Elite-level sports really nailed their symbols of triumph: The Stanley Cup. The Heisman Trophy. The enormous pewter plate at women’s Wimbledon.
Each one is instantly recognizable for what it is, a token that marks the highest achievements in sport. But you can’t exactly tote them around town, now, can you?
The Masters golf tournament, held every spring at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, boasts a wearable trophy — the famous green jacket awarded to the winner. It’s an iconic trophy, and a fashion statement. But if you think winners can just tool around town, bragging about their wins forever, it’s not quite that simple. With this year’s tourney starting April 6, read on for a little more on the history — and the strict protocol — behind that beautiful blazer.
Augusta National was founded in 1932 by financier Clifford Roberts and golf hero Bobby Jones (pictured above in 1929). Later that decade, the club began presenting members with the exclusive green jacket.
According to Augusta National’s Masters 101, each jacket is made to the same specifications: Three buttons, a notched lapel, a single vent, made of tropical-weight wool in its own Pantone shade, Masters Green. The Masters logo appears on the left breast pocket and each button. Though a few tailoring changes have come and gone — lapels growing and shrinking, for example — it’s stayed basically the same since the ’30s. All of the jacket components are made in the United States.
In 1949, golf legend Sam Snead was the first Masters winner to be awarded a green jacket. Every year since, the Masters winner gets a stand-in jacket in a ceremony after the match. Later, the winner receives a custom-made green jacket as their prize.
The list of Masters winners is a list of all-time greats, such as Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and loads of other luminaries. But since the Masters is a men’s-only tournament, no women champions have donned the jacket. (Augusta National only began admitting women to the club in 2012, making green jackets in women’s sizes quite rare.)
As long as we’re on the subject, the ways of membership at Augusta National are mysterious. There is no application form. No one’s totally sure how much it costs, though some estimate the initiation fee to be about $40,000, plus monthly dues and other charges.
Non-members may only visit the club with an invitation from a member, who must accompany them at all times. The only way to become a member is to be invited by a current member, undergo a rigorous vetting process and pony up the cash (or win the Masters tournament).
But even Masters champions must abide by the rules of the jacket. The big one: You may not wear your green jacket outside of the club. Ever. It stays at Augusta National in your personal locker.
The one exception? The current Masters champion may wear their coat in public, but only for the year after they win. After that, the regular rules apply — sort of. Masters winners, when they’ve been deposed by the next champ, must store their jacket at the club in a special “Champions Locker Room” until their next visit to the tournament.
Probably for the best as Masters Green doesn’t look as good with blobs of mustard dried on a lapel.
We’re being silly, but it’s true — all that pomp and exclusivity is what makes the Masters so special. Whoever wears the jacket next will go down in history as one of golf’s greatest. Fore!