Zach Johnson’s favorite thing to wear from the Masters didn’t come with a price tag.
It’s not sold anywhere on the grounds of Augusta National Golf Club, either in the massive merchandise building that’s used once a year or in the members-only pro shop. Actually, only a select few own one.
It’s the most exclusive item at the Masters — and it can’t be bought.
“The green jacket,” Johnson said with a smirk. “Next question.”
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Everything about the Masters is exclusive. From the invites for the players to the limited number of tickets for the patrons, as fans are called in Augusta, Georgia.
The tournament is played at one of the most famous, most exclusive — for good and bad — private golf clubs in the world. The only way to get in, if you don’t want to pay thousands over face value on the secondary market, is to secure a weekly badge — the last time the waiting list was even open was 22 years ago — or through the annual lottery that offers a select few the privilege to purchase a grounds pass.
But how do you prove you were fortunate enough to either play in or attend the Masters, especially since you can’t bring your camera or a phone through the gates? Buy something, of course.
Masters merch — as it’s commonly referred to — is only, officially, sold at Augusta National the week of the tournament. You have to be a member or a participant or someone with a pass during Masters week to get your hands on the gear. Or you can overpay — by a lot — on the secondary market. The logo is on, well, nearly everything — from golf shirts to pullovers, gnomes to dog leashes and bowls, belts to sunglasses, cufflinks to stuffed animals. You cannot possibly count the different options for hats — buckets and visors and straw, adjustable and fitted, white and blue and gray and black and, of course, green.
The shopping isn’t just for the fans — sorry, patrons. It’s the one tournament where players make sure they buy something. Shopping for the players is like buying a pimento cheese sandwich for those roaming the grounds. It’s something they have to do.
It’s not rare for Tony Finau to drop more than $2,000 a trip. The most Brandt Snedeker has spent is right around $1,000, but he has seen people drop $10,000. Abraham Ancer has spent $40 some trips and $3,000 others. Most of the professionals whom ESPN talked to for this story say they usually spend between $1,000 and $3,000 every time they go.
“When you have the stuff, it means you’ve been there,” Martin Laird said.
That’s part of the mystique of the Masters and Augusta National. Getting inside is a feat in itself. Just being on the grounds, among the dogwoods and azaleas, is an accomplishment. The allure of its logo — a red flag positioned in the southeastern part of an outline of the United States — doesn’t change when one earns a right to actually play in the tournament.
That’s why players, even with their clothing deals that outfit them from head to toe on and off the course, still make sure to carve out time in their week at the Masters to stop by the pro shop and buy a shirt, a hat, a pullover, a sweater — something to show they’ve been there.
“Augusta, it’s on its own,” Finau said. “It stands alone. Augusta National stands alone.”
There’s exclusive, and then there’s really exclusive
Among the perks of playing in the Masters is access to the members’ pro shop.
It not only allows players to avoid the massive crowds in the merchandise building, but it gives them access to some of the rarest, most sought-after swag in all of golf.
There are two ways to know if something was bought at the members’ pro shop, which was demolished after last year’s Masters and replaced with a larger building. It is either the Augusta National logo with a circle around it, James Hahn said, or it’s the logo with the words “Augusta National” on top instead of “Masters,” which is only on tournament merchandise.
The Augusta National logo has become the merchandise of choice for most players because of its exclusivity.
“I’m more of like an Augusta National [guy] because I think it’s just harder to come by,” Finau said.
Johnson, who won his green jacket in 2007, doesn’t have a Masters T-shirt but has Augusta National shirts. Gary Woodland has a sweatshirt and T-shirt with Augusta National on it. Michael Thompson’s mother asked for a silver bracelet that’s sold only in the members’ pro shop.
But, as Kevin Streelman learned, not everything in the members’ pro shop is available to the players.
Streelman was walking around the pro shop during the week of the 2014 Masters looking for something to buy. There were the usual suspects: hats, golf shirts, T-shirts, pullovers and the annual release of a limited-edition Scotty Cameron putter that’s quite popular among players in the tournament. Then something new caught Streelman’s eye — a variety of wood pieces, from cigar ashtrays to salad bowls. He likes to smoke a cigar every couple of months or so. What better way to celebrate a good stogie than with an Augusta National ashtray, he thought. He started looking one over when he noticed something on the bottom. The ashtray was made from the wood of the Eisenhower Tree that was taken down just a couple of months earlier after it was damaged during an ice storm in February 2014.
“I’m like, ‘Holy cow,'” Streelman said. “There’s three made of this and it’s like $1,800. I was like, ‘I had a top-10 the week before or something like that, I’m going to buy this.'”
Streelman brought the ashtray to the counter to pay for it. The woman behind the register spoke up.
“‘Oh, I’m sorry, honey,'” Streelman remembered her saying with a laugh. “‘That’s for members only.'”
Everyone has a wish list
When Hahn played in his first Masters in 2015, he didn’t buy anything. A few months later, he was having serious FOMO. He wanted something — a hat or shirt, anything — to wear around the house. When he made it back to the Masters in 2017, he made sure not to miss out on buying something. And it was a good thing. He hasn’t been back since.
Now, his FOMO has more to do with missing out on something that won’t be around next year.
“I would compare it to buying Jordans,” Hahn said. “People buy Jordans because they make X amount of a certain shoe and they discontinue it for several years and you can’t buy it anymore. So, same thing with the Masters stuff that I have. It’s like stuff that they’re not going to have maybe ever again.”
Johnson has his own tradition that, every time he brings a guest to Augusta National, whether it’s on the Sunday before the Masters or sometime during the year with a member, he buys his guest a tie.
“That’s kind of my deal,” he said.
Everyone who has bought something at the Masters has a favorite item.
For Snedeker, it’s a money clip he bought 15 years ago.
Justin Thomas bought a stand bag that he uses when he plays at home.
Louis Oosthuizen buys a tumbler every year.
Rickie Fowler gets a Masters ornament every time he plays in the tournament and a hoodie when the shop has one he likes.
Thompson bought a pair of rocks glasses and a whiskey decanter that has the names of every hole inscribed on it.
Corey Conners bought a belt and wine glasses.
Ancer got himself white dress shirts with the Masters logo.
Sebastian Munoz has a football with the Masters logo.
Kevin Kisner, who grew up 21 miles from Augusta National, has a valuables pouch that he bought about 10 years ago.
Scottie Scheffler would actually prefer that his wife, Meredith, buys his Masters gear.
“That way she picks out something she likes and I can wear it because if she doesn’t like it, I can’t wear it,” he said.
But one of the most popular items for players is the Scotty Cameron limited-edition putter that has the year engraved on it.
They’re about $700 each and have become the way some players commemorate their appearances. Finau has four or five. Streelman’s are still in the box. Kisner said he once saw Tyrrell Hatton walk out with five.
“It’s unique and recognizable and such a cool place that kind of stands apart from anywhere else,” Conners said.
Sometimes, though, it’s possible to have too much of a good thing.
Snedeker still has about 10 hats from the 2008 Masters that he hasn’t given away yet. Streelman has bought things at the Masters — like hats that he thought at the time were “so sweet” — that he was sure he was going to wear, but then he got home and hardly wore them. And he definitely won’t wear them if he’s not in the Masters.
“I’m kind of more pissed I’m not playing so it’s not like I’m going to go up to Whisper Rock and put on a Masters hat,” he said. “I never use them, to be honest. If you want one, go ahead.”
Some guys, like Oosthuizen, like wearing Masters and Augusta National shirts when they play casually at home. Woodland practices in an Augusta National hoodie, hoping it’ll give him some good vibes. Ancer likes to lounge in a Masters sweater or wear a T-shirt to the gym.
Hahn still won’t wear a shift with any tournament or course logo on it because some of his close friends in college gave him a hard time about wearing swag from different events he played in.
“Like you show up in it and you’re wearing, let’s say, a Masters shirt,” Hahn said. “[They’d be like] ‘Oh, look at that guy who you know played in the Masters with his new Masters shirt. Oh, you’re so cool.’ Yeah, like, my friends gave me too much s— for me to wear stuff like that. So, yeah, I wear like just regular Hanes T-shirts.”
There’s strategy involved
Each player has his own plan of attack when it comes to shopping during the Masters.
Justin Thomas and Gary Woodland try to go during the practice rounds early in the week. Snedeker goes the Sunday before “the madhouse starts.” Matt Fitzpatrick might try to fit in some shopping if he finishes late on Saturday. Ancer likes to go shopping twice — once early in the week and once Sunday before he leaves.
Each player, once he has a plan, then has a different approach to selecting Masters merch.
Hahn won’t buy shirts or hats because they wear out quickly, opting instead for a leather pouch.
Munoz buys only things that don’t have an obvious logo — think brown hat with brown logo.
When the Masters was played without fans in November 2020, players had the chance to walk through the merchandise building, many for the first time. And, also for the first time, they saw the kind of damage that can be done with a credit card and all that Masters gear.
“I couldn’t believe the setup and everything and you end up walking out there with two big bags and you have to have a good week [to pay for it],” Oosthuizen said.
“It was one of those, you had a conversation that evening with [my wife], but, yeah, it was a two, three grand I think the one time. Just walking out with two big bags and you’re like, ‘Hold on, honey.'”
Even during normal years, if there was one tournament where a player could walk around the merch tent without issue, it’s the Masters, Fowler said. Phones aren’t allowed and patrons can’t ask for autographs. That, he thinks, makes it easier for a player to dive into the organized chaos of the merchandise building.
“I think we can do it there, partly just because, you know the patrons are, I feel like, very respectful,” said Fowler, who has been in the merchandise building before or after hours but never when it’s open to the patrons.
“But that’s one place I don’t think it would necessarily be an issue just because they’re not really supposed to ask for stuff. So, it’d be like, ‘Hey, what’s up? How’s it going? How’s your day? Enjoy your beer. We’ll see you later.'”
For the most part, the players have their families do the bulk of the shopping, which means they’re the ones battling the crowds and waiting in long lines that could compete with any holiday season at the mall. The merchandise building, which opened in 2018, is twice the size of the old tent and has 64 registers.
Lots of Christmas lists and birthday gifts gets taken care of the week of the Masters. Laird decks out his children in Masters gear and his wife buys a lot, too. Stewart Cink’s wife gets a list from friends and she buys what they want and they pay her back.
It may save the players time and stress, but there’s a risk sending in family members with a credit card in hand.
“I haven’t really seen the bill,” Fowler said. “And I try not to look at it.”
It’s rare for players to be seen wearing apparel from specific courses or tournaments. Some events, such as the WM Phoenix Open, hand out shirts at check-in. The Masters doesn’t. Most players, though, will sport gear from their home courses, like Cink does from Calusa Pines, while others will buy something at the bigger, more prestigious tournaments, like Oosthuizen does from The Open.
However, Augusta National and the Masters are different — or at least in a league with very few peers. Places like Winged Foot, Olympic, Seminole, Cypress Point and Kapalua are among the exceptions.
But there’s something different about the Masters and Augusta National.
There’s the prestige, the exclusivity, the rarity and, for some, the fear that they might never come back.
“I bought plenty of stuff from the shop,” Fitzpatrick said. “You can never get enough of it. You never know when your last time is.”