is gaining shots over the rest of the field.  

B is for Boiler Suit

This is the attire for all the caddies at Augusta. It consists of a white boiler suit, a green cap and white trainers or golf shoes. Until 1983, players had to use a local caddie who by tradition had usually been African-American. Since then, competitors have been allowed to use their regular caddies. In 1990, carrying Sir Nick Faldo’s bag, Fanny Sunesson became the first female caddie to win a Major when they won together at Augusta.   

B is also for Butler Cabin

Once the final round is concluded, television heads to the Butler Cabin. In there, the Chairman of Augusta National Golf Club is present along with the winner, the previous year’s Champion and the low amateur. The winner is presented with his Green Jacket by the previous winner and is interviewed by the host US broadcaster CBS. All a bit twee maybe, but what Augusta says goes!

C is for Crows Nest

Getting a place in the Masters field is special enough. But for the select group of amateur golfers who make it, there is another special treat as they get to stay in the Crow’s Nest. Situated at the top of the clubhouse, the Crow‘s Nest can sleep up to five people. It is basically one large room that has beds partitioned off it, but it allows the amateur competitors to live the Augusta experience even more fully.  

D is for Dinner

On the Tuesday night prior to the tournament starting on the Thursday, all past winners gather in the Augusta clubhouse for the Champions‘ Dinner. As tradition, the defending Champion gets to choose the menu and this year, Jon Rahm has opted for a delicious sounding meal of Spanish hams and meats, omelette and grilled turbot. Sandy Lyle famously picked haggis, Sir Nick Faldo went for fish and chips and Yorkshire’s Danny Willett opted for roast beef!  

E is for Lee Elder

He became the first African-American golfer to compete when he teed up in the 1975 Masters. Black golfers had won PGA Tour events before but when Elder won the Monsanto Open in 1974, he received an invite from Augusta to play in their tournament. His presence was ground-breaking and he was asked years later in 2021 to be one of the event’s ceremonial starters.

F is for Flowers

Sitting down to watch The Masters in early spring in the UK, the sight of Augusta on the television is a picture-perfect one. Year after year, the greenkeepers at the course have everything in pristine condition and there is no finer sight than the azaleas in full bloom. The dashes of pink against the verdant green add to the impression that this is golf’s version of Disneyland.

G is for Greens

Augusta has many stand-out features, but the one that really hits home with amateur golfers watching it at home centres on the greens. The putting surfaces have huge slopes and are devilishly quick. Face a downhill putt and a golfer will barely touch the ball and watch it take on a life of its own as it runs down to the hole. Challenging for the pros, crazy golf-like for the average hacker! And a useful tip for anyone going out to play after watching the Masters, the greens we play on have nothing like the speed of the Augusta greens, so make sure we hit our putts!!

H is for Hills

It can often be hard watching on television to get a true picture of the land at Augusta. But make no mistake, it is one of the hilliest golf courses the pros play. The course drops all the way down to the par-three 12th, but the ninth and 18th are both uphill par-fours with steep climbs. It is a week when the caddies certainly earn their money carrying their guys’ heavy bags up and down the fairways.  

I is for Internationals

Initially started in 1934, The Masters was a most American of events and the first 25 stagings were all won by US golfers. Getting into the field at that time for non-Americans was nigh-on impossible, let alone winning it. That trend was finally bucked in 1961 by South Africa’s Gary Player.

As the years have gone by, Augusta National has opened its doors to players from far and wide. Seve Ballesteros was the first European to win in 1980. Sandy Lyle the first Briton to do it in 1988. Spain, Germany, Scotland, England, Wales, Fiji, Canada, Argentina, Australia and Japan have all experienced Masters success. As Adam Scott proclaimed when he won in 2013, ‘C’mon Aussie’, finally ending years of hurt for the men from Down Under.

We should notice that Ireland, a passionate golfing nation is not on the list. Could this finally be the year that Rory McIlroy conquers Augusta and completes the golfing Grand Slam?  

J is for Jacket

Since 1949, the winner of the Masters has received a Green Jacket. It is a jacket worn by all members of Augusta National when on the premises. The winner gets to keep it with him for a year before returning it to the club where it will stay in the locker room until the owner comes to wear it again on a return visit. There is also a silver trophy handed to the winner, but in folklore it’s all about the jacket. 

K is for The King

At the same time that Elvis Presley was bringing music to the masses, Arnold Palmer was having the same effect in golf. Between 1958 and 1964, he was virtually unbeatable at Augusta, winning it four times.

A good-looking guy who played swashbuckling golf and came from a modest background, he was the perfect man to improve the game’s image at the start of the television era. Nicknamed the King, Palmer had the support of galleries everywhere as they became known as Arnie’s Army and his success helped to popularise The Masters.

He played in the event 50 times up until his final appearance in 2004 and was then one of The Masters’ honorary starters from 2007 until 2016, the year that he died.     

L is for Left-handers

Between 2003 and 2014, six Masters were won by left-handers (three for Phil Mickelson, two for Bubba Watson and one for Canada’s Mike Weir), an incredibly high ratio considering how few lefties there are in golf. That is more wins than for left-handers at the other three Majors combined.

Why so much success? The theory is that Augusta National possibly favours a left-handed player more than a right-hander. A lot of the key shots on the back nine require a player to move the ball from right to left. That is a draw for a right-hander but a fade for a leftie, thus giving that little bit more spin control hitting into Augusta’s devilish greens.      

M is for Alister MacKenzie

Born in Yorkshire to Scottish parents, Alister MacKenzie was a qualified surgeon, but his legacy was as a golf course architect. He designed a number of courses in Yorkshire like Alwoodley and Moortown before spreading further afield. Lahinch in the west of Ireland, California’s Cypress Point and Royal Melbourne were all MacKenzie designs.

By the 1920s, he had moved to America and he was asked by legendary amateur golfer Bobby Jones to design a golf course on the land which Jones had acquired. Work began in 1931 and the course was formally opened two years later. In 1934, the first ever Augusta National Invitation Tournament, or The Masters as we now know it, was staged. Sadly, MacKenzie died before the first staging and never got to see his creation in all its glory.   

N is for Greg Norman

Few golfers have played Augusta better than Greg Norman. But nobody has experienced Masters heartache quite like the Australian. Second three times, third three times and three more finishes in the top six. In 1986, he needed a birdie at the 18th to win – he hit into the crowd and bogeyed to lose. In 1987, in a play-off, he watched Augusta local Larry Mize chip in from off the green at the 11th to beat him. Then in 1996, he began the final day with a six-stroke lead, but shot 78 and saw old rival Sir Nick Faldo overtake him on the back nine and ultimately win by five.

O is for Louis Oosthuizen

In 2012, Louis Oosthuizen became just the fourth player to shoot a double-eagle, or albatross as we call it, at Augusta when he holed his second shot at the par-five second. It got the South African into a play-off where he was beaten by Bubba Watson’s brilliance. Watson took home the Green Jacket, Oosthuizen a crystal bowl for his albatross. When Gene Sarazen scored the first albatross at the par-five 15th in 1935 on his way to a Green Jacket, it was described as ‘the shot heard across the world’.

A player scoring a hole-in-one at The Masters also receives an engraved crystal bowl, while any golfer who makes an eagle receives a pair of engraved crystal goblets.  

P is for Patrons

Not spectators, or fans or galleries, but patrons. The ‘patrons’ at Augusta are different. There is no hooping or hollering and ‘get in the hole’ shouts like at most other golf events. Anyone doing that would be escorted off the premises. There is no running, no cell (mobile) phones allowed on the course and no caps worn back to front. Often patrons put chairs down on certain holes at the start of the day and Augusta etiquette dictates that nobody comes and sit in them. Don’t like it? Don’t go – but who is going to turn down a ticket to The Masters?  

P is for Par Three

One of the classic Masters traditions occurs on the Wednesday afternoon before the main event begins the following day. As nerves build, a Par-Three contest takes place on Augusta’s own par-three golf course. It is light-hearted and very family-orientated with players often using their wives or children as their caddies, all dressed in Augusta’s white boiler suits.

Winning it is nice, but beware the curse! Nobody has won the par-three on the Wednesday and gone on to become Masters Champion on the Sunday.

Q is for Qualifying (or rather a lack of it).

There is no open qualifying for The Masters, because it is an invitation-only event. The only way to be able to play is to receive an invitation. There are certain criteria that are used to decide those, but there is no set number of players involved. The Masters usually has a field somewhere between 80 and 95 players but no more – over 50 less than the other three Majors. That’s why making this event is so cherished by all the players.     

R is for Rae’s Creek

Named after Irishman John Rae, this small stretch of water is possibly the most famous in golf. It runs along the back of the 11th green, in front of the 12th green and along the side of the 13th fairway.

Tales of woe are commonplace, none more so than Jordan Spieth in 2016. Defending champion at the time, he had the lead stood on the 12th tee but dunked two balls in the creek on the way to a quadruple-bogey seven with Danny Willett the man to profit from Spieth’s golfing disaster.      

S is for Starters

The event begins each year around 8am local time with a ceremonial opening tee-shot. The honorary starters hit one tee shot each off the first hole to proclaim The Masters under way. Famous Champions of the past normally have this honour, with legendary trio Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Tom Watson expected to perform the duty again in 2024.   

T is for Tiger

With Tiger, we rarely need his surname. In golf, everyone knows who Tiger is! Woods had already played two Masters as an amateur before his first one as a professional in 1997. But what happened over those four days was legendary as he romped to a record 12-shot victory. The rest of the field was spooked and the club decided that they needed to lengthen the course to make it more Tiger-proof!

Yet it did not stop Woods from winning four more Green Jackets, in 2001 to complete his Tiger Slam of winning all four Majors in a row, 2002, 2005 thanks to his epic chip shot at the par-three 16th and then in 2019. That was his 15th Major and came after a gap of 11 years as he put years of injuries and off-course issues behind him to once again don the most famous jacket in sport.      

U is for University

That’s right, there is an Augusta University with its own golf team and members of the team even get to play at Augusta National a couple of times a year. In 2018, former student Patrick Reed would go on to claim the Green Jacket, only a few years after helping the Jaguars win back-to-back NCAA Championships.  

V is for Roberto de Vicenzo

In 1967, nobody had fewer shots over the four days than Argentine golfer Roberto de Vicenzo. But playing partner Tommy Aaron put him down for a par on the 17th rather than a birdie and de Vicenzo signed for an incorrect score. He had not checked his card carefully enough and instead of having a play-off with Bob Goalby, he finished in second and left the immmortal quote, ‘What a stupid I am’.  

W is for Winners

Winning The Masters is a life-changing event. The winner receives an invitation for life to play in the tournament, as well as attend the Champions’ Dinner every year. With The Masters so steeped in golf fans’ memories, stories of victory never grow old, like Sandy Lyle’s shot from the bunker on the 18th in 1988 or Sir Nick Faldo’s arms raised in triumph in 1989 when he beat Scott Hoch in a play-off. 

X is for X-rated

Step forward Tommy Nakajima of Japan. He became the first player in Masters history to post a 13 on a single hole when catastrophe befell him in 1978. Two years later, that score was matched by Tom Weiskopf on the par-three 12th, hitting an unbelievable FIVE balls into Rae’s Creek.

In 2018, Sergio Garcia was the defending Masters Champion. At two-over playing the 15th, the Spaniard’s opening round was not going to plan. Minutes later, it had turned to ignominy as he struck five approach shots into the water guarding the green of this par-five. Approach shot number six made the putting surface and the putt was duly holed. The damage – an octuple bogey 13. From Masters hero to zero in one single hole.   

Y is for ‘Yes Sir’

The most famous piece of commentary in Masters history. In 1986, Jack Nicklaus was seen as past his best and he had not won a Major for six years. After eight holes of the final round, he was six behind Seve Ballesteros, the pre-eminent player of that time. From there, Nicklaus went on a charge, making five birdies and an eagle as he reached the 17 tee. He found the green in two, and rolled in another birdie. With Nicklaus’ arm outstretched in anticipation as the ball headed towards the hole, it was greeted with a shout of ‘Yes sir’ by commentator Verne Lundquist. Nicklaus’s target of nine-under proved too hard for Seve, Greg Norman and the others to match. It was a record sixth Masters win at the age of 46, and the last of Jack’s 18 Majors – all records which remain to this day.

Z is for Fuzzy Zoeller

The American who won The Masters on his debut in the event in 1979. He was the third player to do so but the first since the first two editions of the tournament in 1934 and 1935. Nobody in the 45 subsequent years has matched Zoeller’s effort of winning at their first try around Augusta. The logic is that Augusta is a course where experience is vital and golfers have to fail around it before they know how to win there.