When a Miami real estate speculator bought the land just outside of Augusta, Georgia from Fruitland Nurseries, his vision was to build a resort which would cater to the wealthy. However, the Great Miami Hurricane of 1926 destroyed much of his holdings and in turn, destroyed his capital. The land, rich and fertile, sat idle for years.
At the same time, a golf phenom out of Atlanta was making a name for himself, winning 13 major championships out of 20 between 1923 and 1930. Those wins included completing the 1930 Grand Slam, still the only time that feat has been accomplished in a calendar year. Bobby Jones was considered the best golfer of his time – if not all time – and all of his success came while maintaining his amateur status. His dominance as a golfer was unquestioned, but his interests went beyond golf.
Jones earned degrees in both English literature and mechanical engineering in between tournament wins. He was admitted to the Georgia bar after a single year of law school. Bobby Jones wanted to build a dream course, a special course and create an exclusive club for golfers. His friend, Clifford Roberts, suggested the still undeveloped property in Augusta.
The two joined forces with architect and course designer, Alister MacKenzie. Their investment totaled $170,000 which included $70,000 for the land, course and $100,000 for the club house and other structures. Jones’ dream had been realized. His vision had resulted in a spectacular course – Augusta National Golf Club opened in 1932. Roberts managed the business side of things and Jones focused on the golf.
In 1934, the club began a tournament known as the Augusta National Invitational. The combination of having a marquis golfer as its host and a magnificent new course, resulted in a stellar field in the tournament’s first year. The following year, a single swing by one player would put the tournament on the international map.
Gene “The Squire” Sarazan trailed by three strokes on the final day of the tournament. He hit a good drive on the par 5, 15th hole and lined up his second. A smooth 4-wood launched his ball over the water, off of a mound and into the cup for an incredibly rare score of 2 on a par 5. With one swing Sarazan had erased a three shot deficit, forced a playoff and won the tournament the following day in a 36 hole playoff.
That became known as the ‘shot heard ’round the world’ and brought immediate acclaim to the course and the tournament. Interest grew with players and spectators. In 1937, the club’s members began wearing green jackets during the tournament in order to be readily identified by their guests – the fans – in case they needed any assistance. When Sam Snead won the tournament in 1949, the club awarded him a green jacket as an ‘honorary member’. They awarded the same honor to all previous winners and every winner since.
The Augusta National Club runs the tournament independently. They use the basic rules of the USGA, adjusted for some local anomalies, but the tournament is not affiliated with the USGA, the PGA, the PGA TOUR or any other golf organization. Augusta National determines the criteria for being invited to play the tournament. In the spirit of their founder, the club makes special accommodations to include amateurs including the winner and runner-up of each year’s US Amateur tournament.
Today, the tournament is considered one of, if not the, top events in golf. The course is known for Amen Corner – holes 12, 13, 14 and 15 – because when one has finished those four holes all they can say is “Amen!” The action on the final day has created golf legend. Players’ reputations have been made, or diminished on the final day.
The lore – the history – the interest – the excitement all result from a fearless brand first dreamt of in 1936. The Masters is a tradition like no other, and that defines a fearless brand.
Fearless Brands consistently deliver quality
The Masters is more than a tournament – it is a compilation of traditions that together ignite the passions of athletes and fans alike. Being a part of the Masters in Augusta in the spring is on the bucket list of every professional golfer and virtually every golf fan.
The Masters tournament is built on tradition and consistency. Fans are welcomed and embraced – rowdy and rude behavior is not. Respect is expected from the fans and given to them in return. Food and beverage is affordable by design, there is no gouging, even for the traditional pimento cheese sandwich. All food is presented in green wrappers. All cups are green. If you set up a seat in a designated area, that seat is yours for the day – even if you stroll off to other areas.
The tournament features the best golfers in the world playing their best golf – Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Arnold Palmer, Tiger Woods, Nick Faldo, Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson – to name just a few. Added to all of that is the green jacket, Butler Cabin and the intrigue of the exclusivity of membership.
Yes, The Masters is a tradition like no other. Studying the tournament won’t make you a better golfer, but it will certainly demonstrate keys to building an effective brand:
Deliver excellence – Everything about The Masters, from the course, to the field of players, to the traditions surrounding the tournament are built with an eye towards excellence. Quality is a component of a brand that cannot be compromised nor artificial. When you review your brand, focus on excellence.
Be consistent – Whether one plays in the tournament, attends in person or watches on television – the sights, sounds and traditions of The Masters are consistent year to year. Consistency builds trust. Fans and customers appreciate trust because it minimizes their risk and provides assurance that their expectations will be met. Be consistent in every aspect of your brand.
Focus on the details – What really sets The Masters apart from virtually all other tournaments is the attention to detail. It’s the ‘tiny touches’ that will be certain to differentiate your brand in the market. Green food wrappers and green cups may seem insignificant, but they reinforce the essence and feel of The Masters brand. The Masters theme music has been played on every broadcast since “Augusta” was first written by Dave Loggins (Kenny Loggins’ cousin). You’ll recognize it the next time you hear it.
The Masters is a fearless brand like no other. The first time I stepped onto the grounds at Augusta National I had a visceral reaction – it was almost like a direct encounter with the ‘golf gods’. I’ve had that same feeling with each visit. That bond, that emotional connection is what defines a brand. Your brand is not what you say it is – your brand is defined by others.
Your job is to pay attention to what makes your brand valuable, unique and relevant. Strive for excellence. Be consistent. Focus on the ‘tiny touches’. You won’t become a better golfer but you will have a fearless brand.