The Story of The Masters Green Jacket

As one of professional golf’s four Major championships, the Masters Tournament is one of the sport’s most prestigious events.  Winning the Masters is an extraordinary accomplishment that can, by itself, define a player’s career. And it places him on an ultra-exclusive list of winners that consists of the most preeminent golfers of the past 90 years. Players like Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, and Tiger Woods have always considered their Masters Championships as being among their crowning achievements in the game.

But in addition to earning this exalted place in golf history, a Masters champion takes home several more “material” winnings.  Naturally there is a substantial monetary component for the winner, which in 2023 was a $3.24 million (approx. €3 million) share of the purse.  He will also claim the magnificent Masters trophy, a beautiful silver replica of the famous Clubhouse at Augusta National, and a gold medallion featuring a view of the Founders Circle in front of the clubhouse.

And perhaps even more significant than the money and the trophies, are the invaluable automatic exemptions he will receive into future PGA Tour events and Major championships. 

As a Masters champion, a player is then invited to compete in all Masters tournaments for the rest of his life. And he also gets a full 5-year exemption into any event on the Tour (i.e., automatic entry into any tournament without having to go through the qualifying process), including the other three Majors — the U.S. Open, the Open Championship, and the PGA Championship.

Clearly, winning the Masters can be very rewarding.

And yet, despite the almost immeasurable value of all these perks, there is one additional award the winner receives that is coveted by golfers even more. 

Masters green jacket, european winners

Past European Masters champions from left to right Sandy Lyle (Scotland), Bernhard Langer (Germany), Ian Woosnam (Wales), Jose Maria Olazabal (Spain), Seve Ballesteros (Spain) and Nick Faldo (England).

The Legendary Green Jacket

Starting in 1949, when Sam Snead won his first of three Masters championships, the tournament began the tradition of bestowing upon its winner a Green Jacket. And now, after almost 75 years, that Green Jacket has become synonymous with the Augusta National Golf Club and with the Masters tournament itself, and it has grown in significance to almost mythical status.

PGA pros yearn for the opportunity to don the famed jacket because, when they do, they understand the momentous nature of their achievement and they know that their place in golf history is secure. 

It may be difficult for many to understand how a relatively modest article of clothing has come to supersede all of the other lucrative prizes and benefits of winning in the minds of the golfers.

But it’s a fact. If you ask any professional golfer who has ever been fortunate enough to compete at Augusta, they will tell you that it’s all about the Green Jacket, and what it symbolises.

The simple fact is that the Green Jacket has become the most iconic and coveted piece of clothing in all of international sport. The only other apparel item that even approaches the Green Jacket in its association with a major sporting event is the famous yellow jersey (“maillot jaune”) worn by the daily leader of the general individual classification in the Tour de France.

But, in reality, there’s no real comparison between the two. The Masters Green Jacket stands alone. 

In trying to explain why this has come to be, Jim Nantz said it best. Nantz is the TV announcer who has hosted CBS Sports’ coverage of the Masters for the past 37 years.  In trying to capture the essence of the Green Jacket’s importance, he said:  “Well, it’s what it symbolises. I think most people would say it represents the greatest victory in golf. It represents history, tradition, heritage. It just connects the generations of champions. I mean, I would say it’s the richest reward in golf. It’s not about the money, it’s about the Green Jacket.”

Masters green jacket, tiger woods, jack Nicklaus

Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus at the Champions Dinner of the 2002 Masters Tournament

How it Began – The History of the Green Jacket

Interestingly, the inspiration for the Green Jacket at Augusta National was actually a red jacket.

In 1930, the British Open Championship was held on the Hoylake Course at the Royal Liverpool Club in England. Augusta National Golf Club founder and golf legend Bobby Jones was competing in the event and, along with other participants, was invited to a player’s reception at the club prior to the competition.

At the dinner, Jones noticed that all of the club captains wore matching red jackets and he was impressed by the unique and professional look. In fact, the story goes that Royal Liverpool club captain Kenneth Stoker was sitting next to Jones at the dinner, and when Jones expressed his fascination with the red jackets, Stoker told him that if he won the tournament that week, he would give him his jacket.

Golf fans will remember that Jones did in fact win the Open Championship that week, but not many are aware that the red jacket he was then given by Kenneth Stoker after his win was the impetus behind the eventual introduction of the Green Jacket at Augusta National.

Presenting the Green Jacket at Each Masters

For the next decade after Jones introduced it to Augusta National (from 1937-1948), only Augusta members wore the Green Jacket. But in 1949, the club decided to begin awarding it to each tournament’s champion, which also confers with it an honorary lifetime membership in Augusta National Golf Club. And so began a tradition that has endured ever since. 

The post-tournament ceremony at which the previous year’s winner presents the Green Jacket to the newest champion is a Masters ritual that golf fans the world over love to watch and experience. It also serves as a historical link connecting the past to the present, with many previous winners on hand to welcome the newest champion into their elite group.

The Green Jackets of all of these past Masters winners are all kept at Augusta National. The jackets’ owners are not allowed to take them off property – with one exception. For the first year after a player wins his Green Jacket, he is permitted to keep his jacket. But then, at the following year’s tournament, he must return his jacket to the club for safekeeping among all of the other past winners’ jackets.

masters green jacket, closeup

A closeup of the logo on the Green Jacket

About the Jacket Itself

Because it’s such an important and well-known item, people may be curious to learn a little about the jacket itself. Here’s some interesting Green Jacket trivia:

  • Initially, the jackets were acquired from the Brooks Uniform Co. in New York.  But since 1967, it has been made by the Hamilton Tailoring Company in Cincinnati, OH.
  • The tropical wool fabric used in the jacket is produced at Victor Frostman, Inc. in Dublin, GA.
  • The style of the jacket is a 3-button, notch lapel, single-breasted, single-vented blazer with custom brass buttons and an embroidered patch with the Augusta National logo on the left breast pocket. The buttons are made by the Waterbury Company of Connecticut and are embossed with the Augusta National logo.
  • The owner’s name is stitched on a label inside the jacket.
  • The shade of green is officially called “Brilliant Rye Green Pantone 342” (often simply referred to as “Masters Green”).
  • Each jacket takes approximately one month to produce.

Final Thoughts

Over time, the iconic Masters Green Jacket has transcended the actual article of clothing and is now a symbol of one of the greatest achievements in the world of golf.  It is recognised around the world by fans of golf who appreciate its embodiment of the excellence, history, and tradition of the Masters Tournament and of the Augusta National Golf Club.

As for the players, they spend their entire careers hoping to win a Green Jacket. And when they do, they cherish it more than any other trophy they’ve won. Hideki Matsuyama, for example, won the Masters in 2021, becoming the first-ever Japanese player to do so. For the entire first year that he was allowed to keep his Green Jacket, he never once had it dry cleaned. When asked why, he replied “I didn’t want to let it out of my sight.” That pretty much says it all.

- Bill Sullivan