Augusta National Golf Club Orders Two New Green Jackets – Ladies Sizes Please!

It’s about time!

Seventy years after Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts founded one of the most well known golf clubs in the world, women are finally allowed to become full members.

“This is a joyous occasion,” Billy Payne announced.

Darla Moore and Condoleeza Rice - new members of Augusta National Golf Club home of the Masters Goilf Tournament

On Monday, August 20, 2012, Mr. Payne, Chairman of Augusta National, confirmed that business women Darla Moore, (l.) (“The Toughest Babe in Business” – Fortune Magazine) and former Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, (r.) [AP Photo] had accepted the club’s invitation to join their prestigious membership. “These accomplished women share our passion for the game of golf and both are well known and respected by our membership,” Payne said.

For Martha Burk who ten years ago led a women’s advocacy group challenging the “old boy’s membership” it was a decision long overdue. “Oh my God. We won,” she shouted out when she was approached by the press.

The debate over allowing women to be members has simmered just under the surface for years. In 2002 when Burk brought the issue into the full light of day, the debate became so heated that for two years the prestigious Masters Tournament held at Augusta was aired on TV without any corporate sponsorship for fear of damaging a sponsor’s reputation. This past spring the debate returned. IBM, one of the biggest sponsors for the tournament, has a woman, Virgina Rometty, as its chief executive. Would she be invited to join the “boy’s club?” All four previous CEOs had been members. The golf club was silent on the matter and the issue went back under ground.

Until this week.

I congratulate both Condoleeza Rice and Darla Moore on their acceptance into the club and wish them all the best. And I congratulate Augusta National for this right decision but we still have to wonder, “What took so long?”

The decision has probably been in the works for a long time. After the public debacle in 2002 at least two Augusta club members resigned. Pressure piled on from both the public and the players and the issue would not die even though it went underground a bit. And this year’s push by the PGA with Golf 2.0! to focus on bringing women and kids into the game probably added fuel to the fire. (See a previous post for details.)

So how long does it take to become a member of Augusta National? How much does it cost? Could I join if I wanted to?

The truth: Who knows how long it could take to become a member. You can’t join on your own. You have to be invited. And that process, who, when, where, how, and why… are all very private and kept within the sacred meeting rooms. (I know a couple who were kept cooling their heels for a local club membership for over two years while they were vetted at various cocktail parties and special events. Only “the right people” were invited to the club they wanted to join. I thought they were nuts for trying, but they were determined and finally got in. Of course it cost them mega $$$ to join but they thought it money well spent. And maybe it is.)

As far as how much it costs to be a member of Augusta National? Here’s a bit from a 2009 issue of Golf World magazine:

A club member (speaking anonymously) told the magazine that the initiation fee is in “the low five-figures.” [Augusta makes so much money during the Master’s Tournament, they don’t have to rely on the membership to support the club financially.] So definitely less than $50,000, and we can probably interpret that to mean less than $25,000 (and it might even be closer to $10,000). A lot of money, to be sure, but much less than many, many other exclusive golf clubs charge.

As for monthly dues, another source told Golf World they amount to “a few thousand” dollars. So in the neighborhood of $250 a month/$3,000 a year.

So there you have it. Another milestone reached, another wall broken through. Now if I can only get my handicap lower, I’d be happy.

So what do you think? Should golf clubs be allowed to limit membership by gender or race? Are you happy Augusta National has finally opened its doors?

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