Book Review: “The Making of the Masters” by David Owen

If you are looking for a book that is specifically about the course architecture of Augusta National, this book is probably not the one to read. However, chapter five does provide hole-by-hole descriptions and contains great photos. All photos are pre-1999 when the book was published. So for example, there is a photo of the Eisenhower tree in the book which was removed from the 17th hole in 2014.

The book is a biography. The history of Augusta National and The Masters are revealed by examining the life of Clifford Roberts, Chairman of Augusta National from 1931 to 1977.  I love biographies and found the life of Clifford Roberts to be very interesting. For example, Robert’s early life was depicted as happy but also shaped by his mother’s depression (and her suicide when he was 16). He struggled early his professional life which is not surprising given he started an investment firm in the 1920s (and faced financial ruin during the crash).

Roberts achieved great success as the chairman of Augusta National. He certainly had fascinating aspects of his life including his friendship with Dwight D. Eisenhower. Surprisingly Roberts had his “own room” at the white house while Eisenhower was president. Roberts is also portrayed as a very difficult man (labels such as “tyrant” and “dictator” were used in the press). As with all human beings, he was complicated and the book states that his friends and people that he helped experienced another side of Roberts. I found the end of his life rather sad, but I won’t spoil the book by revealing how his life ends.

The book details the impact Roberts had on what The Masters is today. And, many of his decisions also had an impact on how golf championships are run (e.g., tournaments equaling four rounds of golf, the way golf is televised, the importance of creating good “stadium” views for spectators, etc.). The limited commercial breaks during The Masters was a requirement placed on CBS (by Roberts) in the very early years of the tournament. Roberts also insisted that the television cables be buried on the course.

Roberts also had to manage the ups and downs of the founding of Augusta National golf club. It will shock most people to know that they had trouble getting members! It’s a great example of perseverance and a reminder of how things that are famous today could just have easily had a very different outcome if not for someone like Roberts at the helm.

If you like biographies and golf then definitely get a copy of this book at your local library (or by it on Amazon) and read it!

The Author: David Owen

If the name David Owen sounds familiar it may be that you read the New Yorker or Golf Digest. Mr. Owen also has a blog, “My Usual Game: Adventures in Golf.” His most recent non-golf book is “Where the Water Goes: Life and Death Along the Colorado River.”

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