1. Home
  2. sports
  3. news
  4. Inside the Masters, billionaires' favorite golf tournament

Inside the Masters, billionaires' favorite golf tournament

Madeline Berg,Taylor Rains   

Inside the Masters, billionaires' favorite golf tournament
  • The Masters Tournament kicked off Thursday at Augusta National Golf Club.
  • A number of billionaires, including Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, reportedly belong to the club.

Augusta, Georgia — a city with only about 200,000 people and no billionaire residents, Michelin-starred restaurants, or five-star hotels — is not typically associated with the uberwealthy. But on the first full week in April each year, that changes.

That's thanks to the Masters Tournament, the first in an annual run of major professional golf championships and a favorite of the superrich.

A big part of the appeal for the ultra-high-net-worthers is that the tournament is held at Augusta's National Golf Club. While the list of its 300 or so members is top secret, several billionaires — including Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Dirk Ziff, and Stanley Druckenmiller — belong to the club, according to a 2015 Bloomberg report.

And getting in is hard. Membership is by invitation and capped, meaning people can only join when an existing member leaves or dies. It all adds to the cachet.

"They've gotten to a point where they almost like refusing people because it makes them look, you know, that much more exclusive," Barnabas Carrega, the CEO of luxury travel and planning firm GR8 Experience, told Business Insider over email.

"It has nothing to do with whether you can afford a membership or not. Most members have inherited their membership through generations," Carrega continued.

Women are now allowed to join — but weren't admitted before 2012. One of the first women admitted was Darla Dee Moore, the wife of the late billionaire Richard Rainwater. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has also joined.

"It's basically impossible to play there if you're not a member," Carrega said. "It doesn't matter who you are — you can be president of the United States. But if you're not a member, you're not invited by a member, you're not getting on Augusta National."

That means the closest most golf fans will get to the pristine greens is watching the Masters on TV.

Augusta National's famous jackets

Like most of the world's most exclusive clubs — literal or metaphorical — there are status symbols involved with membership, specifically Augusta National's coveted green jackets. Only members and Masters winners can wear them, and they must be kept on the premises (though winners can take them home and sport them at approved events for 12 months before they must return them to the club's grounds.)

Even with the regulations, the sports coat is considered the most prestigious trophy in the sport.

"I don't care about that," Billy Casper, the champion of the 1970 tournament, once said when asked how much money he would take home from the tournament. "The green coat is enough for me."

Still, the item is worth a lot of money. In 2013, before Augusta enacted strict rules around selling the blazers, a green jacket belonging to Horton Smith, the tournament's 1934 winner, was auctioned off for $682,000.

Private jets and patron badges: How billionaires attend the Masters

While they may not be able to gain a spot on the club's exclusive roster, plenty of billionaires who aren't known members of Augusta National do attend the Masters Tournament.

Last year, hundreds of private aircraft landed at Augusta Regional Airport and other nearby hubs, according to information from the aircraft-tracking website JetSpy.

The jet of Phil Knight — the Nike CEO who's worth $38 billion and who is a frequent attendee — was among the pack, according to the JetSpy data. Planes belonging to other billionaires, including hotelier Robert Rowling, investor Herbert Allen Jr., software titan David Duffield, Carvana founder Ernest Garcia, and private equity investor Greg Mondre, also touched down.

Celebrities like Garth Brooks and Luke Bryan, as well as top golfers like Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods (a billionaire in his own right), registered planes that landed nearby, too.

Getting a ticket, though, is not simple. The club conducts a lottery for tickets each year; last year, one-day passes went for $140 last year — relatively cheap by many people's standards.

But then there are patron badges, which, like nearly everything else at Augusta, are veiled in secrecy. No one outside the club knows how many exist, but once you are offered one, you can access tickets for life. (Patrons still have to pay annually to attend; last year, a four-day pass cost $450.)

And as with everything at Augusta National, there are strict rules around reselling Masters tickets. Still, sites like StubHub and Ticketmaster have a handful of four-day passes available for upwards of $10,000.

Finding a place to sleep can be tough — no matter who you are

While some billionaires rent local homes for tens of thousands of dollars, there aren't all that many options available. Most hotels sell out of rooms far before the tournament or charge many times the typical nightly rate.

In fairness, that's not restricted to this tournament. Legend has it that years ago, Bill Gates didn't reserve a club room ahead of the Jamboree — Augusta National's members-only tournament that occurs a few weeks before the Masters. The tech mogul had to slum it at a local Red Roof Inn.

But the one thing billionaires — and regular Masters goers — can save money is on food. The tournament has famously kept its concessions prices low.

That means that, despite being served at one of the ritziest clubs in the world, you could still buy a sandwich for $1.50 last year.

Popular Right Now