When Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts conceived of the golf club that became Augusta National, their plans were ambitious: two 18-hole golf courses, one for women; tennis courts, a pool, outdoor squash courts and a bridle trail; an extensive real-estate development with at least two dozen large building lots overlooking the course; and 1,800 members, more than a few of them from overseas. In the spring of 1931, in Augusta, Ga., they found the ideal property: a defunct commercial nursery, which, Jones wrote later, “looked as though it were already a golf course.”
Jones and Roberts, however, had the misfortune to undertake their project at the outset of the Great Depression. They were able to raise only a fraction of the money they needed, and, in three years of conscientious, nationwide marketing, they signed up just 76 of those 1,800 members, even though dues were attractively low: $60 a year for men and $15 for wives and children. They did build one golf course, but even before it was completed, they were deeply in debt—so much so that in 1935, eight months after Gene Sarazen hit “the shot heard round the world” at the second Masters, the club’s creditors foreclosed. Then—just as Augusta National was beginning to recover financially—the world went to war. Shortly after the 1942 Masters, the club and the tournament shut down for the duration.
The fact that Augusta National and the Masters exist today is mainly a credit to the stubborn single-mindedness of Roberts, who was determined, against the odds, to create an enduring monument to Jones. But what if things had turned out differently? What if the booming economy of the 1920s had continued into the 1930s? What if Jones and Roberts had been able to raise all the money they needed to fully execute their original plan? What if the world had somehow remained at peace through the 1940s? What if Jones and Roberts had named their club Georgia National (as they almost did anyway because Roberts believed that, with the state’s name in the name of the club, Georgians would be sure to support it)? What would Georgia National be like today?
America’s most recognizable clubhouse was completed in 1857 by Dennis Redmond, an Irish immigrant and agricultural reformer who had moved to Augusta from Utica, N.Y. Redmond hoped to prove that farmers in the South could economically grow fruit instead of cotton. He viewed his house, which he designed, …….