US Masters and ecology: the great silence

For decades, the gold standard in course maintenance had a name: Augusta National. Blades of grass lined up in the deepest green. Fairways, cross-mowed several times in such a way that blades of grass protrude against the direction of play. A playground of exclusivity, almost unreal to look at with the blooming azaleas, the deep blue water, not a leaf of foliage on the ground.

The Masters picture is not suitable for reality

The only thing is: The gold standard is no longer up to date, but above all, it is no longer suitable as a model for thousands upon thousands of golf courses that are struggling with other problems. High diesel prices, water limits, ban on pesticides. And: The call for ecologically sustainable major sporting events is huge. Climate neutrality is becoming the dominant topic.

The United States Golf Association has joined the United Nations Sports for Climate Action Initiative and, most recently, in a joint statement with the R&A on limiting ball flight length, has also pointed out that the environmental sustainability of golf facilities is essential to their economic survival. The Open in summer 2022 was marked by efforts to reduce the event’s CO₂ emissions.

There is no mention of the term “environmental sustainability” at the Masters 2023 – just as there was at all the other Masters tournaments before it. Now, communication of strategies or issues has never been pursued at Augusta National Golf Club anyway. On the contrary – the methodology of silence was perfected to such an extent that it only contributed to the reputation of the tournament as an extreme peculiarity within the golf scene.

Augusta National has historically always been a trendsetter

What is so unfortunate about this is that the Augusta National Golf Club, with the US Masters, has always been the pioneer par excellence in terms of technology in golf, whether it was scoring, TV broadcasts or wifi in the press center. The tournament, which often looks so traditional and slightly outdated on the outside, is, in fact a perfectly data-driven machine. So trends and progress are in good hands here.

The opportunity to familiarize millions of viewers and golf fans with a topic that will accompany golf in the future is not being taken advantage of when it comes to sustainability. Should Augusta National convert its energy budget completely to regenerative energies, this would cause a sensation in the international golf scene and find imitators.

Finally, the club proved just how strong it’s influence can be by launching Drive, Chip and Putt as America’s largest national junior tournament. Or with the creation of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur. Again, the name of Augusta National has given women’s golf a completely new media value.

Within the golf scene, Augusta National GC is considered by many to be the most powerful golf club in the world, if you ignore the R&A in Scotland. While the latter has long since also used its position to pursue environmentally sustainable goals, Augusta National GC ignores the issue. At least to the outside world.

However, anyone who has followed the men in green who rule the club over the years knows that Augusta National GC is very good at recognizing trends and developments. It is highly unlikely that topics such as CO₂ neutrality have not long been discussed behind closed doors. The thing is, the US Masters, like the club, thrives on a reputation for perfection. Statements on the subject will therefore only be made when we could also assume a leadership role internationally in this area.