When it comes to playing a round of golf, what you pay really does depend very much upon where you happen to be.
Golf is a widely played and enjoyed sport to be sure, but at the top end, members pay top dollar to participate in their game. Whether they are playing one round or looking to take out membership, the most exclusive golf clubs can be chillingly prohibitive to the everyday player.
Augusta National Golf Club is, without doubt, one such venue. With its history and its fine reputation among the champions, it was never going to be on limits to just anybody who wishes to play golf. Whilst not the world’s most expensive golf course, playing golf at Augusta National is not within everyone’s budget.
A Brief History of Augusta National Golf Club
The National, as it colloquially known, first opened for playback in 1932. Founded by Clifford Roberts and Bobby Jones, the latter also having helped with the design, it has hosted the Masters tournament since 1934.
Augusta National Golf Club was ranked number one US golf course by Golf Digest in 2009, and was rated number 10 best classic course in the world for architecture by Golfweek Magazine in 2011. It is universally acknowledged to be amongst the very best world-class golf clubs.
As well as being home to the Masters golf tournament, since 2019 Augusta has co-hosted the Augusta National Women’s Amateur. It is widely acknowledged for its aesthetic qualities, complete with imported pine needles and bird sounds being played inconspicuously on tactfully obscured speakers.
Rules imposed upon visitors and staff alike are famously strict. Mobile phones are not permitted, whilst running, cheering, and speaking at an excessive volume could lead to permanent exclusion or even prosecution.
Access to Augusta National Golf Course
Augusta National is a private club, owned by Augusta National Inc. and operated quite openly on a for-profit basis. Membership is strictly by invitation only, and club members may bring guests but must accompany them at all times. It is estimated that the club has around 300 current members, and there is no application process.
In 2004, USA Today published a list featuring the names of all current members.
The only occasion on which the general public and nonmembers are able to attend is during the Master’s tournament, and then only with the proper ticket or badge. The Masters, of course, is one of the richest tournaments in the sport of golf, with only the PGA Championship offering bigger prize money.
At the time of opening in 1932, membership of Augusta National Golf Club was open solely to white males. Even now it is believed only to have three female members, including former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Does Augusta National Employ Poor People?
Membership of this prestigious golf course may be exclusive, but its employees are generally not numbered amongst that select class of people.
A groundskeeper at Augusta National can expect to earn around $36,000 yearly. The average annual income in the United States in 2020 was a little over $69,000, although this figure is of course distorted upwards by a relatively small number of super high earners. A golf course superintendent at Augusta commands around $93,000 per annum.
Caddies wear white jumpsuits at Augusta National Golf Club as opposed to the more conventional collared shirts and slacks or hemmed shorts, following a tradition that dates back to the beginning. At that time the course used to employ poor people from the local community and dressed them in white suits to make them appear smarter.
Players at Augusta National Golf Club are known as “green jackets”, in recognition of the attire worn at the Masters tournament to differentiate participating golfers from members of the audience.
Which Famous Golfers are Members of, or Play Augusta National?
It isn’t always known which pro golfer is a member of which golf club, because membership lists at a private club are by definition private.
But it is thought that not a great many famous names are actually paid-up members at Augusta National Golf Course. Retired pro and golf course designer Jack Nicklaus certainly is, and Arnold Palmer at least was.
Other previous champions are considered honorary members, not least of course Tiger Woods. Many of the biggest names in the sport get to play golf at Augusta, and past Masters champions are always invited to attend the annual Champions Dinner.
So How Much Does it Cost to Play Golf at Augusta National?
Reported figures vary, but all seem to agree that the initiation fee for playing golf at Augusta National is substantial. SportsCasting suggested in 2021 that Augusta’s initiation fees range between about $40,000 and $50,000, which is actually not expensive by comparison with some other top golf courses on the circuit.
Other than club members, of whom there are thought to be fewer than 300, only guests of those members may play on the Augusta golf course, and then only on selected days.
Beyond the initiation fee, annual dues are believed to be around $10,000 to $20,000 (although some estimates given are as low as $4,000). And despite a cost that the average golfer would consider prohibitive, Augusta National does not offer a year round course.
Which Golf Courses are More Expensive to Play?
Shadow Creek Golf Course in Las Vegas is said to be the most expensive golf course to play anywhere in the world, where the cost to play a standard round is about $500-$600. This is the green fee, but non-residents of the resort will also have to pay something like $50 for a cart.
Pebble Beach green fees are believed to be somewhere in the same ballpark. Like Shadow Creek, Pebble Beach is a public golf course. On top of this, there is the caddie fee, which will leave you little change from $100. All the same, in 2021 Golf Digest named it the best golf course in the United States that is open to the public.
Another of the great courses, Pine Valley, operates along lines more similar to those at Augusta National. No applications for membership are accepted, the general public is only invited to watch the final round of its annual George Arthur Crump Memorial Tournament, and women were only invited to become members for the first time in 2021. No figures are available for the price of membership fees.
Will You Ever Get to Play Golf at the Augusta National?
Probably not. With it being a private golf course supporting membership of fewer than 300, you really would need friends in high places to ever get to play a round at Augusta National Golf Club.
If you’re a fan, on the other hand, you may get to watch competitive rounds of golf being played at Augusta National during the Masters tournament. It’s very much the place to go if you desire to see winners in smart green jackets and caddies wearing white jumpsuits.
If you can afford that kind of money and you dearly want to play at one of the great courses, the public greens at Pebble Beach and Shadow Creek are probably a better bet.