It is hard to imagine that the world's most famous and beautiful golf course was once nothing more than a 365-acre tree farm. But thanks to the vision of two men, Bob Jones and Clifford Roberts, what was once known as Fruitlands Nurseries is now home to the Augusta National Golf Club.
After the course was developed in late 1933, Jones and Roberts decided to organize an annual tournament inviting all the best players from across the country. Roberts proposed the event be called the Masters Tournament, but Bobby Jones objected thinking it too "presumptuous."
At Jones's insistence, the tournament was called the Augusta National Invitation Tournament, but after five years he gave in to the wishes of Clifford Roberts and the name was changed to The Masters in 1939.
Many decisions made in the very early days of the Tournament remain in place today. Among these is the four-day format, the elimination of qualifying rounds and denying permission for anyone except the player and caddie to be in the playing area. A complimentary pairing sheet and a spectator booklet were provided to tournament patrons and commercialization in any form was limited.
The first Tournament, played March 22, 1934, was won by Horton Smith. Bobby Jones, who was persuaded to enter as a player, finished in 13th place -- his best finish in the nine pre-war tournaments.
In 1935, the Tournament was already causing worldwide headlines thanks to Gene Sarazen's double eagle on the par five 15th hole, which has been described as "the shot heard round the world." Sarazen forced his way into a tie with Craig Wood and 36-hole play-off courtesy of his remarkable feat. The next day he won the tournament by five shots.
The Tournament was moved to the first full week in April in 1940 and Byron Nelson beat Ben Hogan 69-70 in an 18-hole playoff in 1942. The Tournament was suspended in 1943, 1944 and 1945 while America went to war. Cattle and turkeys were raised on the Augusta National grounds during those years to assist the war effort.
The Masters was back in full swing in 1946 when Herman Keiser held off Ben Hogan for a one-stroke victory. Over the next 60 years the event has grown to become the single most prestigious sporting event in the world and has showcased the talents of celebrated champions identifiable by only their last names – Hogan, Palmer, Nicklaus, Woods and Mickelson. The history, to this date, continues to be written.
- 1931: Land is purchased for development of the Augusta National Golf Club.
- 1932: Club opens in December.
- 1933: Formal opening takes place in January.
- 1949: The Green Jacket tradition is introduced. It’s become the most recognizable and important tradition in golf history because it not only signifies that the winner of the Masters is a member of Augusta National Golf Club for life but that sportsmanship is still an important part of golf.
- 1935: Front and back nines are reversed.
- 1955: Bridge at No. 15 is dedicated as the Gene Sarazen Bridge.
- 1956: Masters first televised broadcast
- 1958: Par 3 course is created. Bridges are dedicated to Ben Hogan (hole No. 12) and Byron Nelson (hole No. 13).
- 1961: Gary Player became the first foreign player to win the event
- 1965-66: Jack Nicklaus, the Golden Bear, began his remarkable run at Tournament history when he became the first Masters champion to defend his title successfully. He still holds the record for the most titles won at Augusta with six, his last coming in 1986 at the age of 46.
- 1974 and 1978: Gary Player won again setting the stage for foreign domination over the next few years.
- 1980: Seve Ballesteros won and foreign players, who had had little luck at the Augusta National up until then, won 10 tournaments in 17 years. Bernhard Langer, Jose Maria Olazabal, Sandy Lyle, Nick Faldo and Ian Woosnam all won during that period.
- 1997: The Tiger Woods era began when the 21-year-old golfer exploded onto the national scene and broke the Tournament four-day scoring record that had stood for 32 years. Woods won his fourth consecutive professional major at the Masters in 2001 and became only the third player to win consecutive Masters titles along with Nick Faldo and Jack Nicklaus.
- 1999: Course changes to include two new tees, a reduction of mounding, two dozen trees to narrow the fairways and the first real rough along fairways in course history by increasing the second cut of grass by 1 3/8 inch.
- 2002: Tees on nine holes are either redesigned or lengthened. Several fairways and bunkers were altered. Course yardage was increased to 7,270.
- 2003: Tee on No. 5 and fairway bunkers are extended approximately 80 yards toward the green. The hole now measures 455 yards.
- 2003: Mike Wier becomes the first Canadian to win one of golf’s major tournament sand the first left-hander to win the Masters.
- 2004: Pine trees added to the right side of the fairway on No. 11. Green on No. 13 is rebuilt and heating/cooling systems are installed.
- 2004: Arnold Palmer plays in his 50th consecutive and final competitive Masters Tournament
- 2006: Masters tees were redesigned and lengthened on six holes. Playing at 7,445 yards, the Masters became the second-longest in major championship history.
- 2009: Gary Player competes in his record 52nd and final Masters Tournament
- 2010: The Masters is produced and distributed live in 3D on television, the first for any major sporting event.
- 2013: Adam Scott wins on the second playoff hole becoming the first-ever Masters champion from Australia.
- 2014: The Eisenhower Tree, which once stood left-center of the 17th fairway, is removed after a historic ice storm caused irreparable damage to most of its major branches.